Baby Ugly lay mashed among the other toys in the closet. Otherwise Deirdre’s room was spotless for a ten year old. Even the splintered dried out hardwood floor was waxed with paste wax she found in the dank basement. In a corner caked in cobwebs and past wax and upswept grime of unknown floors was a dual head electric floor polisher. Deirdre imagined loosing her grasp and it flying untamed around her small room so she let it be.
A couple of times a year she applied the wax with a rag paying special attention to the center spot of splinters that would never grease over, never mind shine. They would continue to work their way into her unsuspecting knees. The tall smooth cores of Granite mixed with blood red Garnet, trophies of her fathers misplaced occupation, towered on her vanity. Mocking the floor’s roughness.
But all of that was far far away from Deirdre’s mind. It was Halloween Night and excitement running around collecting free candy in a pillowcase took every other thought’s place. She smeared ashes from the barbeque remnants of summer on her face. With a shoved pillow under one of her father’s faintly striped collared button-up shirts tied with a rope to gain a big belly. The Aunt Jemima costume she wore to school (and every year) that afternoon. Her brother Brendan was a bum with the same smeared ash make-up only he got to carry a stick with a hobo bag tied to it. Though there was four years difference in age they were exactly the same height.
Darkness softly spread it’s tentative fingers signaling twilight and the beginning of trick or treat. Their father and his eldest brother, Jack, who’s blackened nails would flip up and down forever unsecured from his nailbeds, instructed the rules of the rampage to begin door to door. They each carried a white though greying spare pillowcase to dump the candy goods in.
A big haul was expected. Deirdre’s candy would last until Christmas, far surpassing Brendan’s two week gobble fest. Giving it away to her brother while they played “let’s Make a Deal”. One of the many games she invented to occupy the long Winter boredom.
In every neighbourhood there is always “that family”. In this neck of the city it was the Satao’s. The father was there but never seen, some sort of businessman. The eldest son only briefly caught tearing around in his orange fibreglass Corvette…a cool dude and quite handsome that later Deirdre would have a summer long crush on. The younger son Shawn terrified everyone. It was rumoured that he stuck firecrackers up cats asses…well…you can just imagine the other things angrily proclaimed about him.
The mother got the most attention and speculation. She would often wait at the bus stop in front of Deirdre’s house, bright lipstick and bald head, fashionably dressed and accessorized. Sometimes with a soft hat but most often not. Always colorfully attired teetering on high heels while swinging her purse waiting for the bus. It was murmured “menopause…” and “female troubles”.
Their house was parked alongside the now shattered in a ferocious accident pumpkin colored Corvette. Across from the elementary school down the dead end street where Johnny Cash once played. A wealthy part of town with Deirdre’s family the only welfares around. The Satao’s house over imposing like all of the others, with a section of the old colonial orchards composing their line dance in the yard.
Deirdre’s best friend Claudette had become friends with the lady and often they would visit her, bringing ripped off branches of mustard yellow flowered trees as gifts. They listened to her stories of the war, of her being a model, and art.
Mrs. Satao’s paintings were large with free sweeping streaks. Aerial views of green, yellow and blue rectangular lines representing war planes in flight. At times she would show a much younger version of herself in black and white 1930’s photos story-telling when she was a model. Turning the pages of the photo album with long painted black nails that gleamed in the light. She had Black hair and the same big lipsticked mouth, but without the decaying and brown teeth of today. Deirdre was both compelled and a little jealous of Claudette’s relationship with the woman. Deirdre decided she definitely was a Witch. She had put a spell on her friend while putting a curse on her.
The Halloween take out was coming to a close, all four pillowcases now sagged down with weight. “Deirdre…come to the party!”
Claudette out of breath ran up to her. Deirdre cautiously looked at her father for permission for she didn’t really want to go but off the two girls went to the Satao’s brightly lit and lively home. Adorned for the season with friendly pumpkins and large white pillar candles. Their schoolmates were all there and a bunch of other kids that Deirdre did not know.
It was loud and raucous as any children’s party, with no real flow of events. Deirdre sat perched on a corner of a couch watching. There was sparkling quarters in a bowl for the taking with the rest of the activity a rapid fire blur to the senses.
All of a sudden a “Tickle Shawn” game began, with all of the children laughing and squealing. Each taking their turn at poking him. Everyone was smiling including Shawn, with the biggest smile of all.
Deirdre stood up, out of character to take part in the fun. Laughing and giggling like the rest of the kids, poking Shawn in the belly. Venomously his hand tightly gripped around her slender wrist “Don’t do that ever again!” he said with a dark look on his face, flat brown eyes looking deep into her dumbfounded blues.
A cold chill went up Deirdre’s back as she vainly tried to get away from his grip, quarters falling and tinkling to the floor. He was the Devil! Wondering as she abruptly left why Shawn had singled her out. She wasn’t doing anything different than the other kids. Looking to see if they noticed as she left but they did not seem to see her, still laughing and playing the game.
Her father was outside waiting while her Uncle, most likely one of the first Aids cases to hit the lower mainland, carried a tired Brendan home. Her father’s eyebrows rose up over his glasses in surprise to see her so soon.
Muttering “I didn’t like the party so didn’t want to stay anymore” Deirdre delicately put her hand into her father’s and they walked home. Another fleeting moment of freedom and independence had been lost…Halloween would never be the same. The last memory of her father ever being gentle with her.