Copyright (c) 2018 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
By R. Peterson
It was the October thirtieth, nineteen thirty-six … tomorrow would be Halloween. A cold wind sent dry, red and gold leaves tumbling down Galbraith Street and lodged them in the dormant Chinese Elm hedge surrounding Joseph Callahan’s mansion. Darkness descended on the town of Cloverdale with great stealth as if a malignant night had always lingered just beyond the horizon waiting for the day to expire.
The almost full moon shone through the open window and Melania noticed the rose buds covering the special made arch had started to bloom. Dorothy was sewing straps to the feet of the scarecrows so that when a woman slipped her feet into them she could dance with her straw-stuffed partner.
“These are the last two,” Melania said admiring Dorothy’s careful stitching. “Where’s Bolger?”
“Over by the piano,” Dorothy gestured. Melania looked at the scarecrow propped against the Steinway. The light blue buttons that Dorothy had used for eyes were almost the exact same shade of her Momett husband’s before he was blown to bits by a bomb placed in Melania’s truck at her mother’s farm. And of course, the red plaid shirt and faded bib-overalls were exact copies of the ones he always wore. A large ceramic jar lay on its side and rained a seemingly endless stream of glass balls onto the keyboard where a lively rendition of Boogie Woogie Stomp played without a pianist.
“Will it be alright?” Dorothy asked. What she meant was, will we be safe?
Melania noticed the Momett woman had cautiously kept her eyes away from the corner where the wooden marionette hung by taunt strings. She was understandably nervous.
“I believe it will be,” Melania said remembering the words of her mother. “But all magic is fraught with danger”
Just then Brian strutted into the room. Dorothy gasped but Melania smiled. Dorothy’s son had spent the last two days dying three large bags of chicken feathers black and attaching them to his costume. A large orange beak made from newspaper strips dipped in watery glue jutted just below tiny holes for his eyes. “Well! What do you think?”
Melania laughed. “I don’t think anyone on their porch handing out candy will believe there is a real live scarecrow inside a walking crow!”
“How many is that?” Lavar Hicks demanded as Lemont Pool dragged another huge scarecrow to the end of the cornfield.
“Eighty-two I think,” Lemont gasped. “We’ve uprooted most of your fence-posts to make crosses … we will probably be twenty short!”
“There must be two hundred of these put up in the field by tomorrow night … or it’s going to go bad for all of us!” He gestured to where Butch Fowler was busy with a propane torch welding bars into the back of Tommy Lee’s milk truck. The Chinaman hovered over Butch occasionally raking his fingernails across Butch’s face to make him hurry.
“What’s the cage for?” Lemont whispered.
“All that candy I guess,” Hicks told him glancing toward a mountain of cardboard boxes filled with Chick-o-Sticks, Chocolate Babies and black and orange Malt Balls. “Mr. Lee says he wants enough for every child in Cloverdale.”
Lemont shook his head as Lavar helped him drag the scarecrow. “We all know that ain’t the Chink behind those wooden eyes don’t we?”
“All I know is we’ve got one night and a day to get two hundred scarecrows up,” Lavar replied. “After you get this one planted, drive my truck to the next farm over … and start pulling up posts.”
“Clive Olsen ain’t gonna like nobody tearing down his fence,” Lemont looked scared. “And that bull-headed Swede has been known to pack a shotgun into church meetings!”
“I’ve already planned for that and I’ll make sure Clive and Mary Olsen don’t cause us any problems,” Lavar said as he walked toward the house. He turned and grinned from the doorway. “I’d stay at the end of the field a bit longer this time if I were you!”
When Lemont saw Lavar pulling on the rope in the kitchen that lifted the trap door in the floor of the barn he almost ran with the load he was dragging. He could hear the snorting monster reacting to the sudden light coming into the pit it was imprisoned in. “God help us all!” he moaned.
“The sheriff has always been kind to me,” Dorothy told Melania over breakfast. “Don’t you think we should tell him about poor Mr. Lee and the horrible thing that escaped from the box in the attic?”
“I’ve tried,” Melania sighed as she poured them both coffee. “John Walker and two of his deputies have been in Butte the last two days testifying in a criminal trial. They are due back tonight and I don’t trust any of the other deputies he left in charge with this kind of unique problem!”
“Well at least we’re ready,” Dorothy said. “She walked to the Bolger scarecrow and slipped her feet into the straps attached to the bottom of his feet. “It will be so good to be a whole family again!”
Melania smiled as her Momett friend began to dance, whirling about the floor with the scarecrow in her arms. Melania couldn’t resist taking the Ombré box down from the cabinet above the sink and removing The Lovers Tarot card which she carefully lay face down on the glass table. “I know this is dangerous,” she whispered as if speaking to her dead mother. “But there is also great magic in love!” The piano in the parlor instantly began to play Melody From The Sky.
Brian was all smiles as he entered the room and saw his mother dancing with a replica of his father. “I’ve never seen her this happy since … father was taken from us,” he stammered.
“Let’s pray that this happiness becomes permanent,” Melania told him.
There was no cloud in the night sky and the full moon shining down made outside almost as light as day. Lavar and Lemont lay on the ground exhausted. They had worked without sleep the last two days but all two-hundred scarecrows had been erected on poles at the end of the cornfield. They had worked mostly without the help of Butch Fowler. The Chinaman had kept him busy stealing a long list of items from nearby farms namely hundreds of chickens and hand pumps that attached to the gasoline cans. They somehow managed to stand and move out of the way when the Chink charged out of Lavar’s farmhouse. He was wearing Fowler’s steel-mesh welding gloves and demanded the Tarot card in Lavar’s pocket. Hicks handed over the Wind card and then stepped back after being handed a cow bell. Glowing embers of fire rose from the card as the Chinaman held it high over his head. The demon’s voice rumbled like thunder and the flash of his teeth became lightning bolts as he read from the back of the card. “Dio del vento ascolta le mie parole!” the monster growled. “Abbiamo bisogno di vostra grazia alla vita nuova forma. Favore attende tutto bene mentre doom deve cogliere il male. Portare avanti il tuo respiro ora!”
The Chinaman dropped the card and screamed in delight as Hicks rang the bell.
Clang! The ground shook and a wired-corral filled with chickens began to squawk.
Clang! The rows of corn began to tremble.
Clang! The pine-slab roof above Hick’s house caught fire and began to burn.
With a tremendous roar the corn field came to life. Ten foot tall monsters hurtled past Pool and Fowler, both of whom held gasoline cans with pumps attached. The monsters ran toward the corral and bloody feathers erupted like a volcano.
Don’t just stand there!” The Chinaman hissed. “Burn them!” It pointed towards the corn field; it seemed not all the straw men were monsters with an insane craving for blood. Those that remained waited patiently for orders, wanting only to please and be of service.
Pool and Fowler started down the rows spraying gasoline on those recently come to life who stared timidly at the new world with unknowing calm and a sad kind of acceptance.
“Burn them all … burn them before we leave,” the demon hissed.
Melania was expecting more than quiet acceptance when she showed Sheriff Walker the talking marionette hanging in the parlor of her house. But once again, the big man surprised her. “I was with Joseph when he trapped Demilune and secured him in the seaman’s chest,” John said. “I always thought that was a bit of hell on Earth that we were done with … but as I’ve been told evil returns like a cold wind … in its own time.
“Who told you that?”
“Someone I greatly respected,” the sheriff said. “Your dear mother, Jesska.”
“What should we do?”
“Enjoy the night,” John told them glancing at Brian in his costume. “I’ll take a few deputies out to Hicks’ farm and see what the old buzzard is up to.”
Just as John Walker was leaving the house the radio blasted from his police car. After a few minutes talking he returned to the porch … he was running. “I’m afraid your stolen card will have to wait … we have trouble on the other side of town!”
“What kind of trouble?”
“Sounds like a riot!”
The sheriff was speeding away when Brian tugged on his mother’s skirt. “Can I still go out trick or treating?”
Dorothy looked at Melania … the town’s society women would be arriving for the Dance of the Scarecrows in minutes.
“Have fun but stay on this side of town,” Melania told him, “and be home early.”
And that was the last Melania and Dorothy ever saw of the tiny scarecrow who had recently become … almost a real boy.
Sheriff Walker and his deputies had to fight their way through the angry mob surrounding the firemen. Several houses lay in ashes while others still burned. “They came down Vineyard Road,” one frantic man sobbed.
“Who did?” John Walker grabbed him and tried to make him speak clearly.
“An army of monsters,” the man said. “Big as barn doors with sacks over their heads!”
“And they started the fires?”
“No! We did!” The man was hysterical. “It was the only way we could drive them away!”
“What did they want?”
“Human flesh,” the man stammered, pointing to bloody bone and pools of blood littering the street. “That’s all that’s left of Joe Morgan, his wife Emma and their six kids.”
“Where are these monsters now?”
“Everywhere and anywhere,” a woman spoke up. “As soon as I find my husband we’re lighting out for California. You don’t have this kind of trouble picking lettuce in that place where the sun always shines!”
Dorothy waited until the rest of the women in the room unfastened themselves from their scarecrows, piled them in a corner and walked outside to cool off. The men in the orchestra followed. Dorothy danced through the rose covered arch when Melania moved the punch bowl. She felt Bolger come to life almost instantly. She held her breath until they were out back in the garden. “Is it really you?”
“Of course,” Bolger looked at her tilting his head to one side. “Who else would I be?”
“I’ve missed you,” Dorothy put her head on his shoulder and began to cry.
“I was going to back-up Melania’s truck,” Bolger said. “But I don’t remember … I didn’t hurt anyone … did I?”
“No, you were fine,” Dorothy whispered.
“Where is Brian?” Bolger asked. Fear showed in his voice for the first time.
“Out with his friends collecting Halloween treats,” Dorothy said. “When he gets home we will be a family again!”
But Bolger could ask no more questions … Dorothy was kissing him.
Brian, dressed as a crow, had made several trips up and down three streets along with a dozen children. The empty flour sack he carried was starting to get heavy when the group spied the familiar milk truck parked next to the curb on Swenson Avenue. Music was playing from a radio. Brian recognized the milkman standing by the open side-door even with the costume he was wearing. “You’re no longer a puppet hanging on strings,” he laughed.
“No, and I am human again just in time for the most wonderful night of the year!” Mr. Lee told him. Brian thought the milkman’s voice sounded a little rough but he thought it was from the clown makeup he was wearing. Red paint made his mouth look too large and large round trick-glasses made his eyes appear huge, wooden and wolf-like.
“I knew Melania could fix you with her magic,” Brian said.
“She sure did,” Mr. Lee agreed. He dropped several pieces of candy into each child’s open bag and then looked up and down the street. “Not many little ghosts and goblins out tonight,” he said. “Why not climb on up in the back and fill-up your treat bags,” he told them.
“Are you sure you have enough?”
“Boxes and boxes of every size and flavor,” the clown said. He licked his lips.
The children all laughed as they climbed into the back of the truck. There was the sound of a heavy metal door with steel bars closing and faint screams just before the milk truck started and drove away…
TO BE CONTINUED …