A sudden evening breeze rushed at Jason’s neck and he zipped his jacket all the way up. Angry, he sighed behind his clown mask. The neighborhood kids were out trick or treating. Last year he’d been walking door to door too, stocking up on candy. Now he was in high school, and if his best friend Dennis hadn’t gotten grounded, they’d be spending this night scaring the neighborhood kids.
Jason pulled off his clown mask and debated going home. He stuck his fist into the forehead of the clown mask and twirled it around. Then he stopped. He held the mask still and looked into the white rubber face. Green Mohawk, blue triangles around the eye holes, large cheekbones, and exaggerated smile full of pointed teeth… he’d absolutely chosen the scariest mask.
The breeze rushed by again, chilling his ears and nose. Why let Dennis’ stupid math grades ruin his favorite holiday?
Jason pulled the mask back on.
He saw his next-door neighbor Gracie and her friends walking up the sidewalk. He ducked behind a nearby tree.
Jason listened to the girls chattering as they approached him. At the last minute, he leapt from the leaf-covered lawn onto the sidewalk before them. “HELLO LITTLE GIRLS!”
Inches from his flailing arms and shark-like smile, a princess, a cowgirl, a pirate and a gypsy all screamed and jumped. Jason was delighted. He lifted the bottom of his mask until the neckline rested on his eyebrows. Gracie the gypsy sighed as she saw his face. “Not funny!”
Gracie reached up, pushed his chest, then marched toward the next house. The other three girls followed, flashing dirty looks at Jason.
“Hey come on,” he said. “Happy Halloween!”
His heart raced from the thrill of scaring them. Maybe this night wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe he could scare a few kids before he went home. Maybe he could even trick or treat a little … as long as no one from school found out.
The yard beside him had a few faux gravestones, along with a wooden scarecrow and ghost lawn ornaments. Near the gravestones was a big leaf pile.
Jason got an idea.
He scooped a valley into the leaf pile, then sat in it, covering his legs, waist and torso. He carefully tucked his hands under the leaves, leaving only his shoulders and rubber face exposed. Anyone passing by would certainly look at the random clown head sitting on a pile of leaves, gleaming white in the street light, but they’d never expect a boy to be beneath!
He watched the street through the eyeholes in the mask. Soon he saw a little girl coming his way. She wore a plaid Catholic school uniform but was covered in zombie makeup. Jason watched her and waited.
For a young girl, she was certainly committed. Her makeup was Hollywood-worthy. She’d even dirtied her clothes and hair. Fake blood dripped down from her mouth and neck. She lurched forward, moaning. She walked alone.
As she got closer, Jason raised his arms and yelled, “YA!”
The girl didn’t jump, but she did stop walking as she turned her head in his direction. They looked at each other, one kid dressed as a clown, one as a zombie. Then Jason noticed that her hands were covered in blood and she wasn’t carrying a bag for candy. As she approached, he could make out the detail of the gash at her hairline, a maggot-covered wound.
Behind the clown’s smile, his own grin disappeared.
The little girl started lurching in his direction.