READ PART ONE
And now, the conclusion...
Halloween. Back then.
Their trick-or-treating done, eight-year-old Dras and Rosalyn hopped into the back of the Chevette. Rosalyn’s dad turned the radio to KDZY and tuned in to the special Halloween broadcast that played “Monster Mash” on a nearly endless loop, broken up only occasionally by “Werewolves of London” or “Nightmare on My Street”.
And, as usual, Rosalyn’s dad began to sing along with Bobby “Boris” Picket in his best—though undeniably terrible—Bela Lugosi voice. He gestured with his hands and pretended he had a cape, singing proudly.
“Your dad’s so cool,” Dras whispered in total awe, knowing he’d never see Jack Weldon indulging in such frivolity.
Rosalyn hid her face. “Daaad.”
Her dad leaned into the backseat, tickling Rosalyn’s side. “I vant to dlink your blood!”
She laughed hard and slapped at him playfully. “Stop it! You’re such a big dork!”
Fourteen years later, the laughter from that night still rang through her memories.
Rosalyn and Dras drove in silence. Seeing the Chevette again reminded Rosalyn of all the things in Greensboro she sought to escape. Pain. Death. Yes, there were good times, most of them spent with the “Weird Avenger” seated beside her, but…were they enough to keep her here?
Finally Rosalyn ventured, feeling nauseous, “I think I’m ready to go home.”
Dras balked at her, “We were just getting started.”
“Dras,” she said flatly, cutting through his boyhood theatrics. “I…”
He grew dark and the joyous mask that seemed fixed to his face slipped to reveal the man Rosalyn knew he could be if he’d just let it happen. “It’s the Chevette. Isn’t it?” he asked quietly, thoughtfully. “Thinking about your dad?”
The word brought so many images to Rosalyn’s mind. Her dad playing guitar on the back porch, practicing for a gig with one of his bands. He frequented bars, fairs, and Main Street Festivals, singing Bob Segar covers and strumming a few originals, as well. By day he was a factory worker, a drone enslaved to the system, but by night Rosalyn saw the magic come alive in his eyes. He told stories and played songs, and on Saturday afternoons he took her and Dras wherever they wanted to go in his sky blue Chevette.
Then one afternoon, ten years ago, he blew his head off with a shotgun. No note. No good-bye. No explanation. It was quite possibly the moment that defined her life the most. Over the years, it had become the chain that kept her tied to Greensboro.
What would her Dad think about her leaving town? Would he be happy for her? Or angry that she was running away from his memory?
“Yeah,” Rosalyn admitted. “I’m sorry.”
“Nah, it’s no big deal,” Dras replied, his voice warm and considerate. Suddenly he was a totally different person. “You don’t like Pod People anyway. But, you don’t have to be alone, you know? I mean, you shouldn’t be alone.”
But I am alone, she thought to say, but didn’t. She and Dras had been practically conjoined at the hip since birth, but when her daddy took his life, a wedge came between them, an unconquerable chasm that now grew ever larger. Dras stood on the side where youth and dreams lived, and Rosalyn where burdens and doubts dwelt. Dras believed in the magic of Halloween—of escapism and fantasy. Rosalyn hadn’t believed in much of anything since she was twelve. She thought, on occasion, to probe Dras further regarding God, faith, and the afterlife. After all, his dad was a preacher and Dras went to church all the time, albeit late. But this was Dras. The deepest thought he had was probably who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and Optimus Prime. Once after her father’s death, Rosalyn tried to believe in something beyond death. That same year she took a trip to the North Woods in search of her father’s ghost. She was just a kid, and it was a stupid delusion.
But tonight, seeing her father’s Chevette after all these years made her wonder.
What if Dad really is still out there, somewhere?
Rosalyn dropped Dras off at his apartment, and headed home. Sullenly, she parked the car on the curb and walked toward the front doors of her apartment building, jangling her keys, envious of the kids that ran by her, shouting and crowing into the night air.
Was I young like that? Yes, she had the memories to prove it. I wish I could be again.
Behind her, an echo from the past—the sound of bubbling potions—grew steadily louder.
It was the opening of “Monster Mash”.
The deep bass thrummed, echoing in the night, creeping on her back. She heard the familiar roar of an engine as bright light splashed against her, casting an elongated Rosalyn-shaped shadow in front of her. Like a sentry, the shadow stared her down, barring her passage home, commanding that she turn and face what she feared most.
She swiveled reluctantly, fixed to Fate’s design.
Sure enough. The Chevette.
Rosalyn held up a hand to shield the headlights’ beam, struggling to see inside the vehicle. The driver remained anonymous, only a dark shape, his glowing eyes boring straight through her heart.
The engine stopped. The car rumbled to a hungry purr before dying out altogether, but the bright lights held Rosalyn in their sway. Ever so slowly, the sky blue door creaked and groaned open and a tall, lanky shape shambled forth.
Dras’ words shook her: Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible…
“Dad?” Rosalyn whispered, her throat catching.
“Rosalyn?” the shape asked, one trembling arthritic hand raised to grab her. To keep her in Greensboro.
No. God, no.
Adrenaline burst through her veins like hot mercury, igniting her instincts. She turned around, breaking free of the headlights and their sticky luminescence and raced for the door to her building. Rosalyn tore through the door, knowing she had no time to lock it. The thing that was not—could not be—her father would be right behind her.
Instead, she clambered up the steps, two at a time, holding in a terrified shriek as she hurriedly unlocked the door to her apartment. With all her weight, she barreled into the dark room and slammed the door shut behind her, catching just a glimpse of the shadowed, lilting figure hobbling for her door.
“No!” she screamed. “Stay away!”
Dumb hands banged against the door and frame, and Rosalyn pressed herself against the wood, near tears. “Please… Just go away…”
“Rosalyn…” the thing on her doorstep moaned. It was the sound of graves opening and dead fathers returning for their daughters.
Here we are, on Halloween night—the night when anything is possible…
No, Daddy! No…I’m sorry for wanting to leave! I’m sorry! Don’t be mad, Daddy!
“Rosalyn Myers,” the voice said more clearly. “Are you Rosalyn Myers?”
Rosalyn’s heart fell into a steady boom-boom-boom as tense seconds passed. “Who are you?”
“I have something for you,” the man on the other side of the door answered. He sounded strong, though elderly. And a bit annoyed. “If you’re not too busy, that is.”
Suddenly feeling very embarrassed, yet still apprehensive, Rosalyn cracked open the door. “Who—?”
An unfamiliar man with insanely bushy eyebrows and a definitive limp barked, “Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare ya.”
“What do you want?” she pressed.
“Paul Myers your daddy?”
She swallowed, her heart slowing. “Uh…yeah. He is. Was.”
“That car out there—that his?”
“It used to be,” Rosalyn said, her brow furrowing. “I think.”
“Yeah, I met your pop a time or two. He was real good with a guitar.”
Dumbfounded, Rosalyn replied, “Thanks.”
“I just bought that car today. Was digging through the glovebox and came across something. I recognized him. Thought the other’n might be you.” With swollen hands, the man reached out for the crevice in the door. He held a Polaroid.
Carefully, for she was not accustomed to taking things from strange men, Rosalyn took the photo and turned it over.
“Looked you up in the phone book,” the man continued. But Rosalyn could not hear him.
She broke down in tears.
“Well, how’d you do tonight, pumpkin?”
Eight-year-old Rosalyn Myers finished watching Dras scurry up to his house, where his mother stood on the front porch, shaking her head with a sort of resigned indignation at his Halloween enjoyment. Rosalyn allowed herself a giggle before turning to her dad seated in the driver’s seat.
“Pretty good, actually.”
“Have fun, then?” her father asked brightly.
“I love Halloween,” he said, looking at the show that unfolded before him on the streets. His eyes happily glazed over. “Always a lot of fun. Life should be fun sometimes, too. Not always work.”
He winked at Rosalyn, and she grinned.
“Oh!” he said, reaching for something in the backseat. “I almost forgot!”
“Daaad,” she whined, rolling her eyes, but still unable to remove the grin.
“It’s a tradition. You can’t expect me to abandon tradition, Roz.”
He brought out a Polaroid camera and squeezed close to his daughter. He held the camera at arms length, aiming it back at father and daughter. “Come on, now,” he grinned, “Time to take our picture so we can show Mom all the fun she’s missing. Say ‘cheese’!”
Rosalyn stretched her smile and said “Cheese” through strained teeth. Dad snapped the picture and Rosalyn deflated, putting on her best aggravated look, though its sincerity was questionable.
“There?” she asked. “You happy now?”
Her dad waited for the photo to eject and began to flap it, hoping to coax it into developing faster. “I am,” he said, matter-of-factly, determined not to be brought down by her sourpuss. Then he softened and faced his daughter. “I just wanted to tell you, you’re a great kid. I love coming out here with you. Thanks for letting your old man tag along.”
Rosalyn blushed and could not hide her smile. “No problem.”
“I hope I can always tag along with you.”
“Yeah,” Rosalyn sighed, feigning consideration. “If you promise not to be a skeeve.”
“Skeeve? Where do you pick this stuff up?” her dad laughed, reaching over for a hug. “Come’ere.”
They hugged, he tickled, and she laughed.
Rosalyn sat alone in her darkened apartment. Halloween’s moonlight sprinkled through the window, illuminating the photograph in her hand. There she was. Eight years old and dressed like a witch, fake nose with a wart and everything.
There was her Dad.
She cried over the photo for hours. Pained tears at first. Then happy tears.
For so long she had feared leaving Greensboro, feeling as though doing so would betray her father’s memory, but now those shackles were loosened. Somehow she thought her dad would approve. At least, she wanted to believe he did. It seemed he’d sent her a message tonight, a happy memory in the midst of her confusion to let her know he was always here, tagging along with her, wherever she went.
Ten years ago, out in the North Woods, Rosalyn lost her faith. She went looking for her father but she couldn’t find him. But tonight, on Halloween, the night when anything was possible, here he was. Still dead, but never gone.
Maybe it was possible to believe again. If only for one night.
Somewhere, “Monster Mash” played in the night and Rosalyn smiled.
Copyright 2009 Greg Mitchell