THE KID IN THE WEREWOLF MASK
The kid walked through the doors of the store, and walked with a purpose. She strode in that way children have when they know where they’re going. Arms stiff at her sides, moving at a good clip, head not turning to see the displays as she passed. All business. She arrowed right at the first bank of logo-festooned endcaps and then left again at aisle fifteen.
This was the aisle with all the Halloween decorations in it. She knew exactly where it’d been because she’d visited this store several times this season, along with many others in town. What made this store special is that she’d found her chosen costume here, and today was her day to pick it up.
Fifteen dollars in varying increments of bills and coins were crumpled loosely in her right coat pocket. She’d often reached in on the walk to the store to squeeze the money and make sure it was all still there. This was the only costume money she’d been able to squeeze out of mommy and today, the twenty-seventh of October, was finally the blessed day. She’d placed the money in the pocket of her lavender coat and set out for the Schaddman’s store two blocks and three roads away.
She stopped at the masks. The mask she’d decided on was still here, still where she’d replaced it after studying it for imperfections on her last visit. The mask remained perfect and she took a moment to appreciate the gravity of the occasion. Here was the perfect Halloween mask, the perfect Halloween costume, and she had the money to purchase it. She would pay for the mask at the cash register and then she would own it.
The idea was too big to take in, still, so the kid continued to study the mask. It was a very fine latex and polyester werewolf mask. Its snarl as it hung on the Schaddman’s peg was comical- the werewolf seemed to be sneering at her, saying “what, are you kidding me” like some comedian on a stage. The kid stifled a giggle.
She knew that when the mask was on and worn correctly, the funny look to its face would vanish. The latex, unfolded, would take on a very menacing air, and one the kid knew was the essence of a great Halloween costume. Frightening and- had she known the word- elemental.
Great tufts of kinked brown fur sprouted from the sides and top of the werewolf’s face. The photo on the hangtag showed the fur in a more orderly fashion, but the kid knew that carefully brushed fur was not the way to go. The fur looked perfect as it was right now. It was ruffled and wild. The ears rose from the fur in tall feral peaks. The muzzle was curled in a wicked snarl, and its nubby latex teeth were just yellow enough to be convincing. Its eyes were maniac bulbs, black with red irises. The mask was perfect, it was classic, and it spoke to her on a deep level.
The kid took the mask down from its peg and walked back toward the registers. She stood in line 7 and waited very patiently until there were no more customers in front of her, and it was her turn. The woman wearing a yellow apron smiled at her as adults will smile at little kids and turned the mask around until its bar code BEEP-ed in the computer. The woman made a face like she was scared of the mask, and the kid grinned. She knew that when adults did things they thought were funny and really weren’t, it was best to be polite and act as if they were. The kid took out her wad of money, spread it over the stainless steel counter and waited while the woman counted everything up. The woman put the money inside the register drawer, snapped the receipt out of the top, put everything in a white and blue Schaddman’s bag and handed it to the kid with another smile.
“You have a nice day, hon. And happy Halloween!”
The kid walked out of the store. She stopped by a trash bin to throw away the plastic bag. The receipt she stuffed in her pocket. The mask she put on. She straightened it out in the reflection of the store’s big windows and made sure everything was in order. Satisfied, she turned and walked her stiff-armed walk through the parking lot toward Baker Street.
October sunlight was baking down in one of the few remaining warm hours of the year, and the kid watched the sidewalk roll beneath her through the slits in the mask above the werewolf’s scary eyes. She liked the way the mask’s inside smelled. It smelled like a hiding place, stale and secretive. She liked the way her breath puffed in her own ears because it sounded like she really was a monster, with enormous huffs and puffs. To heighten the effect, she made her own breathing as guttural as she possibly could and relished the feeling it gave her. It was getting wet inside the mask, particularly around her mouth, and she felt like her breath was getting too hot and yucky in here. She liked the mask too much to take it off so she ignored the muggy feeling. Through the eye slits she looked up and saw the moon yawning in the late afternoon sky. It wasn’t quite a full moon, but how perfect! This was just like a real werewolf. This costume was going to scare so many people.
The kid had a wonderful idea. She would scare mommy and daddy once she got home. It was getting dark, after all, and any fan of Halloween will tell you that that’s the best time to scare anyone. She would avoid walking up the driveway. She’d sneak through the hole in the fence and go up the south lawn, and then she’d scare mommy and daddy in the family room, because their chairs faced the TV, which was beside a big window. The kid imagined how the werewolf mask might look from the inside of the house at this time of night with the TV on, and it was very scary.
She crept up the lawn to the house. By now the sky was what mommy liked to call the gloaming. Daddy just called it dusk. She nosed past some bushes, mindful of her mask’s ears- she didn’t want to be spotted early. That would give the surprise away. She reached the perfect spot beneath the window and heard the TV inside.
The kid gathered her legs beneath her and slowly stood, holding her arms out and wiggling her fingers scarily. She rose into view of the family room and growled. Mommy glanced to the window and suddenly looked VERY scared! Her arm flapped out at daddy’s arm and he saw her too. Mommy began screaming and then daddy did. The kid giggled and growled “rrRAH!!” in her best werewolf voice. She banged her hands against the glass and the glass broke.
Mommy and daddy were trying to stand up while they were screaming and the kid climbed into the room. “GRRRR, I’m a WEREWOLF!” she grumbled, holding her arms up in her best I’m-gonna-getcha pose. Daddy threw the remote at her, and that just made her giggle again. “That won’t stop me! I’m going to EAT YOUUU!” She bunched her fingers into claws and swiped at mommy’s leg. Mommy’s leg came apart in a spatter of gore, cloth, fat and bone. “ARRRRR!” the kid said as she mimicked biting her mother. Through the latex eye-slits she could see mommy’s mouth gouting blood, and daddy had begun to hit her on the head. The kid outright laughed this time and turned on him. “Oh NO you don’t! I’m a MONSTER! GRAAAAHRRRR!!” Daddy gobbled against the wall, eyes wide. He looked so scared! With a playful growl, the kid launched at daddy with her claws. Daddy was opened wide in crimson stripes and his breath guttered in his chest as he tried to scream. Wet things fell out of daddy and plopped on the floor. The kid tore his throat out, swallowed it and yelled “The scariest monster of ALL TIME has STRUCK AGAIN!”
She climbed out the window as the blood still ran down the wallpaper in weakening freshets. Outside, the moon was very big and the sky was almost entirely dark. The kid walked with a bent crouch, hands hooked into claws. Her lips were drawn back in a snarl inside her mask. “I ate them both up!” she hollered to the moon. “AHWOOOOOOOO!”
A car was coming, she could see the growing strips of light on the road. She giggled again and ran into a bush, knowing it was what a werewolf would do. Being very quiet, she watched as the car passed by. What else might a werewolf do, she wondered. Who else might she scare? She decided upon the Frankels up the street. She crept off in that direction, snarling like a monster.