Tag Archives: Last Halloween

“Last Halloween” – Fiction by Cameron Suey

Head of a Stag – Diego Velazquez, 1634

Parents struggle with the dire consequences of a high-stakes bargain in “Last Halloween,” Cameron Suey‘s feral & frightful fiction from our Fall 2018 issue.

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ON THE LAST MORNING I WILL HAVE WITH MY SON, I make him pancakes with fresh blueberries from the community garden mixed in the batter.  When the Patels from down the street heard the news, they brought us a flask of fresh maple syrup from the trees in the western woods, and I’ve chilled it overnight in the fridge. Butter from the community farm sizzles and spits on the griddle as Malcolm drags his feet down the stairs. Outside the kitchen window, perched on the skeletal frame of an old oak, the crow gazes at me. Its head crooks to one side and beetle-shell eyes flash in the October sun, fixed on mine. I look away.

“Morning,” I grunt, trying to keep the desperate quaver out of my voice. “Thought maybe you’d like to try some coffee with breakfast.”

He narrows sleepy eyes, skeptical of the offer, then shrugs. “Doesn’t it, uh, stunt my growth?” I wince, but he doesn’t notice.

“I think maybe one cup is okay.” I set the chipped, steaming mug down in front of him with the first batch of pancakes. “Just don’t tell mom.”

He tries to play it cool, like it’s no big deal, but I can see the excitement in the corners of his smile. He wraps his small hands around the mug, half covering the Notre Dame crest, and sniffs at the steam. I realize that I’m staring at him, so I look out the window again. The crow catches my eye and nods, then takes flight in a burst of sparkling black feathers.

After breakfast, Malcolm lays out his goblin costume, itemizing and accounting for each piece and prop. I watch from the hallway, passing by with the same load of laundry again and again. I don’t want to make this day any harder than it has to be.

From our bedroom, Annie’s tiny cries drift out alongside the sound of Rose singing gentle lullabies. Rose said her goodbyes to Malcolm as he slept last night. She doesn’t trust herself not to upset the boy, so she’s planned to stay with our infant daughter until he’s gone. I told her I would cover for her if Malcolm asked.

When I’ve run out of reasons to pass by his doorway, I go to the garage. In a box above the workbench, still packed from our move last January, I find what I’m looking for. A cracked plastic bucket, molded in orange like a child’s drawing of a jack-o-lantern. It was mine from childhood, in a place far away from here. I’d hoped both my children would have the chance to use it, but if I send it out with Malcolm, I know it won’t be coming back. Annie won’t be old enough to carry it for at least another year.

My throat is tight again, and I clear it to chase away the tears. What’s one more loss tonight, in the greater scheme of things? Malcolm should take it. He’s always loved it.

As I turn back towards the house, I hear scraping on the rafters above. The fox strides across the beam and sits on his haunches. I have an idiot impulse to fling the pumpkin at the animal, an impotent urge for violence in the muscles of my forearms. Instead, I sigh and nod. It looks at me from pools of liquid black, grey fur rising and falling with each patient breath.

There is no malice in those eyes, nor the others. We all know what has to happen tonight. Rose and I signed the pact when we came to this town. We accepted the risk, because it seemed worth it. Maybe it is, still. This is a safe town. Safer than anywhere else on earth. Annie will be exempt in future years.

The fox is gone when I look up.

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