Archive for delinquent youth
October 31, 2007. The anniversary of his wife’s death. Ted has managed to get through the day without turning into the gibbering wreck he was in the weeks that followed Jeans final descent. He had woken this morning and looked around the shabby bedroom of the house where they had lived for thirty-two years. There were still pieces of Jeans clothing around the room and a miniature picture of her stood on the night-table. He hasn’t touched a thing since her death twelve months ago. The sun tried to penetrate the thick curtains but Ted had kept this part of the house dark as a sign of respect and a sign that he was still in mourning. He forced himself out of bed, bumped his way to the spacious kitchen, and brewed his morning cup of tea. Outside, the morning chorus was reducing in volume and it sounded curiously incongruous with Ted’s mood. He carried his cup of tea to the sunroom and sat and drunk it while he watched the world slowly coming to life outside. The volume of traffic increased as first 7am then 8am rolled around and he must have drifted off to sleep as he sat there because all of a sudden, the sun had left the room and he felt cold. He dressed, and then wandered out into his garden.
She woke much later. Halloween day. She had waited for this for a while. A chance to knock on a few doors and case a few houses out. The house was silent. The bitch must have already left for work. She reached over for her mobile and dialed her friend’s number.
Mid morning and Ted was starting to feel tired from his labours in the garden. He was finding it hard to know what to plant now that he was only feeding himself. The children, well they were in their forties now, sometimes came to visit and took away produce, but they had been principally attached to Jean. He was her second husband and they had no children of their own. When Jean died, their interest in Ted and his welfare was perfunctory. He had his first thought about Jean. He saw her, as she was when they first met. She was radiant in a bright summer dress as she came down his garden path. She had been selling kitchen products to make ends meet after her first husband died. They had a flirtatious half-hour where she sold Ted fifty dollars worth of mostly worthless junk and they agreed to meet at a later date. That started a romance, which blossomed over that summer and eventually they married in the spring. Ted marveled how a chance meeting could have turned into so many years of happiness. His thought drifted into the holidays and the travel and his eyes closed at the memories. When he opened them she was gone. The garden was empty.
She rolled out of bed. They had agreed over the phone that neither of them were going to school today and they were to meet outside Victors after twelve. The beauty of having a mother who didn’t care is that you were pretty much your own boss. Occasionally the police would pick you up if they recognised you were a truant, but lately they had given up on Juanita and Cathy. When you’re twelve years old, it’s easy to fall between the cracks.
Time for my afternoon nap thought Ted. Maybe a little medicinal whisky. The gardening had made his joints ache and the memories had finally run from good to bad. He sipped a large glass of whisky and settled into his favorite chair that overlooked his view of the harbour and the road. Before long, he was asleep. A thin trickle of drool appeared on his chin. Ted dreamt of the war. He had fought in the big one. WW2. He had seen front line action. He dreamt of the young German soldier he had shot and who had refused to die. He dreamt of fixing the bayonet before the push forward and he dreamt of raising the bayoneted rifle over his head as the young German lay moaning on the ground. Ted jerked awake as bayonet penetrated flesh. He poured himself a large whisky and noticed how he trembled. Time to think about eating.
“So! What are we going to do tonight?” asked Cathy.
“I figure we put on makeup and costumes so that we won’t be recognised and play the Halloween game. We can case out some of these houses without raising too much suspicion and if anything looks good we’ll go back later in the week and do a proper job.”
“ Halloween! It’s so babyish. So 20th C. Cathy had lately been calling everything either 20th or 21st C. It was one of the things that Juanita liked about Cathy. She was always up with the play. All those silly little kids wanting candies and gifts. I like the other part though. Sounds like a good idea. I’ve got to do the tea thing with Mother but I’ll be out of there by seven.”
Cathy and Juanita looked out of place as they sat in the coffee shop, making their cokes last an hour, so they couldn’t be thrown out. They met here most days, if they were at school or not. In the last term, they had only managed a cumulative total of two weeks at school. At twelve, their futures are already being decided.
Ted has finished his evening meal. The steak had tasted like rubber and the mashed potatoes had left a cheesy taste in his mouth. The salad from his garden was largely untouched but the whisky bottle had lowered by a good six inches. Ted poured himself another large glass and splashed a thimbleful of water into the top of the amber pool. He drained it in a solitary gulp and poured another. It was starting to get dark outside and he noticed children in costumes skipping down the street as he drew the heavy curtains against the harsh streetlights.
Cathy and Juanita were almost ready. Juanita had raided her mother’s room and she had caked mascara and then liberally applied eyeshadow and lipstick to her not-so-angelic twelve-year-old face. Her finger and toenails were now a brilliant blood-red. She had also purloined dangly earrings and one of her mother old slips that she wore over an old velvet curtain she had fashioned into a dress. Her outfit was completed by a pointed witch’s hat she had found in the old playroom. As she placed it on her head, she suddenly flashed back to previous Halloweens when her intentions had been less ominous. She shrugged and adjusted her hat. Cathy had not really got into the spirit of the occasion and had been liberal with the makeup but had stayed in jeans and T-shirt. Her only concession was a gaily embodied pillowcase in which she intended to collect her booty. She wondered to herself what this all meant anyway. Why did people dress up this way and why did adults give out sweets and presents to complete strangers? Something to do with harvest and giving thanks for crop protection. Or was that Thanksgiving? She had vague memories of when she first did it and an image of a hollowed out pumpkin with a candle inside flickered through her mind but left, just as quickly. She was keen to see inside some of the properties in Kings Heights. There would be bound to be open windows and forgotten locks. Normally they would never have a chance to get near places like that but tonight the world opened itself to all children. They set off.
At first, they didn’t find much of any interest. Too many other younger kids had been before them and they found some of the people to be surly and not into the spirit of the occasion. Cathy made a mental note of two likely properties where a working couple would leave them unattended for a day and she particularly noted the collections of video and computer gear that flickered through half opened doors. They moved on to Kings Heights.
Ted tried to concentrate on the television but the noise from outside distracted him. Why were all these children out after dark? A banging on his front door interrupted his ruminations. He staggered down the hall and pulled the door open to the length of the safety chain. Four small children dressed in rags and pointed hats laughed back at him.
“Trick or treat,” they screeched in unison and held out paper bags.
Halloween. Of course. The day the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. Their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. He had not made the connection with Jeans death.
“Sorry children but I don’t have any children of my own and I don’t have any sweets in the house.”
“Thanks mister,” they uttered in chorus and skipped off down the path to search for more generous patrons.
Ted thought how nicely the children had taken his rebuff and he reminded himself to have stocks of sweets for next year. He walked back down the hall with a slightly bigger bounce in his step and a lot more on his mind.
Juanita and Cathy were making more of a task of it. Maybe it was because they were a little too old but they kept getting very nasty people answering their doors and not getting much in the way of gifts. They were also seeing that many houses in Kings Heights had extensive security. Juanita’s plans were not working out the way she had thought. They came to No49 Kelvin Heights. A long path led down, through a beautiful garden, which still showed much colour in the fading light, to a green door with a large brass knocker. The house didn’t have any security at all and Juanita could see the flicker of a television set and an unlocked shed out the back of the property with garden utensils and a chainsaw clearly visible. There was also an unlocked garage with an early model car, which piqued her interest. They knocked on the door. An old fogey who reeked of drink, and swayed back and forth as he peered through the barely opened door, grumpily told them that he had already told them that he had no candy. The door was slammed. Cathy instantly lunged out and kicked the green panels. The door swung open to its full extent and the man waved a walking stick at them.
“Clear off-or I’ll call the police you little monkeys,” he screamed as spittle flew from his mouth. Cathy reeled back but Juanita held her ground.
“Hey! Old man. Easy does it. We are only trick or treating. What’s with you grandpa. And keep that spit to yourself. You could have all sorts of diseases. And don’t call us monkeys, you old fart.”
“Off with you. Get off my property.”
The door slammed hurriedly and Cathy, now ashen faced, looked at Juanita.
“The old twerp isn’t going to get away with that,” she spat and she walked down the drive and started pulling out handfuls of flowers. Juanita, initially stunned at the old mans response, suddenly had a rush of bravado, and joined her friend. She picked up a handful of freshly turned clay and hurled it at the front window of No49 Kings Height. The window shattered and the sound of the glass breaking served to inflame the pair to greater destruction. Cathy savagely attacked the front gate and within a few minutes, the gate lay shattered across the footpath.
Inside Ted rushes to the back door and locks it, fearing for his safety as the level of noise from the front of his property increases. He hears sounds as the two mannequins come down the side of the property and he can hear them hurling abuse at him. Then they are in the garage and he can hear sounds of windows breaking. He goes to the study and peers out from behind the curtains and one of the little monsters is jumping up and down on the bonnet of his beloved Wolseley. He hurriedly draws the curtain shut as they see him peering out and they rush toward the window.
Fingers, painted bright red, claw against the windowpane. Cat like noises screech through the night as they repeatedly draw, up and down, on the window. A hideous cackle accompanies the screeching and Ted’s ears are assailed by the cacophony of noise. He puts his hands over his ears, tries turning up the volume on the small television, tries anything to blot out the noise.
He sees the two girls as they stand in his front flower garden. The garden he has kept the way Jean had it. The beautiful flowers, now crushed and torn from the ground and scattered over the path. They are laughing and jumping up and down. The taller of the two is swinging the wing-mirror of the Wolseley around her head in preparation to throwing it at his front window. Ted sees the young German soldier, then the girls, the torn flowers, and there is Jean, beckoning to him from the postbox. He lifts the heavy service revolver and sights down the twin crosshairs. Juanita forms a perfect transit from eye to sight. Ted squeezes the trigger and the upward jerk of the revolver is mirrored by the backward jerk of Juanita. He sights again and Cathy now dominates his attention. He squeezes the trigger for a second time.