I write songs, prose, short stories, scripts, screenplays, you name it. Here is a short story about a friendship between two outcast kids who share a fondness for Halloween.
Written October 2010. All rights reserved.
HELL AND WITCHY
by Llano Blue
Even at the age of seven, Richard was remarkably lanky. Other children in his class, still plump with baby fat, would tease him, calling him skeleton boy, or spider. Despite these perhaps fitting names, that Halloween, Richard decided that he would dress up as a witch.
His mother tried to dissuade him, telling him that witches were girls, but Richard was an expert sulker, and his mother, not having the stomach for her son’s moods, soon gave in and bought Richard a witch costume at the local five and dime.
It was a little short in the hem and the arms, but Richard didn’t mind. He thought the sleeves looked three-quarter-length, like the sleeves on some of his mother’s more glamorous jackets, and the high hem just showed off a few more inches of striped stocking.
On Halloween night, his mother took him trick or treating, and after the first couple of houses, to Richard’s delight, she gave up correcting people on her son’s gender. “Oh, she makes such a pretty witch,” they would say. “Thank you,” Richard’s mother would intone, and once even, “she does, doesn’t she?” smiling down at Richard who beamed radiantly back up at her.
Helen was a horse of a girl, long faced and muscular, with a mane of unruly hair and a wide gait. In school (she had just gone into the seventh grade), she excelled in softball and track, but had never been much good at getting along with kids her own age.
For Halloween, while her peers were all having sleepovers, or toilet papering houses, Helen dressed all in black and hid in the top of a poplar tree that grew on the edge of a well-traveled street. She climbed to the upper branches, out of reach of the streetlight’s arching glow, and sat waiting, armed with a jumbo bag of peanut M&Ms and her brother’s BB gun.
By the time the sun rose, the M&Ms were long gone, the BBs spent and scattered, the gun stolen, and Helen’s left eye has been blackened by the furry fist of an irate boy in a werewolf costume.
After being targeted by Helen several times throughout the evening, the boy had essentially shaken Helen out of her tree with the intention of beating her up. Although he had gotten one good swing in, the kids who gathered around the scuffle would all attest to the fact that the wild-haired girl who fell out of the tree had clearly whooped the werewolf’s furry butt.
Helen and Richard met for the first time on November second, when Richard’s mother dropped him off at Helen’s house to be babysat. Richard refused to get out of the car.
“He’s being stubborn,” Richard’s mother told Helen. “Thank you so much for babysitting on such short notice. Your mother says you’re great with kids.”
“No, I can’t stand them,” Helen was quick to reply. “I just need the money.”
Richard’s mother blinked several times and stared at Helen. “What happened to your eye?”
“Halloween.” Helen stared back.
“You don’t seem much like the girl your mother describes.”
“Guess she doesn’t know me very well.” Helen spat into the gravel walkup and toed the wet rocks with her cowboy boot.
“Your mom is going to be home today, isn’t she?” Richard’s mother craned her neck, hoping to catch sight of her friend through the open front door.
“Yes, she’ll be around,” Helen sighed. “It’s not like I’m gonna eat your kid while you’re gone, lady.”
“Okay, I get it.” Richard’s mother squared her shoulders and straightened her denim jacket. “You’re acting tough. I was pretty tough at your age too.”
Helen eyed her doubtfully.
“He’s a stubborn little guy, but if you’re so tough, I’m sure you can handle him. I’ll be back by eight.” Richard’s mother started toward the car to drag her son out of the back seat, then turned back to Helen. “There is one thing. I haven’t been able to get him out of his Halloween costume for the last two days. If you can get him to change his clothes, I’ll give you an extra five bucks.”
“Per hour?” Helen raised one eyebrow. An ability she had only recently perfected.
“No, just a five dollar bonus.”
“Make it five dollars extra per hour, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Two dollars extra per hour.”
Helen did a quick mental calculation. “Deal.”
“If you can get him out of his costume.”
“But first we have to get him out of the car.”
Richard’s mother led Helen around the car and opened the door to the back seat. Richard, his witch costume looking a little rumpled, was buckled into the middle seat and holding onto the seat belts on either side as if he expected to be forcibly dragged out at any moment.
“Honey, this is Helen. She’s going to look after you while I’m gone.”
Richard eyed Helen warily. Helen warmed to Richard almost immediately.
“Nice witch outfit, kid.”
Richard’s wariness melted away into delight. He released his grasp on the seat belts to straighten his pointed hat.
“Thank you vewy much,” he said. “I like it too.”
“I think I’ve got a cauldron inside. Do you wanna make a witch’s brew?”
Richard’s striped legs kicked in excitement, and in a flash, he was unbuckled, out of the car, and up the front steps of Helen’s house.
“Bye sweetie,” his mother called after him, but he was already inside, Helen close behind him. “Helen, your mother has my phone number in case of emergency.“
Helen gave Richard’s mother a curt salute and shut the door behind her.
Helen led Richard into the kitchen, where, after a moment of rummaging through a low cupboard, she unearthed a massive cooking pot. She filled it with water and set it to boil atop the stove. Helen dragged a stool over for Richard to sit on.
“We’re going to make a special brew that will nourish us and give us the power to vanquish our enemies!” Helen cackled like a movie villain, and handed Richard a wooden spoon. “You must stir the brew continually, young Richard!”
“Youw name is Helen, wight?” He asked, stirring with one hand and waving the other over the pot in what he hoped looked like a magical manner.
“Yeah, I don’t like it though,” Helen replied, rifling through the refrigerator and setting things on the counter.
“Maybe you just need a nickname,” Richard said. “Like, my name is Wichawd, but I go by Wichie.”
“Witchy?” Helen started chopping into a carrot with an oversize kitchen knife.
“Wichie,” Richard corrected.
“Oh, Richie. Like short for Richard.”
“Right. Richie is cute,” Helen set the decimated carrot aside and moved on to a potato. “But Witchy is kind of appropriate, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, that’s twue. You could call me Witchy if you want to. But what about youw nickname?” Richard pondered a moment, still stirring fervently. “What about Helly?”
Helen scrunched up her nose in distaste.
“Maybe just Hell?”
Helen laughed, wiping a tear away as she cleaved into an onion. “Yeah, Hell is pretty cool. I don’t think I could get my mom to call me that, though.”
“What about youw fwiends? Would they call you that?”
“I don’t really have any friends.” Helen plunked all her chopped vegetables into the pot, and, pulling almost every jar off of the spice rack, shook generous amounts of seasonings in too.
Richard, who was already starting to think of himself as Witchy, continued to stir. “I’ll be youw fwiend. I could call you Hell.” He smiled sweetly at Helen.
Helen, who liked the idea of changing her name to Hell more and more with each passing second, smiled back.
“Alright my witchy friend. I relieve you of your stirring duties. Let’s leave our brew to simmer and go find something else to do.”
Witchy leapt off of the stool. “Can I see youw bedwoom?”
“Yeah, sure.” Hell led him down the hall to a door plastered in stolen road signs and a tangle of caution tape. “It’s a little messy,” she warned as she swung the door open.
Witchy gasped. “You awe a giwl, wight?”
Hell snorted out a burst of laughter. “Yeah, Witchy. I’m a girl.”
“This looks like a boy’s woom.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Hell hopped across the floor and flopped down on the bed, propping herself up on her elbows and grinning.
Witchy waded across the carpet and sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, smoothing the skirt of his witch costume over his narrow thighs.
“So why a witch?” Hell asked, offering Witchy a bucket of candy.
He rooted through it and selected a roll of smarties, carefully unrolling one end. “I think Witches awe pwetty.”
Hell popped a dumdum into her mouth, twirled it around a couple times, then pulled it out to speak. “Naw, witches are all green and warty and gross.” She unwrapped a second dumdum and put the pair into her mouth.
“That’s just bad witches. I’m a good witch.” Witchy slowly crunched through his roll of smarties. “What did you dwess up as, Hell?”
“Mmm. I guess I was a vigilante for Halloween.” She added a third dumdum so that she had one in each cheek, and one on her tongue.
“What’s a vigilante?” Witchy asked, furrowing his brow.
“It’s someone who takes justice into his own hands.” Hell rotated the dumdums’ positions. Witchy’s brow just grew more furrowed. “Like a superhero,” Hell offered.
Witchy’s face lit up. “Did you get to weaw a cape?”
“No. No cape.” Witchy’s face fell. “I think I’ve got a cape, though. It might fit you. Do you want to try it on?”
Witchy nodded vigorously.
The attic in Hell’s house was rarely ventured into. The boxes were piled high, and the dust was layered thick.
Witchy sneezed a high-pitched little sneeze.
“Gesundheit,” Hell replied from a shadowy corner. “Ah-ha. The boxes are over here.” Hell dismantled a high stack of cardboard, slicing into taped up boxes and revealing their frilly pink innards. After a moment of rummaging through her third box, Hell’s look of concentration broke into a wide grin. “Eureka!” She called out, extracting something purple with crocheted flowers crawling across it. She threw it over Witchy’s shoulders and dragged a full-length mirror into the light. “Maybe it’s not a cape,” Hell said, cocking her head to the side and squinting at Witchy. “Maybe it’s a poncho? Or a shawl?”
“It’s a capelet,” he said, stroking the fabric. “It’s beautiful. Whewe did it come fwom?”
“My grandmother. She lives in England.”
“Euwopean fashion,” Witchy murmured reverently.
“Every Christmas, every birthday, all I ever get from my Grandma is clothes.” Hell pulled a pink, beaded sweater out of a box. “I’ve never worn a stitch of it. And my mom never throws anything away.”
Witchy tottered on tiptoe with excitement. “Can I look thwough it all?”
“Witchy, darling,” Hell smiled graciously. “Not only can you look through it all, but if you find anything you like, it’s yours.”
Witchy hopped up and down clapping his hands and dived into the nearest box.
Witchy’s mother was late to pick up her son. She knocked anxiously at the door, and Hell answered quickly. “Helen. Is he okay? He didn’t give you any trouble or anything, did he?”
Helen started to grin. “He was great.” She caught herself. “I mean, you know, for a little kid. He’s asleep.”
The TV was on at low volume. Empty soup bowls and discarded candy wrappers littered the coffee table. Witchy was on the couch, lanky body folded tightly under an orange afghan. His mouth hung open, and a gentle snore was just audible over the sound of the television.
“Oh, what a little angel,” Witchy’s mother sighed. Her eyes fell on a pointed black hat on the floor next to a crumpled pair of striped tights. “Oh! And aren’t you a miracle worker!”
Witchy’s mother counted out Hell’s babysitting pay, with the two dollars extra per hour, and a five-dollar bonus on top of it.
“So can I bring him by for you to look after again?” Witchy’s mom whispered as she tiptoed toward her son.
“Yeah, totally,” Hell said. “Whatever.”
Witchy’s mother gently took the afghan off of her sleeping son, and stopped, blinking several times. “What the hell is this?”
“Hand me downs.” Hell brandished a paper grocery bag with the name “WITCHY” scrawled across it. “I have some more for him too.”
Shaking her head, Witchy’s mother sighed and picked up her son. Hell, stuffing the witch costume into the paper bag, opened the door for Witchy’s mother and followed her out to the car.
“Helen,” Witchy’s mother whispered fiercely. “I appreciate your generosity, but I don’t think Richard needs a bunch of girl’s clothes. He gets teased and bullied at school enough as it is.”
“Well, the way I see it,” Witchy’s mother laid Witchy across the back seat, and Hell set the paper bag at his feet. “If Witchy, Uh, if Richard is a boy, and the clothes are his now, then that makes them boy’s clothes.”
Witchy’s mother buckled her son in and stepped back to gaze at him. He had a ruffly purple skirt on over a pair of fuscha leggings, and a pink, blousy shirt trimmed in lace and belted with a heavy strand of rhinestones. Witchy had a smile spread like butter all over his sleeping face.
“He looks so happy,” his mother sighed.
“And cute,” Hell added.
“Oh, he does look so cute. I had a skirt kind of like that when I was a girl.” Witchy’s mother shut the car door as quietly as she could. “But the bullies…” she trailed off, shaking her head.
“Hey, don’t worry.” Hell opened the driver door for her. “I’ll teach him how to defend himself.”
Witchy’s mother climbed into the car. “We’ll see, Helen.”
“It’s just Hell.”
“The name. I just go by Hell.” Hell turned and strode back to her house, and after a moment, Witchy’s mother drove off into the night, her son sleeping peacefully, contentedly in the back seat.