Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Character Booktacular with Marisa Calin

Book
betweenyouandme_cata.jpg
Scene

This scene takes place on the night of Halloween during the Fall Semester of Between You & Me.


OCTOBER 31ST. MY KITCHEN. EVENING.

I'm dressed as a firefly. At least I'm wearing wings, antenna, and my shorts glow in the dark. That's the best I could do. I've never liked Halloween. It scares me. But it's your favorite holiday.

We're sitting at the table carving a Jack O'Lantern, our one tradition and my favorite thing about Halloween. I love the warm glimmer from the pumpkin's fiery core and the glinting eyes in a dark face, the way the windows of a house glow cheerfully on a cold night. You scoop a spoonful of stringy seeds out of the pumpkin and smile as you glop it into the bowl I'm holding.

You're a firework for Halloween, or you will be for one dazzling minute when we arrive at Bella's party tonight and set your costume alight. Dressed in iridescent metallic fabric, you've glued sparklers like spines to sheet metal wrapped around your fore and upper arms, with double sized sparklers across your shoulders fanning out behind your head like a halo. You look like you should be driving a chariot. If it was anyone else, I'd expect them to go up in a ball of flames, but you're meticulous. You've even put fire-retardant gel in your hair and coated your skin with something that makes it shine in the light. You'll blaze with the blinding brilliance of golden sparks for a minute, and then spend the rest of the evening as a burnt out frame, smelling deliciously of sulphur.

Watching you scrape down to the firm pale flesh, sparklers quivering, I get the distinctive smell of pumpkin, mingled with the smell of the match I struck a few minutes ago to light the candles in the windows. They're already flickering brightly against the inky blue evening, the glow of the sun only just visible through the twigs of the tree outside, a few rogue red leaves still fluttering on its branches. I shift my gaze from the reflection of the tiny orange flame on the windowsill to your reflected shape in the dark glass and see you looking at me. I make my best empty-eyed deathly Halloween face. I hear your warm laugh and turn to see the smile that follows the familiar laugh-sigh I know so well.


YOU
Careful, you're almost getting into the Halloween spirit!

ME
I'm the life and soul of Halloween.

And a firefly. You spoon out the last of the pulpy innards and slide the hollow pumpkin toward me. I find its best side and start drawing a face. I always carve a happy face. Even then, it usually sits on the front step for too long, until its features sink into a yearning howl, the edges of the mouth curling in on themselves and reminding me of a mouth with no teeth and I remember why I'm scared of Halloween.

YOU
Give life to more pumpkins and ward off evil spirits.

ME
It's too good to be true.

You shake your head with a smile, letting my sarcasm slide. I cut through the rind and into the flesh. We first made a lantern when I said there was nothing to like about Halloween. You said that given pumpkin is my favorite thing about Fall, how could we not carve one and plant the seeds. And every year, even though they're not perfectly round or big or brightly orange, we have a few characterfully squat dimpled sugar pumpkins to make delicious pumpkin bread and one winner for the role of Jack. I've always had a soft spot for the deformed ones - they have the most expressive faces. I've secretly started to look forward to hollowing out the faceless fruits and seeing their features crackle to life.

The pumpkin bread is already in the oven. Chewing on a crisp strip of peel from the green apple that went into the mix, you rest your chin in your hands and watch me push out the eyes so that the winning pumpkin can stare at me mutedly. I reshape a corner, thinking how funny it is that if you change the smallest detail, it changes an expression completely.

YOU
So, anyone you're planning to bob with tonight?

Everyone goes to Bella's party, one of the big events of the year. People plan their costumes for weeks in advance. And then there's pairs apple-bobbing. Celebrated or dreaded pairs apple-bobbing; where if you're lucky you can trap an apple between your mouth and someone else's. It's second only to Valentines Day as a time of year when you notice more than ever being single. The prizes are so good couples even practice. They can clear a barrel in less than a minute. And if you're single, you're chased around the barrel, apples buoyantly popping unexpectedly up out of the water and leaving nothing between you and an incoming mouth. Sometimes tempting. For the most part, reason enough to hate Halloween. I suddenly remember the question.

ME
No!

YOU
That sounded definitive!

ME
I feel definitive. There isn't anyone at this party who I've been dreaming of putting my face in a barrel with.

I choose my words carefully, thinking so clearly of the person who won't be at the party, and who I would swim through an ocean of apples for. I slide the Jack O'Lantern across the table for you to continue and sit back. The sweet spicy smell of bread is already emanating from the oven. I push my hair back and get the delicious scent of cloves and grated nutmeg still on my fingertips. You've turned the pumpkin toward you so I can't see its face.

ME
How about you? Dreaming of anyone?

YOU
Putting my head in a barrel with, or dreaming in general?

ME
I'll take either.

You pause. You pause! I'm not sure I expected that.

YOU
Hmm. No.

ME
Hmm?

YOU
Yep. Hmm. Followed by, no.

I try to catch your eye but you don't look up from your careful carving of the pumpkin's mouth.

ME
Wow, no need to be so definitive! Leave your options open why not.

My sarcasm passes you by again with only the slightest smile. We're quiet, except for the sound of the knife cutting pumpkin. I'm still curious and you still haven't looked up. I have the urge to say kissy kissy like a five-year-old.

ME
Well maybe tonight your eyes will meet amidst the bobbing apples... and...

There are no apples left in the fruit bowl but swept up in trying to get your attention, I put a tangerine in my mouth and lean suddenly across the table. You reflexively put up a hand to push the tangerine, and me, away.

YOU
Careful.

We're both still laughing as I sit back, wiping the bitter zesty taste of tangerine peel from my lips. You eye me suspiciously for another second, then pick up the candle and set it inside the pumpkin.

ME
Can I see?

You dip a match to the candle until it flares to life. Gently replacing the lid and turning it until it sits perfectly in its groove, you spin the pumpkin around for me to see.


The eyes twinkle like it’s laughing. Mine do too. Feeling unexpectedly happy, I nod my appreciation, and when I speak, my thank you sounds too loud. You pick up our masterpiece, holding it carefully with both hands.

YOU
Ready?

I follow you out of the kitchen, through the front door and into the cold night air that smells of fallen leaves. The sky behind the tree has turned almost purple. You set the pumpkin ceremoniously on the stoop and we step back to smile fondly down at it. Side by side, we watch the eyes flicker in the breeze. I break the silence.

ME
Are my shorts glowing?

YOU
I can't tell. Turn the porch light off.

I flick the switch but the light from inside still illuminates too much of the step. We walk away from the windows around the side of the house and toward the tree-house in the middle of the lawn. With every step into the dark garden, my shorts glow brighter. The moon is just a sliver, and the sky above the purple horizon is a deep midnight blue. I hear you laughing.

YOU
They are definitely glowing!

I look down at the light emanating from my shorts and laugh too. I untuck the black mini-skirt I'm wearing over the top so it falls down to cover them and start running around the foot of the tree, trying to get my wings to flap. I lift up my skirt every few seconds for the intermittent flash of a firefly.

YOU
The resemblance is uncanny. No one will ask you what you're supposed to be tonight.

ME
Are you sure I don't look like a flasher?

YOU
You look exactly like a flasher. Isn't that what you're supposed to be?

I zigzag nearer, and hit you.

YOU
Perv.

You take your phone out of your pocket to see if my luminescence will come out in a photo. Tucking my skirt back into the top of my shorts, I can't resist climbing up into the tree-house to glow in mid-air. I take hold of a branch, and swing out of the tree for my photo op.

YOU
Stop it. You've having fun.

ME
No I'm not. I hate Halloween.

I swing my feet back onto the branch and, getting my breath back, settle into the crook of the tree where our tree-house/plank sits. I hold out a hand to encourage you up. Pocketing your phone, you take my hand. Your sparkler armor slows you up for a minute but you find your footing and pull yourself carefully up beside me. We sit in silence, looking up through the branches at the stars. My cat crosses the grass below us, picking her feet up in the evening dew. I sigh.

ME
(quietly)
Best Halloween ever.

YOU
Pardon? I didn't quite hear.

I bite my lip and you go to nudge me with your shoulder before remembering your sparklers and stop short just in time. A parrot and a bee waddle by on the other side of the hedge. You breathe in the fresh October air.

YOU
Maybe we should just stay here tonight.

ME
What? You mean not go?

You nod. We stare at each other for a second.

ME
Everyone's going to be there.

YOU
And we'll be here.

ME
Really?

It's too late to start pretending I wanted to go. I can't hide my excitement so I take your hand and we're quiet again.

ME
All dressed up and nowhere to go?

YOU
All dressed up and in the perfect place. I'm exactly where I want to be.

ME
In a tree with a giant bug?

Your laugh sounds so loud in the quiet night air.

ME
But we haven't set you on fire yet, and you've been working on that for weeks.

YOU
We could do it now.

ME
Just me and you.

YOU
Me and you! As long as you promise to appreciate my pyrotechnic genius enough for everyone.

You carefully sidle out of the gap and jump down onto the grass. Behind you, I stand up on the lowest branch, spread my arms wide and not much minding if the parrot and the bee are still in earshot, sing my best and loudest:

ME
'Cause baby, you're a firework, Come on, show 'em what you're worth.

You seem torn between minor embarrassment and caution-to-the-wind enjoyment, so I persevere to help you figure out which.

Make 'em go -

YOU
oh oh oh.

ME
As you shoot across the sky -

YOU
ay ay.

You respond to my imaginary outstretched microphone, but miraculously remain on the fence. I jump down to join you, still humming as I take the long gas lighter you hold out. I tuck it into the waist of my skirt, whipping it out quick as a flash when I say 'draw' and squeezing the trigger to produce the flame. I laugh. You give me your when you're quite ready face, so I bite my smiling lip and focus on the plan. Starting at the top, I'm lighting the right side and you're lighting the left. I eye the garden hose.

YOU
Thanks for the confidence.

ME
Sorry for caring.

I run over to it, make sure the valve is open, and tug the hose back with me, whilst softly singing:

ME
You just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine...
Ready. Blaze of glory, take one.

We each press the trigger on our lighters, poised with a small steady flame above the top sparklers.

YOU
One... Two.

ME
Wait.

I take a nervous breath and shake my fingers.

ME
Okay... One.

YOU
Two.

ME
Three.

I sweep slowly down over the tips of the sparklers, and they ignite easily in bright bursts of light. We reach the last sparklers together and I step back out of the way.

I'm transfixed. Speechless. A halo of sparkling light surrounds you. The rain of golden sparks makes your features glow and the song still plays in my head. Come on let your colors burst. With the sparkler in your hand, you write your name and then mine in the dark sky, leaving an effervescent trail of light. Time stands still and at the same time it's over in seconds. I find my voice and whoop in pure exhilaration. For a moment, even though they've burnt out, I'm still blinded by your radiance, the flaring points of light still burning on my retinas. And then everything is black and I'm sad that they've fizzled out, leaving us in the darkness again except for the glow of my fading shorts. It seems so much darker than before. I take a breath and look at you.

ME
Wow! Totally and completely awesome. You lit up the nights' sky.

YOU
'Cause I'm a firework.

I nod, lost for any more words.

And you're a giant bug.

I shimmy my wings lamely as we walk side by side back toward the house. We open the door, the sweet smell of fresh pumpkin bread meeting the scent of sparkler sulphur in the cold crisp night air.

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6 comments:

  1. Loved the pumpkin and awesome review.

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  2. What a great scene! Awesome pumpkin!

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  3. Ah! I loved this so much. Makes me want to go reread Between You & Me right now.

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  4. This sounds so good! Love how the style is unique:)

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  5. I want to read this book so bad!! So good.

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