“Nana, Nana, can we use your fallen leaves to make a Halloween Scarecrow?” eight-year-old Dani begged running up the leaf-littered dirt driveway hauling a bright pink plastic rake in one hand and her best friend Olive in the other.
“Absolutely, kid!” I said setting my old green lawn rake against the side of the small barn we used for firewood. “I think that’s a fine idea. There’s a trunk of old clothing upstairs in the barn that you can use to dress your scarecrow and, as you can see, we have plenty of nice dry leaves.”
The two girls raced into the barn emerging minutes later with a pair of old red pajamas, green knitted socks, gray gloves, and a wide brimmed orange hunting hat.
“Grab a pumpkin from the garden to use for his head,” I said pointing toward our small patch of garden. “Please stay out of the cemetery,” I added, shivering as the afternoon sun glinted off a shiny new grave stone. “There are plenty of leaves on our side of the fence.”
Hours later, I wiped my sudsy hands on my apron and stepped out into our spacious back yard to watch the girls add finishing touches to their new creation. Dubbed “Monster-Hunter” by the girls because of his bright hat and clothing, the foreboding new decoration sat comfortably in Blair’s old green lawn chair by the mailbox holding an old hatchet in one glove and a jaunty orange trick or treat bag in the other.
“He’s hideous,” I said vaguely annoyed to see the creature sitting in Blair’s old chair.
Where he used to wait for the mail.
I shook off that odd feeling of annoyance, glancing uneasily at that shiny grave stone behind me. “Did you have to make him look so . . . um . . . so evil?”
“Sure we did! It’s almost Halloween,” Dani said.
“But why does he smell so bad?” Olive asked.
I moved in a little closer and detected an odor of purification that was bad enough to make my stomach lurch at little.
“Where did you get those leaves?” I asked a trifle shrilly.
Dani pointed to the fence surrounding the small cemetery behind the barn. “We used those until we found those smelly red things growing by the fence. Those smelled REALLY bad! Olive, you don’t think any of those smelly things got IN him do you?”
“Maybe . . . because that’s what he smells like . . . eww gross!” she scrunched up her face and moved away from the scarecrow.
“I’m going home now,” Olive stated backing away from my mailbox with a scowl. “Bye.”
In a flurry of autumn leaves, she disappeared down the path.
“I should be going too, Nana,” Dani said sidling toward the path. “Mom will be calling me in to dinner any time now.
“But . . . what about your scarecrow?” I stammered as she vanished down the path at a trot. “Don’t you want him for your yard?”
But she was already gone leaving me standing in my leaf littered driveway staring at a smelly, ugly monstrosity that had no business existing.
“You used to say that about Blair.”
The whispered words floated about my head – did I say them? Or think them?
Chilled, I wrapped an afghan from the porch around my shoulders and walked slowly over to the bare patch of dried grass by the fence. Five dark red stinkhorns nodded their smelly heads toward the newest grave stone perched on the other side of the fence. I could see more of the vile mushrooms growing willy-nilly across the mound in front of Blair’s headstone. “Devil’s dipsticks,” Blair had called those loathsome plants. Evil rods pushing right up from hell surrounded by the smells of rotting things best not thought about by sane people.
But Blair wasn’t sane . . . was he?
Once again the whispered words floated about my head leaving me chilled and feeling slightly ill. The putrefied stench of stink horns followed me into the house. No matter how many times I washed my hands, I could not rid myself of that vile odor.
Fretfully, I tossed and turned in a clean bed that smelled vaguely of stinkhorn. In my dreams Blair ranted and raved at the mailman for being four minutes late . . . raged over stinkhorns creeping into our yard from the graveyard next door . . . blustered about pets walking through our yard. Slamming to reality, I sat bolt upright ready to see Blair standing in my doorway complaining about trick or treaters . . .
“Little shits . . . always looking for a handout! I’ll give them a handout . . . I’LL GIVE THEM THE BACK OF MY HAND IF THEY BOTHER ME AGAIN.”
“Stop it, stop it, stop it.” I shrieked to the empty room around me. “You’re dead . . . I know you’re dead because . . .”
Shaken, I made my way to the kitchen sink for a glass of water. The bright moon showered hazy rays over our yard – no over MY yard – settling on the scarecrow by MY mailbox. The glass threatened to slip from my hand and shatter over the wooden floor boards below. My newest Halloween decoration had changed. Cherry red stink horns sprouted haphazardly from the creature’s inner elbows, crotch, neck, and ankles. The drawn on evil pumpkin face appeared to have melted into a wildly hideous caricature of my dead twin, Blair.
As I watched in pure terror, the gruesome distortion rose from the chair and looked right at me through the window.
My heart skipped a beat and this time the glass did shatter to the floor below. The ghastly face moving eerily toward me wasn’t Blair! It was . . . It was . . .
~ ~ ~
“Oh my goodness it’s Nana!” Dani said through tears and sobs. “Why did she do it? Why is she wearing our scarecrow’s clothes? What happened to her face?”
The child’s mother shook her head sadly. “Nana Beth is with Uncle Blair now.”