31 October, 2017

Halloween in the Hoosegow IV: Rise of the Octoberfeast Cult

Wolf slammed bones at his usual table, howling every time he scored. Batty flitted around the wing, searching for someone to bleed, the mooch. Some poor wretch wailed a forlorn dirge. The zombies trudged in circles. It seemed like just another evening in B-Wing of Housing Unit 3.

I was on the phone 1 discussing matters inconsequential with a friend. Idly, the way one does in voice-only conversations, I glanced about. The nothing-spectacle held little of interest, just the usual skulking creatures, the gargoyles peering from their vantage, and the ghosts of men drifting through my sight. Then there came, from the shadow of a doorway, two pale men.

Leading, looking chronically unrested, was the one of average build. His backswept black hair vaguely reminded me of some unplaceable movie star. His portly peon wriggled up the staircase behind him, protectively hunched over something gathered in the hem of his shirt. I thought of a child afraid that her skirtful of freshly picked daisies might blow away in an errant wind.

Both men reached my door at the top of the stairs, knocked, and sneaked sidewise looks in my direction. What was this? My mild amusement gave way to nascent suspicion.

Doyle, my cellmate, opened the door and they spoke. His expression, as he apprehended whatever the Grub's shirt held, bespoke doubt. The three of them turned my direction, said a few additional words, then averted their gaze again. It was starting to feel like a conspiracy, unfolding right before my eyes.

The Grub stepped into my cell. He re-emerged in a moment, shirt empty. I said goodbye to my friend.

We passed on the steps, the odd pair and I. The tired-looking superior smirked in response to my inquisitive look, exposing a single gleaming canine, but he said not a word. When I entered, Doyle, bewildered, was arranging several tiny heads on the desk.

"They heard you're into Halloween," Doyle said. He rotated an origami skull to face us. "The movies, the candy — they know about the nachos, Byron."

"Then these are an offering."

Doyle nodded. "Seems so. You gonna let 'em in?"

Dawn was hours away when I tracked them down, the men who left the heads. Bobby's eyebrow peaked and the Grub's cheeks plumped with a smile at my approach.

"We knew you liked Halloween," Bobby explained.

"Like, that you were super into it," added the Grub, obviously alluding to my infamous All Hallows Eve ritual.

"Well," I said, "I can't say I ever decorated my cell before. Besides putting up whatever Halloween cards I get from friends."

"We got this book of origami monsters — witches, demons, dragons. It's pretty cool." Bobby hiked his thumb at his larval companion. "All he's been able to make are the heads, though."

"The scarecrow's fucking impossible," the Grub said, scooting his wireframes up the bridge of his tiny nose.

"I draw the faces, then stitch the loop of string on top. We hang ours along our shelf, like little sombrero dingle-balls."

If they were trying to bribe their way into my Halloween-Night Nachorama, I thought, this was a soft pitch. Neither mentioned candy, chips, or Brett, the mutual acquaintance who no doubt spilled the beans to them about last year's celebration. (Although, anyone else might have. The whole wing witnessed us transporting his half of the feast like a corpse, on a beach-towel improvised stretcher.) Theirs seemed like genuine love for the holiday.

The Grub intimated that he had more decorations coming in the mail. Cardstock window dressing. He offered to share some with me, "Y'know, if you want."

I did want.

Bouncing around to Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party," I scattered olive slices. Above the desk dangled six grotesque little boxy heads on orange thread — a werewolf, a ghost, a reptilian beast, a rawhead zombie, a skull, and a ghoulish scarecrow. From the wall leered a magazine clipping of a Chris Mars painting. A paper cutout jack-o'-lantern seemed to laugh at the obscene size of my culinary monster.

This was the year of the largest nacho spread yet, big enough that one could use it as a crunchy bean-and-cheese-filled pillow. The Grub wriggled expectantly, hungrily watching me put on the finishing touches. In his fingers, the sheet that he and Bobby would use to move their third of this massive undertaking downstairs. Bobby and Doyle chatted about their hopes for tonight's American Horror Story. It did feel like a party.

I drizzled a perfect white zigzag of ranch dressing. Brett arrived.

"It's candy pizza," he told us, passing out everyone's container of his own outrageous invention. "The crust is graham crackers and vanilla wafers."

I inspected it through the plastic. "Peanut butter cups, Butterfinger, peanuts, M&Ms…. Are those jelly beans?" Brett nodded.

"I used Hershey's syrup, too. The white stuff is melted ice cream."

"You're a madman."

A neighbor peeked over everyone's shoulders to see what the fuss was about. "Holy shit," he laughed. "Y'all are goin' crazy with this Halloween thing."

Bobby wielded his menacing eyebrows. "You could join us…"

"Yessssss," I hissed. "We demand only the smallest sacrifice."

The neighbor vamoosed, and we descended on our frightful victuals.

1 comment:

Byron does not have Internet access. Pariahblog.com posts are sent from his cell by way of a secure service especially for prisoners' use. We do read him your comments, however, and he enjoys hearing your thoughts very much.