Co-winner. A Halloween display gone gruesomely wrong draws police and an ambulance.
|“Hey, Chuck,” my neighbor Jason said as we enjoyed a brew on my deck one warm Saturday afternoon in early October, “I got this really cool idea for Halloween. Can I borrow your riding lawn mower?”
“Is this another of your stupid ‘Hold my beer and watch this’ ideas like the one that almost got you killed last year?”
“No, no, this isn’t dangerous at all. No explosives involved, I promise.”
“Good to hear. Will you be arrested again, like in 2019?”
“Nothing illegal, I promise. I learned my lesson, honest.”
“And how badly damaged will my mower be?”
“Shouldn’t be hurt at all. No physical change to your mower. Nada.”
“So you say. Jase, tell me what you’ve got in mind and I’ll think about it.”
He squirmed around in his lawn chair and chugged the rest of his beer. “I want it to be a big surprise. You know how Elmore down the street always goes whole hog with his Halloween decorations, right? I wanna beat him at his own game. I wanna do one really special, super display that people all over the neighborhood will talk about and come to look at and rave about.” He pulled another beer out of the cooler and popped the tab.
“You aren’t thinking of doing something like that guy in Texas, with so much gore in his front yard that people called 911 to report a massacre?”
Jason quickly put his can to his mouth. I suspected that was to give him time to think up a good lie. Gonna be a whopper, I thought, considering that he drained most of the can.
“Okay,” he admitted, “maybe a little gory. But tasteful gory. Artistic gory. Nothing over the top. I mean, it’s gotta look a little realistic, right, or what’s the point of a horror movie?”
Since we both dug spatter movies, I conceded the point. Our wives always made a point of being elsewhere when we watched one, and gave the kids hell if they caught ‘em sneaking in to peek. But Jase and I enjoyed a good gore show, for sure.
“When would you want the mower, and for how long?”
“The week before Halloween,” said Jason eagerly, sensing weakness in my stance, “and you can have it back on November first.”
* * *
On the designated day, I drove the mower from my acreage along the block to his place. I collected a few strange looks on the way. Guess you don’t see a riding mower on the street that often.
Jason waved me into his garage. “Thanks, man. Okay, not a word to anyone, okay?” He ran down the door. “Gotta conceal us from prying eyes.” Not that anybody was watching; he’s just a drama queen.
“Okay, okay. So when will we see this masterpiece?”
“Halloween morning. I gotta do all the workup here in my garage. I’ll put it out on my front lawn late the night of the thirtieth. You’re gonna love it!”
I glanced at a tarp in the corner, covering a fair sized heap of stuff.
“No peeking! Come on, Chuck, out you go. Git. Come back on Halloween day.”
All that week, my wife and I wondered what he was up to. Our kids had biked all over and were comparing decorations they’d seen here and there. Their fave was a fake graveyard over on Elm, so after supper one evening we walked over to check it out. It was pretty good. I liked one gravestone that read, “Here lies the body of Uncle Ned. But just his body—he lost his head.” The kids doubted that Jason could come up with anything that cool.
“Sharon hasn’t said a peep about it,” my wife told me, “except that it’s gross and disgusting and she’s going to divorce her pervert of a husband.”
* * *
The 31st comes, and on my way home from work I make a point of swinging past Jace and Sharon’s place. When I come around the corner to their home, eager to see exactly what mischief he’s done with my lawn tractor, all I can see are the blue and red lights of three police cars and an ambulance. As I drive past, I see the officers talking to a teary Sharon, but the cars still block my view of the lawn. I park down the street and walk back. Finally I see what the fuss was about.
Holy crap! There’s Jason laying on his belly, a can of beer spilled from his right hand, his head—or what’s left of it—under the mower deck, with a spray of blood and bone and grey matter spread over the dry brown grass. How in the name of heaven...
“You idiot!” Sharon shrieks at me. “You put him up to this, you jerk! If you didn’t put him up to it, you encouraged him!”
“But, but, I--” I sputter.
“Midnight he brings me out, says ‘Here, hold my beer and watch this!” and he fires up your mower and he puts his head under the deck and AIEEEEEE!” The last part was an anguished scream that leaves me white and shaking.
Then I notice the smirks on the policemen. Jason steps out of the house and says, “Gotcha, buddy!”
“Somebody thought it was real and called 911. The first car here thought it was cool and called his buddies to come check it out. Your kids came by and said I rock. Isn’t Sharon a great actress?” He hands me a cold beer. I need it.
“Good one, Jason. But just you wait. I'll get you for this. My turn will come.”
“Well, yeah. I’m looking forward to it.”
Around 950 words