The Love Story of Henry Van Pennyshaw

And once–just once, and it was just for a fleeting instant–he thought he saw her smile back.

*     *     *

 

One afternoon, her boy picked her up carefully and, cradling her in his arms, carried her to Ivy’s house.

Henry Van Pennyshaw felt lighter and lighter with every step of the boy’s approach.  The boy walked up onto the porch and rang the doorbell.  Mama answered the door and called for Ivy.  Ivy came out and pulled the front door closed behind her.

“Did you see my pumpkin?” the boy asked.  “I carved it over the weekend.”

“It’s called a jack-o-lantern, Jamie,” Ivy said.  “After you carve it, it’s not a pumpkin anymore.  It’s a jack-o-lantern.”

“I even named it,” he said.  He waited for Ivy to take the bait.

All she said was, “What did you carve it with, a butter knife?  Its face is all jagged.”

“It’s supposed to be all jagged,” Jamie said.  “Wanna know what I named it?”

Ivy shrugged.

“The Evil Empress,” Jamie said.

Ivy snickered.

“Oh, come on!” Jamie said.  “That’s creepy!”

“That’s not a name,” Ivy said.

“Well, that’s what I call it.”

“Well, it’s not an actual name,” Ivy insisted.  “She needs a proper name.  Her name will be…”  She thought a moment; she tapped one finger against her forehead.  Then her face lit up.  She snapped her fingers.  “Her name is Hazel Grim.”

“Pfff.”

“That’s a fine name,” Ivy said.  “Hazel Grim.  That name says it all.”

“The Evil Empress,” Jamie muttered; he scuffed the porch with the toe of his sneaker.

Ivy snapped her fingers again.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” she said.  “Let’s put her and Henry Van Pennyshaw together.”

“Why?”

“So they can talk.  They’ll be friends.  It’ll be like a date.”

“That’s stupid.”

“Let’s just put them–”

“No, come on, this is lame.”

“I’m going to light their candles,” Ivy said.

“It’s not dark enough.”

“I’m going to light them anyway.  I want to see how they look together.  Stay right there.  Don’t go anywhere.”

Ivy disappeared into the house and came out again with a long kitchen lighter.  She cleared a space beside Henry Van Pennyshaw and directed Jamie to set his jack-o-lantern on the bench.

“Awww, that’s so cute!” Ivy said.  “Aren’t they cute together?”

Henry Van Pennyshaw’s whole being was focused on the point where Hazel Grim’s rind lightly touched his.

“This is stupid,” Jamie muttered.

Ivy scowled at him.  Then she lit Hazel Grim’s candle.  Henry Van Pennyshaw felt Ivy lift his cap by the stem.  Felt her hand moving inside him.  Heard the snap of the lighter; felt the heat of its flame, and the candle within him, like a heart of butter.  Ivy replaced his cap.

“See that?” Ivy said, nudging Jamie with her elbow.  “They like each other.”

 

*     *     *

 

During the daytime, when the street hummed with activity and his girl and her boy went about their business, they were just hollow vegetables.

But at night they beamed with light they shed only for one another.  Their candles cast shadows that danced together on the dark street.

*     *     *

 

“Happy Halloween!”

Ivy skipped up the walkway and plopped down on the bench beside Henry Van Pennyshaw.  She wore her clown costume and carried a paper bag full of candy.

“Guess how many cupcakes I ate at the party?”

Henry Van Pennyshaw grinned.

“Oh, you know, the class party at school,” she said, as though he’d asked her to clarify.  “Guess how many I ate?”  She held up three fingers.  “Mrs. Adamson found out when Brittany D. wanted one and there weren’t any left.  How was I supposed to know the room moms only brought enough for one each?”

Ivy cackled.

“Well, gotta get the make-up on and hit the streets.  You’ve got a big night tonight, too.”  She tapped him lightly.  “See you in a while!”

She bounced into the house.

Already groups of trick-or-treaters were on the move.  Their costume capes and robes fluttered in the breeze.

Daddy came home and shortly thereafter Ivy came out onto the porch again, followed by her parents.

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