The Love Story of Henry Van Pennyshaw

“Just one quick photo, honey,” Mama said.

“But we’ve got to get going!  All the good candy will–”

“Jamie isn’t even ready yet.  Look, Ivy, he’s not even outside.  See?  Just one photo and I promise we’ll run right over there.”

Ivy sighed.

“Well, I want Henry Van Pennyshaw in it, at least,” she said.

“Go on up there next to him, then.”

Ivy posed next to Henry Van Pennyshaw.  She held her plastic knife above him as though she were going to stab him.

“Can I have a nice one, please?” Mama said.

Ivy scowled.  Mama sighed.

“Why did you buy that horrible knife for her?” Mama asked Daddy.

“She wanted to be an evil clown,” he said, shrugging.

Mama snapped the photo.  Ivy lowered the knife and kissed Henry Van Pennyshaw.

“Honey, don’t put your mouth on that,” Mama said.  “It’s dirty.”

“Have a good Halloween, Henry Van Pennyshaw,” Ivy whispered.  “I’ll be back before you know it.  Tell Hazel not to scare any kids that are too little.  We don’t want them having nightmares.”

She danced across the street, her parents close behind.  She knocked on Jamie’s door and he came outside.  His face was ashen and bloody; a glistening ribcage shown beneath his ripped t-shirt.

Jamie and Ivy’s parents stood on the lawn chatting while the kids disappeared up the street.  Then Ivy’s parents came back to the house.

The afternoon gave way to evening.  There were twice as many jack-o-lanterns on the street as there had been a day earlier.

Hazel Grim’s candle winked and signaled.  Henry Van Pennyshaw read her love note in the wavering flame, and wrote her back.

Truly, this night belonged to them.

*     *     *

 

“That makes eighty-four,” Daddy said, standing on the porch stairs, looking after the straggling group of trick-or-treaters.  “Unbelievable.  How many did we have last year?  Wasn’t even sixty, was it?”

“I’m worried,” Mama said.  “She knows they were supposed to be back at eight exactly.”

“Oh, cut her some slack, it’s Halloween.”

“It’s ten after eight,” Mama said.

“I’m sure they’re just having fun,” Daddy said.  “They’ve lost track of the time, that’s all.  Don’t worry.”

Mama gazed out at the empty street, biting her lip.

“You think I should drive around the neighborhood?” she asked.

“Come on,” Daddy said, “let’s put the movie back on.”

He put a hand on her shoulder and led her back into the house.

The sidewalks were empty.  The darkness was thick.  A freezing wind gusted around the side of the house, tearing the flame from Henry Van Pennyshaw’s candle, nearly extinguishing it.  On Jamie’s porch, Hazel Grim’s candle guttered.  The light looked lonely, lost.

Three silhouettes slipped like oil through the shadows from the sidewalk that ran between Jamie’s house and the house next door.  They moved so slickly that, at first, Henry Van Pennyshaw didn’t even notice them.

Then there was a flash of something white high in the air, and the sound of stifled laughter.

“That place next!  Get that place!”

The silhouettes streaked toward Jamie’s house.

“Get the windows!”

“Gimme more eggs.”

SplatSplat.

“Get the car!  See the car?  Get it next!”

SplatSplat.

A floodlight popped to life next door to Jamie’s house and sizzled in the cold night, rendering the neighborhood in grayscale.  The silhouettes shied from the light.

There was another arc of white above the lawn, like a shooting comet with a blazing tail; the roll of toilet paper fell to the grass and unraveled.  Nobody retrieved it.

Jamie’s porch light came on.

A silhouette shouted, “Let’s get out of here!”

“Get the pumpkin!  Smash the pumpkin!”

Henry Van Pennyshaw watched helplessly as a silhouette stole onto Jamie’s porch and brazenly snatched Hazel Grim from her stair.

Jamie’s father appeared in the doorway.

“Hey, you kids!  Put that down!”

The screen door banged against the side of the house as Jamie’s father gave chase, but the silhouette holding Hazel Grim moved much faster than he did.  It shot down the driveway.  Already, the other two were halfway up the street.

“Come on!  Run!  Run!”

Jamie’s father pumped his fist.

“Put that pumpkin down!”

The silhouette reached the curb.  It stopped, crouched, and lowered Hazel Grim.  At first Henry Van Pennyshaw thought it was setting her on the ground.  Relief flooded through him.  Then the silhouette sprang up and launched Hazel Grim high into the air.  She hung above the street like a black moon.  Then she fell, fell, fell.

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