This is an excerpt from The Light of Day. This is what Halloween should be like.
Beside the house and within view of the bonfire there were two long tables overflowing with pumpkin pie, pecan pie, stuffed squash, fried okra, mashed potatoes and the like. Around the bonfire there were dozens of costumed people of all ages, from babes in arms to those who came as Methuselah for lack of a costume.
They retreated to the porch where, in the shadows, they regained their anonymity and their voices did not carry. Here Chris and Mark rocked in the rocking chairs while Jeff and Alicia ate with their plates in their laps. All four watched the party quietly from their cloister, all of them seeing the party merely as a backdrop to the dramas that were playing out in their thoughts. All except Alicia, who had not shared in the trauma that any of the other three saw so clearly at that moment. Alicia studied the tragedies and passions of other’s lives, but she believed her own ordinary existence too mundane to be noteworthy.
Jeff finished his dinner and joined the other two in their quiet rhythm.
“I thought Greech said Benjamin didn’t like Halloween, but this is quite a party.” Alicia said.
“He likes Halloween. He just doesn’t like the way that it’s celebrated in Bradshaw. He doesn’t have much use for the city.” explained Mark.
“Has he ever actually set foot in Bradshaw?” asked Chris.
“I’m sure he has, just not since I’ve known him.” Mark smiled.
“I’m going to go dance.” Alicia kissed Jeff on the cheek and moved off into the light.
Jeff grabbed her hand as she walked away and let her fingers glide lightly over his. He watched her laugh and dance until his mind wandered and his gaze turned to the fire. He had never seen a fire like this. He had seen cooking fires and the fire in the stove in Professor Friedman’s office, but the bonfire was different. It was ten or fifteen feet in diameter and its flames rose as high as it was wide. When the burning material collapsed, or when Ichabod Crane or the Headless Horseman threw more limbs on the fire, a fountain of sparks rose into the air and were carried away by the tumultuous currents, and floated to the ground, their light slowly growing cold and dying before they reached their destination. It was beautiful.
The smell of burning wood and leaves that carried on the cool crisp October breeze forever associated in Jeff’s mind the smell with late autumn festivities. In later years the association would be free of the turbulence and anxiety of that night. Instead it brought to mind Jeff sitting quietly rocking while he watched the love of his life pick up a small boy, who squealed with delight as she spun him around and danced.
Ichabod and the Horseman along with a fabled long eared miscreant dumped bags of leaves onto the fire, sending embers, sparks, and entire burning leaves rushing into the air along with a roar of approval from like minded mischief makers and shouts of dissent from their more sober minded brethren. This abrupt, although brief, interruption in the general atmosphere of the festivities brought with it a corresponding change in Jeff’s train of thought.