Halloween night, a month before he shoots himself
in the face, my brother Charles dresses as Death. I suit up as a chicken.
My rubber beak looks so lame by itself that I tape a Playtex glove to
my chin. Charles shades his eyes with grease paint. He smudges his face
with charcoal gray until his features disappear.
How do I look, he says, grinning in the
shadow of his hooded cloak. He moves a fluorescent bone, formerly an arm,
and practices a maniacal laugh. His hand is one long crooked finger. He
moves straight toward me, reaching, stretching the laugh out. He wiggles
the cold tip of eternity in my face and the cheap rubber band on my beak
snaps. Charles helps me fix it with Scotch tape and string but the beak
doesn’t sit right.
The party is six houses down so we don't
drive. We cut across two lawns and climb a fence, Death and I. Everyone
guesses my identity right away, even dumb Johnny who is dressed as Goldilocks
and the 3 bears. Nobody bats an eye at Charles.
I'm sorry, what are you supposed to be,
a girl with yarn hair and painted freckles says to me.
Charles wins Most Original and Best Costume,
which turns out to be one prize. A queen with lacquered braids and a glittered
crown kisses him on the mouth. The rest of the night Goldilocks and the
3 Bears snub him. Dorothy, cradling a stuffed Toto, curses behind Death's
back. When we leave a man wrapped in foil tips his tea kettle hat and
hands each of us a bag of candy corn.
Charles eats half his bag on the walk home.
Weeks later, days before they find him,
I wake in the pitch black wondering if I spoke outloud until my mother,
huddled in the doorway, her hand on the light switch, says: What, what
is it, what did you dream?
In real life I don't have a brother. But I do have a sister.
God bless her. For the record: Halloween still scares the hell out of