All You Need is a Costume

I’m sitting at a summer family reunion, the smell of fresh-cut grass and burgers
in the air. Too small for baseball with my cousins, bored by adults around the
picnic table, my mind drifts to my first Halloween—months before, when I walked
the streets of our neighborhood, a bed sheet ghost asking for candy. A hole
in my bag swallowed half my treats, and my brother laughed when Mom said,
You can go again next year. Seeing no reason to wait, I went out the next
night, and most nights after, telling Mom: All you need is a costume.

Two red knuckles snap in front of my face, startle me back to our reunion.
Boy! Quit daydreaming!, my grandfather says as he offers me a sip of beer.
The taste buzzes my mouth, and I stare at the sun behind my grandmother’s
garden. The light between her corn stalks and cabbage. Dusk—calling me
to go trick or treating. Searching my grandparent’s barn for something to wear,
I find an army of paint cans beneath my grandfather’s workbench. Magazines
with naked ladies. A wood box filled with a stack of clothing that looks like
the Washington Monument.

Stepping into its length, I pull the pointy tip above my head, shift the windows
in front of my eyes, and walk outside, Look everybody! I’m the Washington
Voices scream. Mom jumps from the table. I tumble over, and
the garden comes straight at my face. My grandmother flashes by my windows:
wrinkles, black glasses, huge face. My head’s pushed down and my grandfather
swats my legs as I’m hurried away, feet and knees crunching along a gravel
path back to my grandfather’s workbench. Good Lord, Jim, my grandmother
says, I told you to keep your hood locked up.