Tonight was the night Pete'n'Caroline were to have their Hallowe'en party.
Normally I would have been eager to get going at around 8 am, sorting out costuming and so forth since I am probably the world's biggest Hallowe'en junky. Today, however, my spirits were low on account of my having eaten food bought at a local Taco Shoppe. This food is just about guaranteed to give you an urgent reason to visit the water closet, sometimes for days on end, but I am addicted to their quesadillas and sometimes cannot gather the wit to consider the consequences. Today, those consequences would be a violent stomach ache and periodic moments of urgency, bowel-voiding wise. By evening my insides felt like they had been sandpapered then lightly salted and set on fire.
I tried not to let it get in the way of the day's chores, but I may have failed once or twice, such as when I gave my dry cleaner my shirts and replied to his jaunty "Next week all right?" by clutching my stomach, doubling over and screaming "Aaarrrgh!", and running from his place of business so that the ensuing flood of noxious bowel gasses didn't get a chance to combine with the chemicals in the air of his laundry and explode. I'm getting ahead of the day, though
I was woken from what little sleep I had had by the FedEx man bringing the right kind of power supply for Bil the Elder's wretched Mac, which has lain dead as a very dead dead thing on my basement workbench for Lo! these last eight weeks before I lost patience and fitted it with a working but not-quite-right power supply as detailed here. I immediately ran for the toilet, then went downstairs to strip out the working-but-wrong power supply and replace it with the hopefully working and right one. In about 30 minutes I once again had the dubious pleasure of seeing the Overpriced Yuppie Fadmachine Of Hideous Expense boot up, but was still unable to work on it owing to the mouse having been trashed by the tender mercies of Bil the Elder, who had managed to destroy the connecting cable by using it as a string to lash the mouse and keyboard together, dropping stuff on it (judging by the state of it) and putting it through a lye and gravel wash (judging by the marks on it).
I will pause here to remark on the mendacity of the Apple fanboy community that holds these machines to be superior in some way to the common PC. How many times have you had to listen to some applejack whining about The Blue Screen Of Death1? Now, how many times have you heard them complain of the OS 9.earlyrelease habit of hanging if you Hovered the mouse pointer over a desktop icon too long? I'll bet "never" on that last one, but dig deep into the OS 9 "issues" boards over at Apple dotcom and it's a very different story. Oh yeah, Apple computers are "better" alright, providing you don't mention their inconvenient problems that is.
In any event, I went out afterward to the dry cleaner's and afterward did some light shopping for things to add to my costume of choice - Death.
I was fairly late out of the gate this year, and had done none of the elaborate, if futile2 planning of last year. However, over the years we have amassed quite a wardrobe of dressup stuff, most of it for Hallowe'en and I had handy a Skull mask (one of those vinyl head-covering affairs) a long robe with a hood and a cord belt. I had secured a pair of Skeleton hand gloves on Friday night (just before the fateful menu choice) so I nipped into CVS to obtain a pair of black tights which I would fabricate under-sleeves from3 and while I was there I also picked up a huge plastic meat cleaver and a matching sickle. These looked great when hung from the belt. Job done.
The Stevieling had rejected outright any sort of family theme this year in favour of creating her own sorceress look, and Mrs Stevie had joined the mutiny and opted to wear her Ren Fayre gear. I was pretty disgusted with them all. You can get done up as a wench or whatever at any costume party. Hallowe'en is for making children start bedwetting again. If the child starts bedwetting at the sight of Mrs Stevie in her Ren Fayre togs that would be A) understandable and 2) no big deal because the reaction would be the same whatever Mrs Stevie was wearing. It only counts if you worked for the effect. Oh Well, I would work alone.
In addition to the various costumes we have, we have also amassed a small collection of props. This collection includes two plastic "wizard's staffs" which are topped with a monstrous claw clasping an opaque globe. The staff can be made to issue a thunderclap which is accompanied by the globe flashing in a satisfying manner, and it can be done with an unobtrusive switch so the seeming activation can be as elaborate or as simple as the user wishes to enhance the specific effect he or she is trying for in the viewer. The Stevieling lobbied to be allowed to use one of these and it was with great pleasure that I was able (for once) to reach into the basement and dig one out for her, which I fitted with batteries and tested for her.
We picked up the Stevieling's friend around 5:45 pm, put "War of the Worlds4" on the CD player to freak out the girls and set off for the party, arriving just after dark had fallen.
Pete'n'Caroline's humungous house5 was decorated outside with a very satisfying graveyard (rumour has it that next year their enormous front lawn will be one large graveyard) and we entered within to mixed reaction. Mrs Stevie and the Stevieling were welcomed with open arms. I was harangued and assaulted until I removed my skull mask for fear it would scare the bejayzuz out of the small children, several of whome were dashing around dressed as Thomas the Tank Engine, Giraffes, Horses and I don't know what else. The Stevieling and her friend went outside into the dark to play with the older kids.
And returned inside about 15 minutes later, the Stevieling's friend having lost her bracelet made of faceted black stones of some sort. Mrs Stevie marched out and by some chance found it almost immediately on the front lawn in the pitch dark.
The bracelet was lost again about 20 minutes later, and this time I recovered it with the aid of a flashlight that could put a dot on the moon. Appropos of this, I decided to box clever and said I would keep the bracelet for safekeeping. The Stevieling's friend proposed a different plan, by which she put it in her pocketbook. We agreed and I felt clever.
Until the Stevieling appeared with the shattered remains of my beloved magic staff in her hands.
When these were bought, about 8 years ago, they had a tendency to fire randomly because the springs in the battery compartment were too weak to maintain contact when the three "C" type cells were loaded. Intermittent contact caused the sound circuitry to trigger without the button being pressed, ruining the performance. It was all very irritating, so I fitted a stronger spring in each staff and cured the problem. What I hadn't thought about was what this would mean in terms of stresses on the body of the thing though. The way it was constructed, the spring would cause the staff to be stressed at the point where the battery door was fitted, where the "wall" of the hollow staff only went just over half way round the circumference.
I had warned The Stevieling that all the weight and mass was at one end, an that she needed to be a little carefull how she held and waved the staff because it could conceivably break6, and this advice was good because it had. Broken that is.
The Stevieling appeared almost in tears with a handful of batteries and, Azathoth be praised, all the component parts in her hands. I took a look, did an inner "Aarrgghh!" and said "It's okay, I can fix it" and went out into the cold again to put it in the trunk of the car, along with my costume which I decided to remove entirely7 in the interests of not being beaten up by irate parents of terrified, newly de-potty trained children. I wasn't really bothered. I had achieved the required reaction early on and the mask was too itchy anyway.
Not long after that my Taco Belly re-asserted itself and I spent large parts of the evening in the privacy of Pete'n'Caroline's bathroom begging for death.
It was, we agreed on the drive home, a great triumph.
- Often enough to know that Applejacks have never used Windows XP, I'll bet↑
- As it turned out↑
- The one problem with doing Death is that bits of palid skin can poke through at the joints and spoile the effect. Covering my arms and wrists with black nylon would prevent the worst of it though↑
- the Jeff Wayne version↑
- Vincent Price large and well-suited to haunting↑
- I was thinking it would give at one of the many joints, the staff being composed of four short, screw-together parts↑
- I had remembered to wear something presentable under it thankfully↑