Unmasked

Rayburn rose from the dead and donned his mask. Halloween night! Time to party with his deceased neighbors. Long time no see. He shuffles to the Chambers mausoleum, thinking how ornate it looks compared to the Drakes’ crypt from last year’s bash. The sound of bones clacking discordantly reached his ears as he entered the marble structure. Rayburn immediately recognizes Theodora, even with her mask on, who welcomes him with a request to dance.

The evening wore on with much animation as everyone had been still for so long. Suddenly, someone screeches with alarm. Quiet befalls the group as all eyes turn to Jack O’Lantern, whose mask has somehow slipped off and is dangling from one ear. In all the years they’ve held their annual gathering, they’ve never had such carelessness happen. It was one rule they’ve all agreed to – “Wear a mask and hide the decay; for today is when we can forget we’ve not passed away.” But seeing the slitted nostrils and jagged mouth jolted them to realize such visages of horror also lurk under their own masks.

The Escape of El Cheapo

Eyes darting from the restaurant’s kitchen to the exit, Hobart is poised to leave before the server comes back. Timing is essential. So is nickel and diming and penny pinching. He earned the nickname, El Cheapo, for suckering his friends to pay for him until they wised up and dwindled to zero. No loss for him, as he saved time and energy by not having to scour for birthday and holiday gifts through lost and found bins in various places. Right now his goal is to dash out unnoticed. He considers changing his nickname to Dodger. It sounds more adventurous.

Sheepish (100-word story)

Sheila shucks corn in her shack, stewing over a schnauzer that chewed up her Scottish scarf. Feeling skittish, she chucks the last husk into the bucket and goes outside to tend to her Shetland pony. After brushing down her sheltie, she heads to Sean’s Shed, where she’s taken a shine for the shopkeeper. She wants to invite Sean to lunch. As she faces him, she’s overcome with shyness. Shrugging off the shudder in her shoulders, succeeding only in worsening the shaking of her voice, she bleats, “Would you like some sheep butt? Wait . . . what? I . . . sheesh . . . I mean shish kebab?”

The Tattooed Tree

Naked and trembling, Trevor stops to catch his breath. Already he feels the curse cast upon him. The tattoos on his stiffening torso become more pronounced, resembling wall-sized etchings.

His arms shoot upward, branching outward, simultaneously dividing into limbs of various density. Immobile, his legs fuse together, while his feet extend out all around him. His toes multiply, scattering and digging deep below the earth at the same time.

Moisture penetrates throughout his whole being, or whatever self-awareness is left. The last thought as he can describe it as such is that he wishes, out of all the tattoos he has, he had avoided the heart with Her name carved on it. He didn’t know she would take it to heart and act as if she owned him.

Morning with Elvis (100-word story)

Spring fling is in swing. What’s better than having a thing with the King? Yesterday she attended a local amusement park show to hear the singer’s baritone and dance to the beat of his gyrating hips. After the show, their eyes met and held steady. A photo op with the entertainer came next and she ran to his side with arms akimbo. Her chest grazed his and sparks flew. Who knew? One thing led to another after drinks. Alyssa smooches the Polaroid photo of her posing with the Elvis Presley lookalike. His lips are at their sweetest the morning after.

From Burglar to Burger (a 50-word story)

Grady got grinded for grifting Godfather. Through guileful gimmicks, he burgled Godfather’s genuine gems gifted from His Graciousness. Granulated with ginger and grapes, Grady is now ground burger grade, ready for grilling to be served to Geppetto, Godfather’s German Shepherd. Gents and gals, gasp and grasp; learn this lesson well.

Headless in Seattle

“Ho, ho, ho!” Santa’s laugh greets those who enter the toy store. Glenn Murdoch, the shop owner’s son, has cleverly hooked up the recorded cheery greeting so it will play each time someone opens the door. Glenn is also responsible for the Christmas music that flows outdoors, as he has installed a horn to work as a speaker to funnel music from inside the adjoining hardware store to the outside. Much merriment is in the air in Olde Towne, a little place the locals sometimes refer to as “Seattle” due to it being in a different worldly dimension yet parallel to the Seattle that exists in the Pacific northwest of the good ole U.S. of A.

During the Christmas holiday season, the atmosphere in Olde Towne is akin to that in the North Pole, where elves busily build toys to get ready for distribution. Everyone in Olde Towne is baking and decorating for the holiday. With all the goodwill and high spirits, no one would ever believe the decapitation of Will’s head. Though one may argue, as did Will’s disheartened wife, that it had been due to Elmer Hadley being drunk from spirits that caused Will to lose his head.

The fateful day occurs one afternoon, when the locals are gathered outside in the town center to decorate the evergreen fir tree. Tables are spread around, replete with Christmas cookies and pitchers of eggnog, both spiked and unspiked. Elmer Hadley, the consummate tree and shrub clipper, unknowingly drinks the spiked eggnog, gulping more cups than he usually does, as his secret crush, Mary Weathers, makes him nervous. So much so that he picks up his prized sharp shears to impress her and proceeds to demonstrate his prowess. By sheer inches, he misses trimming the tall shrub next to Will and instead, cleanly, clips off Will’s head. Thinking fast as a nearby witness, Glenn immediately retrieves Will’s head and places it in the nearest icebox.

Despite Elmer’s faulty judgment, his talent as a superb clipper did result in a smooth cut. (This will later allow the town surgeon to easily stitch Will’s head back on, although the re-attachment will happen after Christmas since the surgeon is currently away for the holidays.) Meanwhile, Will works headless, though heedless, in Seattle, confident in the eventual reunion with his head. Though Olde Towne is in parallel dimension to Seattle, it operates under different rules of physics and physiques.

As for Elmer, he has sworn off eggnog for the rest of the holiday season. His polished work on Will, though most unintentional, had strangely impressed Mary, who is now sleeping well for her secret crush on Elmer is reciprocated. Who knew Elmer would make the cut?

[Based on actual figurines displayed in a winery north of Seattle]