My Daughter decided
recently that she wanted to have a Halloween theme for her Birthday
party, and since this October features a very spooky Friday the
13th, that would be the ideal day to have it. I should
explain, my daughter's birthday is in June. You may think that means
her Mother and I are bad, lazy parents, but wait until you have kids
of your own. She's lucky to get food, clothing, shelter and the
occasional kind word, let alone a party within six months of her
Birthday. If you think you'd do any better, you have a maximum of
one child. And since you're here on I-Mockery, chances are high
you'll never get kissed without saving your allowance for months,
let alone reproduce.
Now, you might think my Daughter's desire for a Halloween Birthday
party means she's some sullen little Goth, or worse still, a Wiccan,
which in my book comes just after Hippie and just before Republican.
Well, not under my roof, gentle reader. Fuck that noise. Pardon my
We live in Salem Massachusetts, the city so nice we based our entire
economy on exploiting the tragic, state sanctioned murder of
innocents based on invisible evidence only a gaggle of Teenage girls
could see. Everyone here does Halloween up seriously. Well, not the
guy that spends the entire month of October on the common with a
very nice painting of Hell hung around his neck passing out tracts
about damnation to unsuspecting tourists. Actually, that's a pretty
good costume when you think about it. At least he's only there in
October. The businesses in Salem start doing their Halloween thang
in early September, just like I-Mockery. The local consignment store has a
very fine window display of Zombies right now. They sell used
furniture, old clothes, and discarded ceramic nik-naks. NIK-NAKS!
And they have a window full of zombies in SEPTEMBER! Are you
following me here? So it's perfectly natural that my daughter wants
a Halloween themed Birthday party. What's unnatural is that she
asked me for help. I mean, she's known me her whole life.
I was of course, eager to help my daughter plan her soiree, if by
eager you mean after I'd slept off the massive hangover you'd wake
up with every day too if you had the personal fortitude to endure
the physical abuse I indulge in nightly.
I imagine the poor little sprite had in mind black and orange crepe
paper streamers, bobbing for apples, spooky lighting and some sort
of pre-packaged CD combining horrifying sound effects and public
domain renditions of "The Monster Mash." It's just a little bit sad
that at eleven-years-old she still imagines I might be useful in accomplishing
anything so pedestrian.
Sitting her down, I explained to her that the key to setting the
proper Halloween mood lies in suspense, and a carefully orchestrated
series of events calculated to create a growing suspicion that
something is going terribly wrong. Her little Spencer gift notions
would serve perfectly as an overture, but after that she should
leave it to me.
"Dad," she said, rolling her eyes in a way she certainly didn't
scrape off of my DNA, "I need to know what you're thinking of. You
are not doing anything I don't know about or anything I don't say is
okay first. These are my friends."
I could have told her that when she was my age she would see
pictures of her 'friends' in photo albums and have no idea who they
were. I could have told her that her whole notion of 'friends',
which is so important to her youthful nature would one day be
replaced by 'acquaintances I can tolerate'. What would have been the
point? She'd never believe me, and time is always a better teacher
than your parents. Lord knows I didn't listen to mine, especially
after the trial.
"Very well," I said, steepling my fingers before me and regarding
her with a baleful eye, "But mark me well, daughter, for I must
convey this information as quickly as I may, before the knowledge of
it DRIVES ME MAD!!"
I could see she was sorry she'd asked. She really doesn't appreciate
how hilarious I am. She's had me her whole life, she has no idea
what boorish lumps her friends fathers are, and I suspect that if
she does, she thinks their 'well paying jobs' more than make up for
any other deficiency. I have no doubt she'll regret it when I'm
dead. DEAD, I SAY! That is so spooky.
"Ok, ok," I told her, rushing ahead before she could grow any older
and lapse from pre-teen insouciance to full blown teenage
unacceptability, "We'll decorate the entry way and the living room
as you have suggested. We'll let the party get rolling; give it an
hour or so, plenty of time for your guests to settle in. Play
whatever little party games suit you. Do a terrifying Mad Lib. Pin a
cartoon eye-ball on a cartoon Frankenstein face. It is of no concern
to me. At the appointed hour, the clock shall strike... thirteen
times! On the thirteenth chime, the lights will flicker and go out.
Your mother shall appear in the hallway with a candle. She shall
wear a tangled black wig, and pale make-up, and a make-up scar shall
ring her throat. Your guests will be momentarily frightened, perhaps
become a touch uneasy. I imagine tense, girlish giggles. But of
course they recognize your mother. All falls within the known bounds
of Halloween. What fun these Burbanks are! Most parents would never
do anything so odd, or put so much effort in to their parties. With
any luck at all, no one will notice I have left the scene.
Your costumed Mother beckons you and your guests into the darkened
hallway, and there she reveals... A PIŅATA! A very SPOOKY piņata.
The spookiest the local party store has! Maybe a skull. Or an Alien.
A big... nasty... bat or something. In turn, each child is
blindfolded, spun about, allowed to swing wildly at the piņata with
a stick! Eventually one of your 'friends' will succeed in breaking
the piņata and imagine her horror when she is sprayed with BLOOD as
the mangled party game disgorges a horrid mass of candy, gore and
plenty of store-bought RAW HAMBURGER!"
"Jesus Christ, Dad!"
"Don't swear," I admonish, "It's coarse. People will think you are a
Swede. Besides, the blood is transparently fake. They will of course
wonder if the hamburger is some indication that your parents don't
know where to stop a joke, and are perhaps dangerous. Some of them
may decide they wish to leave, but will find the hallway door has
closed and locked behind them. They have no option but to go on. And
so my bride shall lead them down the stairs, greeting their
plaintive questions with silence. Your role here is to calm them.
'Isn't this great?' you say all enthusiastically, 'wait until you see
where we are going to have cake!'
Ah, that terrifying cusp of the soul your friends shall enjoy, their
poor young minds hovering on the tipping point between dawning
terror and the need to believe that all is as it should be. This is
a birthday party! Nothing can go wrong! But what about the clotted
bits of hamburger clinging to this girls dress, that girls hair? Is
anyone truly safe in a house where adults have filled a festive
piņata with RAW HAMBURGER?!
Down you go, down, down into the basement, pitch black but for the
tiny pin prick of your mothers candle, a flickering weak light that
far from piercing the gloom, accentuates it! A formal table is
revealed as your mother touches her flame to the ancient cobwebbed
candles on the abra centerpiece, and in the flickering light we see
not a cake, but a huge, black shrouded sepulcher!"
"I don't have any idea what a sepulcher is." my daughter interrupted.
"Hush, child!" I hissed, "I don't either! NO ONE DOES!!"
"Dad, no way. I'm not having anything on the table that I don't know
what it is. And while we're on the subject, you can forget that junk
with the piņata. Candy. Just candy. No fake blood, no hamburger."
"OK, OK!" I shouted, rushing onward before she could rain on more of
my parade like some big parade rainer onner. "For the purposes of my
plan, a sepulcher is a big cage with a black cloth over it so you
can't see what's inside! Try to get back in the mood here.
OoooooOOOOooooo! OOOOooooOOOOOOOOoooo! Ok, spooky, spooky,
spooky chills! Ready? And... GO! All the guests are seated. The
eerie silence is broken only by the audible breathing of your
nervous guests. Your mother says nothing, only stands beside the
sepulcher OK BOX, CAGE, WHATEVER, GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT YOUNG
The tension builds. Surely the cake is hidden here, what else could
it possibly be? Finally, when it can be born no longer, your mother
tears away the shroud revealing ME!
There I crouch, naked but for an adult diaper, eagerly devouring a
WHOLE ROAST CHICKEN I have purchased from the hot case at the
SUPERMARKET!! THE SUPERMARKET!! AH HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA!! AH HA
HA HA HA HA HAAAAAHHH!!"
"Dad." She says. "What the hell?"
"You comprehend there will be no flatware?" I ask. "We're talking
bare handed, mostly nude, roast chicken devouring here. It's very
"No. No. Thanks but no thanks." She says turning away. "Jeez. I'm
sorry I asked."
"What if instead of Roast Chicken I was feeding from a mop bucket
full of Beef Stew?" I shrieked after her, cleverly. "Would that be
bourgeois enough for you?! OR IS EVEN BEEF STEW TOO FRIGHTENING?!"
She does not understand. And truthfully, how could she? Children
know terror better than adults, but they have no notion of the slow
growth of horror memory entails. I call after her, try to explain
that years from now, decades perhaps, her friends will lounge on
therapists couches and tell of the night they saw their school-mates
father, crouched in a cage, wearing a diaper, eating a roast chicken
with his hands. They will remember the grease shining on my cheeks,
my rolling eyes, the red lines where the diaper chafes my
unaccustomed skin. Even on their deathbeds, they will remember...
She cannot understand what a really terrific idea this is.
And honestly getting the wife to do her bit in this seems like a
pretty long shot. She can be a darn good parade-rainer-onner
herself. Kid's gotta get it from somewhere I guess.
Oh well. Next time she won't ask for my help, which was the point
before I realized how awesome my idea was. For the moment I shall
retreat into my melancholy. Soon I shall look for the yellow pages.
There are calls that must be made. I must comparison shop and find a
worthwhile price on whole roast chickens.