HALLOWEEN COMING OUT • by Jeff Switt

The shotgun blast that rendered my face unrecognizable as human was reported quite sanitarily in the news.

“A man was shot in the face with a shotgun last night during a convenience store robbery gone bad. Doctors at Lutheran Hospital report his condition critical but stable.”

It did not report the pending death of a marriage in its sixth month because a young woman whose heart shined brilliant with hope and promise, a wife who swore “for better or worse,” never imagined how worse it could be.

***

That was five years ago, and my physical appearance has made little progress. I live a recluse with no outside contact, curtains drawn. I shop online for everything. Groceries are delivered once a week, placed in a box on my back porch. I never answer my door, but tonight I am making an exception. Tonight is Halloween.

What a fitting night for me to socialize, for my debut. My appearance, hideous and repulsive on other days, is tonight ghoulish and seemingly appropriate for the occasion. I long for human contact.

My front porch light beams bright orange, and an oversize paper jack-o-lantern taped to my door smiles a toothy welcome. I hear footsteps and giggling as children clamor about my porch.

“Trick or treat,” they cry.

My hands begin to shake as if with palsy. My breath is short and erratic. I crack the door and peek to see their ages. This group is young.

My body is draped in a sheet and my white powdered head protrudes from a hole in the center. My jittery hands hold a bucket of treats. Through slotted eyes I see the apprehension in the children’s faces, and I give them a friendly smile through deformed lips beneath a stub where my nose once sat, and a reassuring nod meant as much for me as for them.

Adrenaline surges, and my voice cracks, sounding more like a witch than a ghost. “Do you want a trick, or do you want a treat?” They giggle at the question, and as if on a silent cue holler, “Treats!”

They pick a candy or two, giggle again, and scamper to the security of their parents.

I close the door, and press my back against it. I feel faint, but I did it.

The next group is a gaggle of kids not yet teens – most in zombie costumes so popular these days. Why didn’t I think of that?

“Help yourselves, kids,” I offer in a faltering voice.

They look at my face and its disfigurement with surprise.

“Cool costume, dude,” one exclaims as they grab candies by the handful. I don’t mind their youthful greed.

I close the door and wait for the next arrival. My hands are nearly steady, but I feel perspiration beading under my arms and rolling down my sides. The bell rings. I take a deep breath. I hear the faintest “trick or treat.”

I open the door to a small girl, perhaps five or six, wearing a Shirley Temple mask.

“Hi Shirley.” I speak in a softness not to scare. “My, aren’t you beautiful tonight.” She stares at her feet and shakes her head, “no.”

“Yes, you are.” My voice is gaining composure. “You’re Shirley Temple, the most beautiful girl in the world.”

Her head looks up at me, and she pulls her mask to the side. Her face is disfigured as if from a fire, a cherubic face made from melted wax.

“Well, I think you are beautiful, darling.”

Her eyes connect with mine. An uncertain hand reaches toward the bucket and with her scarred thumb and one remaining forefinger, takes one piece of candy with the delicacy of a child picking a flower for the first time.

“Thank you.” Her voice is a whisper.

She turns and runs to her mother and hugs her knees.  I nod my head to her mother and give them both a wave.

I pull the decorations from my door. Turn off my porch light. My life as a recluse begins again.

***

The next morning I am startled to hear my doorbell ring. I try to ignore it, but it rings again. I go to the door and call out, “Who’s there?”

“Mrs. Blevins and Mary.”

”I don’t know you. Please go away.”

There’s a pause.

“It’s Shirley Temple and her mom.”

I turn the doorknob, pull the door in a few inches and peek. It’s the woman from last night and her daughter. Without the mask.

Before I can speak, the mother says in a faltering voice, “Mary said she wanted to meet you.” I watch tears start to well in the mother’s eyes. “This is her first time outside without her mask.”

I pull the door open and for the first time in five years invite someone into my life.


Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction, some days to curb his angst, other days to fuel it. His words have been featured online at Dogzplot, Boston Literary Magazine, Shotgun Honey, 50-Word Stories, 100 Word Story, A Story In 100 Words, 101 Word Stories, Postcard Shorts, and Nailpolish Stories. His latest venture, A Story in Three Paragraphs, is at jeffswitt.wordpress.com/s3p-a-story-in-three-paragraphs.


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Rate this story:
 average 4.5 stars • 43 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    No commentary is adequate. Five stars.

    • Frank Schulaner
      You beat me to it.
      • British Lass
        I'll third this. The story was lovely and moving. I wish I could write like this.
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    No commentary is adequate. Five stars.

    • weequahic
      Agreed.
      • British Lass
        I'll third this. The story was lovely and moving. I wish I could write like this.
  • joanna b

    oh my. so sparingly told. you know an exceptional story when you flow into it and it flows into you. i’m crying. this story will haunt me. it is so very beautiful. now i can see what halloween is for. 5 stars.

  • joanna b

    oh my. so sparingly told. you know an exceptional story when you flow into it and it flows into you. i’m crying. this story will haunt me. it is so very beautiful. now i can see what halloween is for. 5 stars.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Wow! What an imaginative take on the Halloween theme.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Wow! What an imaginative take on the Halloween theme.

  • Yeah, they don’t come much better than this. Bravo!

    • Took me a minute to consider that Jeff Switt is the same "Jeff" who comments here on this site. Take a moment and check out his site over at wordpress. Seems we have a literary flash force among us.
  • Yeah, they don’t come much better than this. Bravo!

    • Took me a minute to consider that Jeff Switt is the same "Jeff" who comments here on this site. Take a moment and check out his site over at wordpress. Seems we have a literary flash force among us.
  • Fine writing, beautiful sentiment taking Halloween to a higher plane. Thanks, Jeff.

  • Fine writing, beautiful sentiment taking Halloween to a higher plane. Thanks, Jeff.

  • Carl Steiger

    I often roll my eyes at stories in the “inspirational” category, but his one truly earned the label. Thanks, Jeff!

    • Rebecca
      Absolutely!
  • Carl Steiger

    I often roll my eyes at stories in the “inspirational” category, but this one truly earned the label. Thanks, Jeff!

    • Rebecca
      Absolutely!
  • Well told. And such a simple concept, which are really the best kind. Five stars. Will go crawl around his site now.

  • Well told. And such a simple concept, which are really the best kind. Five stars. Will go crawl around his site now.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    Lots of heart but not sappy.

  • MaryAlice Meli

    Lots of heart but not sappy.

  • MPmcgurty

    Oh, dear. I’m breaking my vow to never vote. 5 stars.

    • Carl Steiger
      Sometimes you just have to do it.
  • MPmcgurty

    Oh, dear. I’m breaking my vow to never vote. 5 stars.

    • Carl Steiger
      Sometimes you just have to do it.
  • Diane Cresswell

    magnificent

  • Diane Cresswell

    magnificent

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    And thanks to the editors for saving the best for last.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    And thanks to the editors for saving the best for last.

  • Jen

    This nearly made me *cry* and I very seldom cry at anything fictional. Thank you so much for this story!

  • Jen

    This nearly made me *cry* and I very seldom cry at anything fictional. Thank you so much for this story!

  • S Conroy

    Oh. Must have been peeling onions.. Nice one.

  • S Conroy

    Dang. Must have been peeling onions…

  • Story of the month. <– That was a period.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      ...and not only.
  • Story of the month. <– That was a period.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
      ...and not only.
  • Beth Cato

    Fantastic Halloween tale that is emotional without being sappy. Very well done.

  • Beth Cato

    Fantastic Halloween tale that is emotional without being sappy. Very well done.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Edward, if you’re out there: Mumble a quick “mea culpa” and come back. This is why EDF is worth being associated with…

    • Carl Steiger
      My sources tell me he's happily (but silently) lurking among us.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Well, then--Edward: break your silence. I've washed egg off my face. You can too. It only stings a minute...
  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Edward, if you’re out there: Mumble a quick “mea culpa” and come back. This is why EDF is worth being associated with…

    • Carl Steiger
      My sources tell me he's happily (but silently) lurking among us.
      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar
        Well, then--Edward: break your silence. I've washed egg off my face. You can too. It only stings a minute...
  • I first want to thank all who made me welcome at EDF over the past months of my participation here. Further, i am at a loss for words (not a good thing for a writer) to adequately thank you for your enthusiastic reception of my story.

    Jeff

  • I first want to thank all who made me welcome at EDF over the past months of my participation here. Further, i am at a loss for words (not a good thing for a writer) to adequately thank you for your enthusiastic reception of my story.

    Jeff

  • This is a brilliant story. We have had a number of good Halloween stories but this one seems to me to be the best.

  • This is a brilliant story. We have had a number of good Halloween stories but this one seems to me to be the best.

  • Samantha

    Way to go Jeff! A piece with great meaning and a pleasure to read… without all the frills and exhibition of words we know but don’t fit into a story….perfect 5 from me….

  • Samantha

    Way to go Jeff! A piece with great meaning and a pleasure to read… without all the frills and exhibition of words we know but don’t fit into a story….perfect 5 from me….

  • terrytvgal

    Wow. I could feel every word of that story just hitting at my heart. I understand the desire to be cutoff from the eyes and opinions of others. This story reflected that feeling better even that I could explain my own pain to others. Superb. Thanks, Jeff! 5stars.

  • terrytvgal

    Wow. I could feel every word of that story just hitting at my heart. I understand the desire to be cutoff from the eyes and opinions of others. This story reflected that feeling better even that I could explain my own pain to others. Superb. Thanks, Jeff! 5stars.

  • Amrita

    A touching story.

  • Amrita

    A touching story.

  • Tina Wayland

    Lovely and heartwarming. A wonderful read.

  • Tina Wayland

    Lovely and heartwarming. A wonderful read.

  • VJ

    I felt like I didn’t read it,it was like watching a sentimental Hollywood film.
    5 stars D

  • VJ

    I felt like I didn’t read it,it was like watching a sentimental Hollywood film.
    5 stars D

  • Marion L Ritcey

    great story told in a great voice with true heart. love it 5stars well done

  • Marion L Ritcey

    great story told in a great voice with true heart. love it 5stars well done

  • Connell Regner

    It made me wonder about his self imposed isolation and how
    he might have viewed others like himself had he not been disfigured. I assumed that perhaps he already knew this.

    The destruction of his outside beauty (which his wife loved) led to the beauty within becoming manifest, although I realise there was no
    pre-shotgun blast character portrait to go on. I have always been interested in duality, and in this case ‘beauty and ugliness’ and in particular ugliness being turned on its head. They were all very well executed which I must say included a few magical moments that clearly illustrated this. It is the best I have read from you Jeff and I believe it will be a hard act to follow. Well done!

  • Connell Regner

    It made me wonder about his self imposed isolation and how
    he might have viewed others like himself had he not been disfigured. I assumed that perhaps he already knew this.

    The destruction of his outside beauty (which his wife loved) led to the beauty within becoming manifest, although I realise there was no
    pre-shotgun blast character portrait to go on. I have always been interested in duality, and in this case ‘beauty and ugliness’ and in particular ugliness being turned on its head. They were all very well executed which I must say included a few magical moments that clearly illustrated this. It is the best I have read from you Jeff and I believe it will be a hard act to follow. Well done!

  • Rohini Gupta

    Loved it – beautifully told and very moving. Five stars

  • Rohini Gupta

    Loved it – beautifully told and very moving. Five stars

  • Weezer

    I know this man. And this is the best story he has written thus far. I ask him regularly to go for a full-length novel. He can’t listen to me. I’m just a budding braless twelve-year-old that he can give gold-painted bricks. Maybe he needs your encouragement.

  • Weezer

    I know this man. And this is the best story he has written thus far. I ask him regularly to go for a full-length novel. He can’t listen to me. I’m just a budding braless twelve-year-old that he can give gold-painted bricks. Maybe he needs your encouragement.

  • Joy Manné

    Thank you for this moving and surprising story, delicately told and rich in subtext. I had tears in my eyes.

  • Joy Manné

    Thank you for this moving and surprising story, delicately told and rich in subtext. I had tears in my eyes.

  • Meegiemom

    Five stars are not enough. I’ll think of this story each time I see one of our wounded warriors with their disfigured faces. Thank you, Jeff.

  • Meegiemom

    Five stars are not enough. I’ll think of this story each time I see one of our wounded warriors with their disfigured faces. Thank you, Jeff.

  • Pingback: Interview with Jeff Switt: EDF’s Top Author for October « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • Pat Marinelli

    What a wonderful story. I also gave it 5 stars.

  • Pat Marinelli

    What a wonderful story. I also gave it 5 stars.

  • Rick

    Amazing and inspiring, to be able to put so much in a few words with so much meaning. 5 Stars for sure.
    Very impressive Jeff

    RICK

  • Rick

    Amazing and inspiring, to be able to put so much in a few words with so much meaning. 5 Stars for sure.
    Very impressive Jeff

    RICK

  • Danielle Imara

    This is wonderful. Simply told, and moving.

  • Danielle Imara

    This is wonderful. Simply told, and moving.

  • Pingback: Month In Review: November « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • veena gupta

    Fabulous story.

  • veena gupta

    Fabulous story.

  • Scott Harker

    I somehow missed this when it was published. And looking for something to read this afternoon, I stumbled upon this beautiful story.

    I feel any commentary will fall flat. This is brilliance. 5 stars. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Anyone have a tissue?

  • Scott Harker

    I somehow missed this when it was published. And looking for something to read this afternoon, I stumbled upon this beautiful story.

    I feel any commentary will fall flat. This is brilliance. 5 stars. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Anyone have a tissue?

  • Joyce Barton

    Here it is, 9/12/15, and this story is still giving. Very nice, Jeff. I can see why you’re hunkered down in that cave. Thanks to S. Conroy, who led me here.

  • Joyce Barton

    Here it is, 9/12/15, and this story is still giving. Very nice, Jeff. I can see why you’re hunkered down in that cave. Thanks to S. Conroy, who led me here.

  • Mickey Hunt

    “Well, I think you are beautiful, darling.”
    Exactly so.

  • Mickey Hunt

    “Well, I think you are beautiful, darling.”
    Exactly so.

  • Wonderful story. So many wonderful themes interlinked and juxtaposed. Well done Jeff.