I paint a line of blood down his face.
“Thanks, Kate,” Ricky says. “How do I look?”
“Like you’re too old to go trick or treating.”
I suggest we begin at the Bennetts’, notorious for king-sized candy bars.
“But everyone knows that, so let’s go.”
Ricky turns to me, and in his spookiest voice, he whispers, “The atmosphere presses down on our heroes like the lid of a coffin. They approach the haunted house, unaware of the horrors within!”
“Mr. and Mrs. Bennett aren’t horrors. He’s so old he has a pacemaker, but he still walks his dog every morning. And Mrs. Bennett can put together a puzzle in ten minutes. You’re being mean.”
He chuckles, and takes my hand. My body breaks out in goosebumps.
He rings the doorbell and I try not to look at him. My eyes fall on the empty street. I knew we were too early.
“That’s weird,” Ricky says. “They always do Halloween. Should I ring again?” I shrug.
We hear the thump of feet on carpet.
A young man answers. He looks at us and starts to close the door.
“Hey man, who are you? Mr. Bennett usually gives out these giant—”
The young man interrupts him. “Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating? My name is Ramsey Bennett.”
“I think they would have mentioned if they had a son,” I say.
“Is that Kate?” Mr. Bennett ambles down the stairs. “I don’t really talk about Ramsey, frankly, he’s a disappointment.” His son doesn’t join in his laughter.
Mr. Bennett gives us two bars each.
“Thanks!” I say. “How is that new electric fence for Scratch working out?”
“Oh, much better than the old one,” he chuckles. “This one stops him, so no complaints.”
“It doesn’t hurt, right?” I ask.
“It’s just a pulse. We don’t want him to get out and cause any trouble.”
A giant pit bull bounds into view, nearly bowling Mr. Bennett over. “Woah, boy.”
He rubs Scratch’s neck. Ramsey eyes the dog. Particularly his father’s hand on the dog, still rubbing him as he continues to speak.
“You’re not going to cause any trouble, are you? No, because you’re a good boy!”
“He wasn’t a good boy when he ran across the road and used me like a chew toy, was he?” Ramsey grabs the sides of the dog’s face. “Bad dog!”
“That’s why we upgraded the fence, son. No use punishing him further for it. He didn’t recognize you, is all. You’re never here. I don’t know why, you certainly have enough time to come see your parents now that you’re a college drop out.” He chuckles, and Ricky shifts his feet. I start to feel a little awkward that we’re witnessing this conversation. Ramsey mutters something.
Mr. Bennett stops rubbing the dog. “What was that, Ramsey?”
“Why the fuck should I come home if this is how you treat me?”
Mr. Bennett sighs. “Sorry, kids, we’re interrupting your night. You go on, I’ll see you later.”
Ramsey whips his head around. “No. They should hear this. They should know the kind of parent you are!” He grabs Scratch’s collar, holds him down with one hand, and unclips the collar with the other. He drags him to the closet and locks him inside.
“What are you doing, Ramsey?” Mr. Bennett asks. His face looks pale.
“How about you see how much it hurts, dad! Go run into the fence and see how much it hurts to be raised by a parent like you! So what if I started my own company? The only thing you mention is that I dropped out of college! I am not a disappointment! I am a good boy! Me!” He surges forward, pinning his dad to the wall.
“Whoa,” Ricky says.
Ramsey pulls out a knife. “Stay out of this. Don’t try to leave,” he says.
Mr. Bennett’s eyes track the knife. “Ramsey. You know it was just a joke.”
Ramsey locks the collar around his dad’s throat. “Oh? Was it ‘just a joke’ when you kicked me out in high school? Was it ‘just a joke’ when you told Mom you wished she had an abortion? Was it ‘just a joke’ when Scratch attacked and you walked over? His teeth got me to the bone!” He rolls up his sleeve and reveals a very pink, puckered scar.
I suck in a breath. There is a deep, dark silence.
“You treat this dog better than you treat me. Do you know how sick that is? Do you understand?”
He pushes his father off the porch. “Stay there,” he calls back.
I hear Ricky whispering to me. “Kate… what do we do?”
My mouth is so dry.
“If we move, he’ll cut him. It’s just an electric shock, right? It’s not like a stab wound. We can call the police, after, right?”
Ramsey is halfway down the driveway.
I look at Ricky from the corner of my eye. His face is as pale as Mr. Bennett’s.
I can’t help it. I laugh.
“What the fuck?”
“Oh my god, this is too much,” I say.
Ricky’s bewilderment makes me laugh some more.
“I told Mrs. Bennett you love Halloween, and she said Mr. Bennett would help me out in scaring you.”
Ricky looks at me. “Seriously?”
I nod. “Oh, god, your face…”
Ramsey and Mr. Bennett are almost to the edge of the lawn.
Before I can say anything else, Mr. Bennett seizes.
We hear him scream.
“I guess that was the ‘shock’,” I say, wiping my eyes.
Ricky squints. “He’s not moving.” He starts to walk towards the two. He cuts across the lawn.
Suddenly, a cheap cardboard cut-out springs up. “HAPPY HALLOWEEN!” a pre-recorded voice says.
I realize that this cut-out is the sort of thing Mr. Bennett would set up to scare someone.
Three things happen at the same time.
Ricky starts to run.
I remember Mr. Bennett’s pacemaker.
Ramsey turns around.
Abigail Stuart’s work has appeared in The City Quill and The Tower. She completed her BA in English and minored in Creative Writing at Stony Brook University. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be found sipping tea with her cat.