Doug didn’t remember going to bed, and he figured the entire event was just a frenzied dream when he awoke before dawn fully refreshed. There was no cigarette ash on the kitchen table when he went downstairs to make coffee. Perhaps he’d talk with Pastor Bob about dreaming of meetings with the devil, as well as the idea of renouncing one’s faith to save children. It was strange, to say the least.
The only thing out of the ordinary was how energized he felt. Even before the coffee was finished brewing, he found himself doing squats, lunges, and pushups in the living room. He considered going for a run, which he hadn’t done all year. He was in a very, very good mood. Maybe the dream had reminded him of his purpose in life.
When he opened the door to the medicine cabinet to start his daily shaving routine, though, he saw the vial from the devil’s pocket standing front and center. Its amber color seemed to glow in the low light of the bathroom cabinet. Doug didn’t touch it and quickly got out his shaving soap and razor and closed the cabinet door. He had a long day ahead of him at the VA, with a stacked schedule of clients in need of therapy for their PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
Pastor Doug was laden with basketballs as he brought up the rear of the youth group on their way back to the church from the public court at the end of the street. He was yards behind the slowest kids, but could see all 17 of them as they sauntered back into the small church for Wednesday night devotional. The early autumn sun was setting and there was some time before youth devotional was set to start, so the kids who weren’t really interested in basketball weren’t quite showing up yet.
He put the net bag full of basketballs away in the youth group locker in the side room next to the main sanctuary. When he came out, he saw the group of 8th-grade-girls standing in the corner giggling over a cell phone. This was not an unusual occurrence, and Pastor Doug was sure he’d see something funny from Facebook or Instagram — a kitten riding a robotic vacuum or a pig rolling down a hill. These almost-14-year-olds were just old enough to have accounts on these social media per their terms and conditions, although many parents pushed to keep their young girls off the stuff until high school.
What was unusual was that as Pastor Doug approached, the girls hushed and the girl in the center, Stacie, hid the phone from his view.
Josie felt sick to her stomach. It was only five minutes into the presidential debates and already the sitting president was acting like an uncontrollable toddler and the other nominee was faltering. They were both febrile white old men who seemed incapable of getting their facts straight or even completing a full sentence. The moderator seemed like an angry kindergarten teacher unable to assert control over the noise. How was she supposed to be excited to vote for either of these rich assholes?
“Just cut his mic,” Josie found herself muttering as the incumbent president once again interrupted the other nominee about some conspiracy theories around election fraud or the mainstream media being mean to him or something else incomprehensible to people who didn’t read the exact same blogs or websites he did. “Unbelievable,” Josie said.
Ken escaped to rural New Mexico in the summer of 1969, running from both the Vietnam War Draft and some “bad people”, as his mother called them, in his hometown in upstate New York. He simply hopped on a Greyhound bus and went as far as his meager money would take him.
He found work on a construction site outside of a small city in the south. He would be laying pipe and other lines for the growing city, and it would take several months. Since he had nowhere to live, Ken volunteered to live onsite and watch over the equipment at night, and the supervisors set him up with a simple shack and some water to do so.
I love holidays, mostly because I enjoy marking seasons and changes in the earth that human beings have decided are important over our brief history. I am always on the lookout for a “tradition” that hearkens back to something deeper than the commercial holidays we celebrate in America without bothering to ask why. In 2008, I decided I wanted to do something really traditional for Halloween, other than carving a pumpkin or putting on a costume. I thought I’d try to find a tradition from my own cultural heritage, which in broad strokes means the British Isles — Scotland, England, Ireland. I wanted mark the holiday by making a traditional Halloween dinner.