Kage Baker never missed Halloween Night. Most of them, she was out running around with a head tucked underneath her arm, filching Hershey Bars from the small relatives we were body-guarding.
When the kids were back home and had retreated to crouched defensive positions over their candy haul, she and I would go driving to look at the neighborhood decorations. The orange and purple lights, the strobes and candles, the guttering jack o’lanterns leering from porches and walls – the last trick or treaters running, shrieking, down the streets, high on sugar and the delight of racing around in the dark. The odd grownups’ party debouching into the street, giggling and questionably dressed …
Usually, we’d pass at least one die-hard who was still roaming the streets in character, and would not come out of it. Highly unnerving to pass a vampire, a werewolf, a cloaked and skull-faced figure who turned empty eyes on us as we passed – but neither waved or shouted, just stared us out of sight … method actors? Really subtle trick or treaters? Or the actually eldritch, taking advantage of the holiday for a night’s unencumbered license?
“Did you see that?” Kage would exclaim in horror and delight. “Do you know what that really was?”
“No, and neither do you,” I would reply, speeding up.
“Oh, yes, I do. You know that house further up La Presa? The one that always smells like frying pork? Well, it comes down from there …” she would begin thoughtfully.
“Shut up! Shut up!” And I’d cram a Nestles Crunch in my mouth and hit the gas.
Mind you, we were in our 30’s at this time.
Last year was Kage’s last Halloween. We didn’t know it, and I thank God for that – we actually had some fun. The reason we did not do something last year was that we were in a hotel in San Jose (World Fantasy Con – Kage got a nomination), we were squiring Kage’s agent around (and poor Linn has never forgotten when we dragged her off on an exhausting 7-hour Disneyland visit) and Kage was in a wheel chair.
On the way to San Jose, as we were roaring up Highway 101 outside exotic Prunedale, Kage suddenly remembered that she had packed no clothes. Two hoodies and a nightgown; her Buke, copies of her nominated novel, a wind-up Godzilla that shot sparks; 5 pounds of candy and the soundtrack to Bride of Frankenstein and a papier mache skull: but no clothes except the ones she was wearing. Luckily, there is a mall in Gilroy (Garlic Capitol of the World!) that is so large it distorts the local gravitational field; we got out the wheelchair and had a whirlwind shopping trip.
Thus, Kage was accoutred in new clothes for her last Convention, and quite enjoyed herself. I pushed her from place to place with the usual left/right confusions. We caromed off a few doorways. Our good and saintly friend Neassa carried luggage and ran errands; Sara Goodman (may her line increase!) found space for Kage’s panels when the schedule went wonky. Kage handed out candy from a bag in her lap, and entertained herself by scaring people with the truth.
“Now, what did you do to yourself?” various people would scold, hands on hips, surveying her shawled-and-wheelchaired self disapprovingly.
“I got cancer!” Kage would say promptly with a big grin, and hand them a Kit Kat Bar. It one of the things that amused her all that weekend.
“You’re scaring people,” I observed as another victim went off in social shock.
“Screw ’em if they can’t take a joke,” said Kage. “I’m still smiling. Now, back to the room, Igor – we’re almost out of chocolate!”
She didn’t win, but she appreciated the nomination. She didn’t eat – she played architectural games with her food at the banquet; I don’t think anyone noticed but me, but by that time I was calculating her caloric intake hourly in my head. We discreetly repaired at the necessary times for her to lie down and get her scheduled chemo through the port in her arm – I was trained to do it, and our luggage included the ice chest that held her drugs … so every 6 hours, the monster tapped us on the shoulder to remind us.
We had fun anyway. It was a good Halloween. People ran up and down the hotel corridors all night, laughing and yelling. We ate chocolate and Kage kept Linn awake for hours with wild stories of her life.
She always knew there were real monsters out there.
Tomorrow: Halloween crafts!