October 31st… Some love it, some hate it. Uber Christians claim Halloween is a day full of devil worshiping and witchcraft. While on the other side of the eerily festooned fence, creepy and depraved individuals seem to use the day as an excuse to grow even more alarming.
Then, somewhere in the middle of it all. Ignoring the decor, the costumes, and all the pageantry. Ignoring all of the protests and hate speech from the other side. Right there smack dab in the middle, there are folks like Jan Smith completely indifferent to it all.
Jan grew up completely disinterested in Halloween. She was born a diabetic so the whole idea of a holiday with its promise of pillow cases filled with candy was a moot point. Sure there’s candy for Christmas, but at least there are also gifts to be opened, the only gift Jan would open on Halloween would be a diabetic coma if she ate the candy. No thanks.
On the other hand and much to Jans annoyance, her parents Dan and Beverly Smith LOVE Halloween. They had met at a Halloween party shortly after high school graduation and have been in love ever since. So every year per tradition, Dan and Bev go all out with the decorations. This year they were dressing up as a zombie couple complete with an entire cemetery in their front yard. Dan took hours digging legitimate six foot deep holes for two open graves in the display, taking extra care in making sure there was a guard around the area so no one would accidentally fall in.
Typical, Jan comes out of the house just as it’s getting dark to find Dan still adding the last few touches to his graveyard. “You’re never done are you Dad?” Jan says smiling. Despite her being indifferent to the whole thing, she enjoys watching how much joy her Dad gets out of it. It’s the one time of the year he’s allowed to loosen his tie and let himself get creative juices flowing.
“Have you ever known me to be finished?” Dan replies with a grin. “Never. Looks great Dad, really. You outdid yourself this year.” Dan stands up from the grave he was working on and puffs out his chest with mock pride. With his chest puffed and an exaggerated head wobble, “You really think so?”
“Oh God Dad you are SUCH a dork! Will you please tell Mom I’m heading out? She’s not back from the store yet and I’m stopping for a quick slice of pizza before I meet up at the movies with Christine and Emily.” Per tradition, the three girls boycott Halloween and go see a scary movie for the sole purpose of the irony of it all… teenagers.
“Hey that’s Mr. Dork to you young lady…” Jan just blankly stares at her Dad till he gives in… “Okay, I see your point. I’m a dork. But I’m a cute one so that’s all that matters, at least that’s what your mother tells me.”
“Aw you’re both adorable… completely old and disgusting but adorable.” “I only hope you grow as old and disgusting as we are, that’s my dream for you Princess.” They both share a laugh and pull each other in for a hug. Beautiful moments like this are often taken for granted daily.
It’s gotten completely dark by the time Jan finishes walking to the Pizza Palace. The theater is right next door though and the plan is for Christine to give her a ride home anyway when it gets really late. Jan walks into the restaurant and seats herself.
The Pizza Palace isn’t very large at all, especially not for a place called a “Palace”. But their pies were delicious so they quickly became Jan’s favorite place. Luigi was the owner and seemed to be the only one ever there to make the pies, so he and Jan grew fairly close over time.
“There she is, my favorite young customer! How are you tonight Jan? How’s the family? I drove by the other day and it looks like ol’ Dan really outdid himself this year huh? Are those REAL six foot deep holes I saw?” Luigi was impressed.
“Yup, it took Dad hours to get done. I’m happy for him though, he and my Mom love this stuff. I swear the sign of the first orange colored leaf and they jump up to decorate.” They share a hearty laugh.
“So what’ll it be tonight? The usual?”
“Yeah, small personal pan with vegan pepperoni.”
“You know you are the only one that eats this stuff right? I can’t GIVE it away!” Luigi laughs.
“So why do you keep it then?”
“Because you’re my most loyal customer, and that’s what loyalty gets you. Tiny disgusting fake pepperoni.” Jan and Luigi share a big laugh with that as he scampers off to start her pizza. The kitchen is within eyeshot of where Jan is seated. In fact, The entire restaurant is within eyeshot no matter where you are due to its lack of size. Luigi liked it that way, he always said that despite doing enough business to warrant a bigger location, he loves the intimacy this one provides so he refuses to move.
As Jan settles into her seat and begins to scroll through her social media accounts, she hears the door open and someone with what sounds like heavy work boots enter the establishment. She doesn’t take her eyes off the phone but she can feel the man’s presence as he walks in heavy footed and seats himself at a table toward the back of the room without saying a word.
“Hello my friend, how are you tonight?” Luigi shouts from the kitchen, “I’ll be right there to take your order, the menu is on the table.”
The man says nothing. He grabs the menu and ruffles through it. Jan isn’t trying to turn around and look but something compulsive is making her do it and when she does she finds the man staring directly at her. Not saying a word, not moving. Just sitting, quietly… menacingly… and yet politely? Jan couldn’t figure him out with the 2 second glance she afforded herself. She spins around to look once more to find him still staring straight ahead once again towards her. Not moving, not talking, hand folded neatly on the table. Polite.
Lugi finally has Jan’s pizza in the oven and waddles his ample frame over to the man at the table.
“Alright my guy, what’ll you have?.”
The man doesn’t answer, at least not verbally. He picks up the menu, flips quickly to the right page and points. With an “ah ha” expression on his face Luigi completely understands and nods knowingly to the man. The man folds up the menu and then takes his attention once again elsewhere by continuing to stare ahead directly towards Jan.
As Luigi finishes up and waddles back past Jan, she stops him for a second. “Hey Luigi, what’s with that guy? He’s kind of creeping me out.”
“Aw, don’t worry about him. He seems harmless. I think he’s a mute or deaf or something. Seemed nice enough though. Why what’s up?
“I don’t know, I just get this weird vibe from him. I think he’s staring at me.”
Luigi turns to have a look for himself and gauge the situation. “Yeah, I dunno Jan… I think he might be on the spectrum or something. I have a nephew like that, a good kid, just a little weird. I wouldn’t worry too much. Listen, if he starts to bother you, come get me okay? Your food will be out soon. Hang tight. I’ll be back in a few.
“Okay Luigi, thanks. You’re probably right. I just get paranoid.” “Hey Jan, Luigi gets it. I see how men are with young ladies. I’d protect you like my own daughter, you know that. You’re safe here.” The conversation ends there as Luigi heads to the kitchen to start the man’s order and to check on Jan’s food.
Jan tilts her head down and begins to scroll through her social media again to kill time. A few minutes pass and she’s still scrolling, her attention completely entranced in the phone. So much so that she jumps nearly out of her skin when her arm gets brushed as the man walks by her table heading towards the counter. Jan watches Luigi and the man as they fumble to try to communicate, with Luigi eventually figuring out that the man needed to use the restroom. Luigi points him in the right direction as he gets Jan’s pizza ready to be served and brings it over.
“Hot pizza for one!” Luigi exclaims with glee as he brings Jan the food, placing it on the table in front of her. “Looks great as usual Luigi, thank you.” “Enjoy Jan!” Jan eats her pizza while watching youtube videos, occasionally glancing to see Luigi preparing the man’s order and bringing it to him after returning from the restroom.
As time goes on Jan grows more and more comfortable. Finally relaxing in the booth she’s seated sideways with her feet up on the bench and her back against the wall watching her phone in between bites of pizza. Her phone dinged with a notification from Christine. Her and Emily are almost at the theater now and in Christine’s words “Be ready biatch” with a winky face.
Jan clears her own table and while doing so finally realizes the man she was so worried about early had left without incident. Luigi had been right after all, probably just some poor guy with a few issues. She walks up to the counter and places the plate and utensils on it.
“Thanks Jan but you know you don’t have to do that right?” “You say that everytime and it hasn’t stopped me yet has it?” Jan replies with a smile. “You’re a good kid Jan, parents raised you right. Thank you, this old man appreciates it, trust me.”
“Hey Luigi, what happened to that guy?” “Ha, he left a while ago. You were so into your phone you didn’t even notice. I told you he was harmless. He ate, paid for his food, and even left me a nice tip.”
“Aw, that’s sweet. I guess you were right huh?” “Hey it had to happen sometime,” Luigi laughs. Hey, could you do me a favor? Since you love clearing my tables so much, you mind grabbing the stuff from his table quickly while I start the dishes?”
“Of course Luigi, anytime!” Jan heads over to the table and when she gets there she realizes the man left a bag. It’s a giant black hefty bag, and it looks pretty full. Oh no, the poor guy is probably homeless, this was likely all he had and now it’s gone. Jan felt terrible. “Hey Luigi, the guy left his bag here, what should I do with it?” Jan shouts from the table.
“What is it?”
“I’m not sure, should I… should I open it? I don’t want to intrude. I feel bad.”
“Yeah, just give a quick peek. He DID pay me, I know he has a wallet so maybe he at least has ID in there so we can find him.”
“Yeah let me see what I can find, that makes sense.”
Jan slowly untied the top portion of the hefty bag. With trepidation she unravels the opening revealing to her horror the hacked up corpses of her father and mother. In Jans terror she accidentally sends the bag falling to the floor in a sickening SQUISH. Blood, puss, and membrane wash over Jans once clean tennis shoes.
The sight sends Jan into complete and utter shock as she lets out a blood curdling scream. It’s only after Luigi runs over to check on her that they both notice the blood soaked piece of paper that flowed out with the bodies simply reading…
See you soon.
Credit: George McGaffin JR
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