I wore one of my mother’s capes which I had hidden in my closet. For the hump I stole a throw pillow. I mangled my hair, blackened my face with dirt. I was the hunchback, an outcast.
“Aren’t you too old for this?” my stepmother said. She barely looked at me, never in the eye. I wanted her to see how cool I’d become. “See me,” I said, but not out loud.
I didn’t like the fake people in the neighborhood. I headed along the tracks. I blackened my face more with the railroad dirt. There was grit in my mouth. I liked it between my newly cleaned teeth and thought about hopping a train.
I came to the motel. It was dirty, the sign crooked. The lights above the numbers were webbed by spiders. I went right to room 13. The 1 had fallen off, or been taken for luck.
I knocked. I knew they stayed there; I’d seen them come and go from a distance. I heard a voice say, “No.” There were scratching sounds like fingernails on the door. I knocked again. It took a while for the door to open a crack. The little girl with the nest of black hair peeked out, her eyes cold, dark as coal.
“Trick or treat,” I said.
A bony hand clutched the top of the door and swung it open. I smelled something burning – noodles on a hot plate. The woman loomed over me, her body caved in, eyes hollow, no eyes at all.
“We don’t have anything,” she said. Her long hair swung and hid those eye sockets. Her pale neck and shoulders were smooth, might have been pretty.
The girl had a wicked smile. Her nails were too long and she looked like a witch. She tiptoed back and dropped three cigarettes into my bag. The woman’s nostrils moved. Her long fingers swept the air, but I stepped back and dropped my bag outside the door. The girl kept smiling at me.
The woman took a step and before I could run she had my face in her rough hands. I flinched, but she just rubbed my cheeks with her palms, and then with the backs of her hands. She moved her smoky fingers over my face gently, searching who I was, what I wanted. I closed my eyes and let her go on. It was what I wanted.
Photo By: Chiot’s Run