It started at 10:45 when I ran through the gym doors carrying 24 Halloween themed cupcakes with my daughter, the Roman Goddess, lagging behind me wearing her fantastically insensible roman sandals.
“Listen to me…” I was telling her we had to hurry. We had a lot of ground to cover before we could return to the Halloween Fair and stay.
The Roman Goddess limped behind and kept interrupting me, “I’m going to need tickets. Don’t leave without getting me tickets. Or leaving me money.”
“Stop speaking and listen. I have no money. We’re dropping these off, we are going to the bank, we are rushing home to pick up your sister, and then we are coming back so you can do your shift at the Bake Sale.”
“That’s a lot of walking. Can’t I just stay here? And help? I’ll help. I promise I’ll help.” I weighed the benefits. I would get around faster without having to wait around for a lollygagging Goddess.
“OK. I’ll leave you here. But listen to me: you are staying here to work at this Bake Sale table.” I made my declarations in front of a friend who happened to be in charge of the Bake Sale table. “You are not gallivanting around. Do you hear me? And I’ve got eyes all over this school! I’ll be back by the time your actual shift starts.” And so, for my child’s well-being, the Goddess was forced into child labor until I could return to KES.
Assured my eldest would be in the exact spot in which I deposited her, I dashed all over kingdom come and returned to KES flush from the ATM and with my youngest daughter, the Skeleton Princess, who had bravely overcome an existential crisis brought on by the discomfort inherent in wearing clip-on black skull earrings weighing about as much as her shoes.
“OK.” I started into the gymnasium again at around 11:45. “Let’s go find your sister…” I began before being interrupted.
“No! I need to find my friend!” The Skeleton Princess was adamant. “I’m freaking out!”
“Calm down. Let’s find your friend. I’ll text her mom.” Or I won’t because I don’t even have the signal for a text message. “OK. Skeleton Princess, please get off the ground. We will find her. I’ll hold your earrings. OK. Stop hitting me. Just stop hitting me. I won’t hold your earrings.”
I roamed the hallways with a Skeleton Princess crying into my arm, “I’ll just die! Die! I won’t have a stitch of fun until I find her. Not a stitch!” We passed witches, ghosts, princesses, lions, tigers, turtles, Alexander Hamilton, a never ending river of fairy tale characters, and various parents who said, “Oh, Anne! Your daughter is looking for you! I just saw her! Oh, where did she go?”
“Skeleton Princess. You have to get a grip. I have to get to the Bake Sale to find your sister.” And then I heard the voice of the Goddess leap from a gathering of children playing some sort of game involving lollipops, “Mom!” She threw a long string of tickets at me. “Give these to Tahlia’s mom!”
“Why aren’t you at the Bake Sale?!”
“I was there for a while but then I wandered around with some people.”
“What about your shift?” I yelled as the river of glittery fairies, queens, and the Strong Man carried her away from me. “It’s not my time!” She yelled back. I looked at my watch. “Yes! It is! You’re 5 minutes late!” I screamed back.
“Really!? Oh no! Give those to Tahlia’s mom!” And the Goddess slid along her bruised feet toward the Bake Sale.
Skeleton Princess collapsed on my shoes. “What if I never find her?”
“We’ll find her.”
Skeleton Princess set her jaw and nodded. “Right. Let’s get tickets.” And with a resolution reserved for a child spending my money she walked right up to the ticket table in the front table and told me I should get 40 tickets.
“No. My limit is 20 and you’re splitting them with your sister.”
With our 20 tickets divided into 2 neat lines of 10, we headed back to the Bake Sale to give Goddess her tickets for when her shift was over. “OK,” I said as she stood guard over a table absolutely loaded with baked goods the vast majority of which looked to be homemade by people with far more patience and skill than myself. Apparently, these fantastic bakers don’t equate “bake sale donation” with a stop at Shop Rite. “Here are your 10 tickets, I’ll be at the ticket booth in the front lobby starting at 12:45. I’ll be in that one spot if you need me.” She rolled her eyes and said, “I’m going to need more than 10 tickets. Did you see all the games? And you can get a mani for 3 tickets! That’s a bargain!”
And Skeleton Princess who was hanging on my arm, trying to ensure I will undergo rotator cuff surgery, let go of my arm. This child, so close to the portal to Hell a mere four seconds previously, began beaming and dancing and singing at the sight of…her friend. Her friend with whom she promised to venture down the Haunted Hallway. Her friend with whom she promised to go to Doctor Boo. Her Friend. And away the Skeleton Princess ran with her 10 tickets, her 4 lb. earrings, and her Friend.
And then I got down to what I came to the Halloween Fair to do…talk to my friends. They were everywhere. It was glorious. Everywhere I turned I saw someone else to greet with a high pitched squeal. I made sure to go into the gym to see the Velcro wall, the extensive world of crafting, and Titania herself (I could tell by her crown) who was strolling about with purpose and a microphone. I love any gathering featuring Titania and a microphone.
I descended into the darkness of the haunted hallway to find Tahlia’s mom to deliver said tickets, as the Goddess insisted. And when the 4th graders jumped out at me, so hoping I’d be scared, I explained I was on a mission. I entered that dark hallway for the levity of chatting with my friend while little children covered in fake blood darted in and out of black light beams and squealed with delight when offered the job of jumping out of a coffin.
I talked to everyone I passed. I wandered around studying the happiest volunteer army you could ever see. I guessed which door the witch was hiding behind. Then I realized I was five minutes late for my own shift at the ticket booth in the front lobby.
Oh, the ticket table. It was fun. I got to count to 10 and 20 a thousand times and it was amazing how many times I had to start over. As the Goddess likes to remind me, “That’s why Dad checks my homework.”
The Goddess and the Skeleton Princess, so well adapted to the world of the Halloween Fair, knew that the most opportune time to make demands is when their mother is trying to count to 20. And so it began…the line would bunch up and as I made it number “16”, the Goddess would POOF! appear at my side with her divine demands, “20! I need 20!” And with the seasoned hand of a professional street hustler, she snaked a $20 from my wallet nestled safely in my bag. Wishing the goddess would cease making demands of me, I’d take my own $20, shove it in the metal box, and throw her a prewrapped roll of 20 tickets.
This happened over and over again. And that was only the Goddess. The tactics of the Skeleton Princess are far more threatening. She’d lurk and hang about, state her demands. I said, “Go see the Goddess!” But, no, the Skeleton Princess would scream, “No! It’s YOU! You I must speak to!” And again, another $20 would disappear from my wallet. Again and again, I was scammed and milked and intimidated and desperate.
I lost a tremendous amount of money working at the ticket table. At some point, I looked at my watch and thought, “I’d like to go home. I’m broke. I’m hungry. My feet hurt. My throat hurts. And I need sweatpants.”
“Have you seen the Goddess? Have you seen the Skeleton Princess?” I asked my friends as I retraced my footprints of the hours past. I was sent to Dr. Boo and down the Haunted Hallway. Someone saw one of them by the Prize booth in the cafeteria and another was spotted on the Velcro wall. One swore she saw the Goddess everywhere she looked.
The more fervently I searched, the further they ran. Literally. I saw them, together, run out of the cafeteria. I swear they saw me but wordlessly and with a stealth reminiscent of the Matrix they separated, circling, evading, and melting into the sea of humanity or a small pod of preschool mermaids.
Abandoned. The Goddess and Death left me penniless.
POST SCRIPT- Eventually, I found them both in the same spot. Eager to be the last ones at the party, Death was working her classroom’s booth, a wheel of misfortune (Of course), with the heavy-fisted tactics you would expect from Death. Her sister, the Goddess, was lounging across some chairs. “My feet,” she motioned. “Will you carry me?” She tossed me the black skull earrings Death had coveted until this morning. “And these too.”
After convincing them it was time to leave because the Fair was over, the Goddess yawned, “That was tremendous fun.” And Death, her hand again wrist deep in my handbag, declared, “I’ll leave. I’ve got enough Ring Pops to last me.”
– Anne Foray