Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull (7 page)

19
Maldore, Deliverer of Justice

Mom picked us up after school. The Squid was already in the car when I got in. She was trying to hide behind a lot of purple balloons.

“How did everything go, Charlie?” Mom asked. “Did people like your costume?”

“No,” I said.

I looked over at the Squid. Her bottom lip was quivering.

“Why not?”

“Because someone else was wearing a costume just like mine,” I said.

“That’s impossible!” Mom said. “Who else would have thought of a rabid bat?”

I gave the Squid a dirty look.

“I didn’t know!” she whimpered.

Mom looked at both of us in the rearview mirror. “Didn’t know what?” she asked. “What happened?”

“I didn’t know Brady Bernhart would be a bat!” the Squid squeaked. She was upset, which was weird, since I was the one who lost the contest because
some bozo
let out the secret so
someone
could steal my costume.

“Brady made a costume like Charlie’s?” Mom asked.

“Yeah,” I said, “because Mabel told everyone about it.”

“Brady’s mom made the costume!” The Squid’s eyes were filling up with tears. “I didn’t know that would happen!”

“Oh, forget it.” I looked out the window.

“Now Charlie will
never
go trick-or-treating with me!” she wailed. She sniffed a big wet sniff and rubbed her face with a balloon. “It’s not fair.”

Mom didn’t say anything. It was a quiet car ride home.

Matt spent the whole afternoon setting up the front porch. At first he said he wanted to do it all himself, but when he heard about the bat costume disaster, he asked me to help string up the spiderwebs. We stretched fake webs back and forth across the porch. Matt let me climb up on the ladder to hang plastic spiders down from the ceiling on strings. He took his little speakers from his room and set them up in the window and started playing spooky music and screams. Then he put the old chair from the attic beside the door.

“Here’s where Maldore, Deliverer of Justice, is going to sit,” he said.

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Someone I just made up,” he said.

“Is Mom really going to let you scare people?” I asked.

“Maldore, Deliverer of Justice, only scares people
who deserve it. Watch this.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a kind of hood. When he put it over his head, his face was completely hidden by some black fabric. He looked terrifying.

“Can you see anything from under there?” I asked.

Matt lunged out and grabbed me around my neck.

“AAAAAAAAAAAH!” I screamed.

“Mwa-ha-ha-ha,” my brother cackled. “Maldore administers justice.”

I rubbed my neck. I guessed Matt was going to have fun without going out for candy.

Mom and Dad came home sooner than usual so we could have an early dinner. Dad planned to take the Squid around right after we ate, and Mom was supposed to have me at Alex’s house at 6:30. I was so nervous and excited I couldn’t eat much.

I asked to be excused so I could get my costume on and my overnight bag ready. Just as Mom and I were
heading out the kitchen door to get in the car, the front doorbell rang. Matt grabbed his hood and pulled it over his head.

“No, Matt!” Mom said. “Don’t put that on yet. It’s probably little kids. It’s really early.”

“Mom!” Matt moaned.

“Take it off!” she said.

“Dad,” Matt said, pulling off the hood. “Tell her it’s Halloween! People are supposed to be scared.”

“You’re scary enough,” Dad said. “No terrorizing until Mom gets home. She’s a nurse, so she can revive anyone who passes out.” Matt rolled his eyes.

“I mean it,” Mom said.

“Okay, okay,” Matt muttered.
“But you guys just don’t get it.” Then he went to hand out candy at the front door.

Mom and I went out the kitchen door. The Squid stood there watching us go.

“Charlie,” she said.

“Yeah?”

“I didn’t mean for Brady to be a bat.”

“I know,” I said. I wasn’t thinking about that anymore.

“I really didn’t mean it,” she said.

“I know, Squid. It’s okay.”

“Maybe you could go trick-or-treating with me just a little?”

“Come on, Charlie,” Mom called from the back door. “We’re going to be late and I have to get back before Matt scares a three-year-old.”

We went down the porch stairs and got in the car. As we turned onto our street, I saw Dad leading the Squid down the driveway. He was wearing a bandana over the top of his head and had a patch over one eye. It was good he wasn’t in just his underwear. My
sister was bouncing up and down like a bunch of hyperactive grapes. Matt was handing out candy to some kid dressed up like a pumpkin.

I kind of wished I was going with Dad and the Squid, or helping Maldore, Deliverer of Justice.

20
Hairy Rabid Bat!

Alex lives in a big house, and the houses around it are all big. They also have big yards.

As we drove down his street, it was the first time I’d thought about the problem of big houses and big yards. You had to walk a long way just to get from one house to another.

When we pulled into Alex’s driveway, Hector’s father was standing by the front door talking to Alex’s dad. Hector’s dad smiled when he saw me—I think he knew I was Hector’s friend.

Hector had his chupacabra mask under his arm, ready to put on. Other than that, he was just wearing
jeans and a jacket. But the mask was so great it didn’t really matter.

Hector followed me into the living room, where Alex and Joey were waiting. Alex was even more hyper than usual, whirling around in his ninja outfit. Joey was dressed up as Buck Meson, Detective from Andromeda, my favorite superhero.

I gave Joey a high five and said “I DON’T THINK SO!” just like Buck Meson always says on the TV show.

Then Kyle came in carrying this big rubber mask of a guy with a hatchet stuck in his skull. It was the kind that covers your whole head. It was pretty amazing.

My mom would never have allowed me to walk around with a hatchet in my head.

Kyle was also carrying a shopping bag, which he put behind a chair in Alex’s living room. “For later,” he whispered.
“The Shrieking Skull.”

Oh great,
I thought. I was kind of hoping the Shrieking Skull wouldn’t come.

Tommy showed up last, dressed in his werewolf outfit, holding his hairy hands. He had a stocking cap on his head.

“Where’s the hair?” I asked.

He held up a paper bag. “In here,” he said. “Hey, Alex. Where’s the bathroom? I need to finish my costume. Charlie, could you come help me?”

Alex pointed to a door down the hallway.

Tommy and I went inside and shut the door. Tommy reached in the bag and pulled out a plastic bottle of white glue.

“Here,” he said. “Squeeze out a little bit on your fingers and put it on my face, and I’ll stick the hair on where I want it.”

I looked in the bag. There was a pile of curly hair in the bottom. “Where’d you get all this?”

Tommy took off his stocking cap.

“Wow,” I said. He had cut off a lot of his hair. There were some places where it was almost down to his scalp.

“Did your mom see this?” I asked.

He shook his head. “No way. I’ll have to wear this cap for a few days so she doesn’t find out.”

“You are insane,” I said.

“Come on and help me with the glue,” he said. “We gotta hurry.”

“Are you sure about this?”

“It’s just glue. I can peel it off when we get back.”

“Okay,” I said. For just a split second, I wondered if this was a good idea. But Tommy was my friend. And I had done dumber things with his help.

I started spreading glue on his face.

“All the way up to the ears, and on my forehead,” he said.

“How about your neck?” I asked.

“Okay, there, too,” he said. “Werewolves are hairy all over.”

As soon as I finished, Tommy took a handful of hair and stuck it on his face where the glue was.

“Stupific!” I said. “It looks awesome.”

“Wow,” Tommy said. “This stuff is really sticking to my fingers.”

When he rubbed his fingers on his shirt, the hair stuck to it. I tried to help, but then the hair stuck on my fingers.

“Hey, there’s still a couple of empty places,” Tommy said, pointing to his cheeks.

I put some more glue on, but I used a little too much and it started to drip down. I stuck on more hair.

Some of it got in his mouth.

“Uck! Hairy mouth!” he said.

I laughed. I wiped my hands on my sweatshirt and got some hair on the umbrella wings.

“Ooooooooh!” Tommy said. “Hairy bat!”

“Okay, now I have to finish my costume.” I took the can of shaving cream out of my pocket. “Hairy rabid bat!’ I said.

I squirted some shaving cream into my hand. It came out really fast, into a big mound. I dabbed it on around my mouth the best I could, then tried to shake the rest off into the sink. Tommy started laughing really hard.

I looked in the mirror. My dad was right. I didn’t look like a rabid bat. I looked more like a bat that was about to shave.

Alex’s dad knocked on the door. “Come on, guys. Let’s get going.”

I looked at Tommy. Ready or not, it was time to go. We looked at the sink—it was covered in hair and glue and shaving cream. Tommy grabbed a wad of toilet paper and started wiping, but it just got wet and sticky and made things worse. We turned the faucet on and tried to clean it up. I used the hand towel by the sink to mop up as much of the mess as I could.

When we came out of the bathroom, Alex’s dad was standing in the hallway. I was thinking about saying something to him about the sink, but then Tommy turned off the bathroom light and shut the door, so I figured we could tell him later.

Alex’s dad stared at us. I could tell by the look on his face he was pretty horrified by what he saw.

“I’m a werewolf,” Tommy said.

“I’m a rabid bat,” I said.

“Oh,” Alex’s dad said, which is the only thing you can say when you meet a hairy werewolf and rabid bat coming out of your bathroom.

21
Teeny Tiny Candy Bars

As soon as we got outside, Alex started running up and down the driveway doing ninja kicks and falling over and jumping back up.

“Alex, let’s stay together!” his dad said.

Alex wasn’t listening.

I was thinking that if Mrs. Burke was here, everything would be a lot more organized.

It only took us a few minutes to get to the first house. We hurried up the driveway and onto the walk. Tommy was on one side of me and Hector was on the other side.

I wasn’t worried about
The Shrieking Skull
right now. I was with my two best friends, who looked
really great as a werewolf and a chupacabra, and I was going to get candy.

Tons of candy.

Three little kids were coming down the walk from the house with their parents.

“Hey, Jeff,” Alex’s dad said to one of the grown-ups.

“Hey, Kevin,” the man answered back. “Been out long?”

Alex’s dad stopped on the walk and started to talk.

Oh no!
Parents were the same all over. Even in the big houses!

“Dad!” Alex said. “Come on!”

“You boys go on ahead,” his dad said. Then he kept talking.

We ran up the rest of the walk. Alex rang the doorbell. Twice.

The door opened.

“Trick or treat!” we all yelled.

Tommy howled. Alex kicked like a ninja.

“Well, well,” said the woman in the doorway. “What a scary group of monsters we’ve got here. What are you all dressed up as?”

“Ninja!” Alex yelled.

“Dead guy,” Kyle said.

“Werewolf,” Tommy said.

“Buck Meson, Detective from Andromeda,” Joey said.

“Chupacabra!” Hector said.

The woman looked confused.

“Goatsucker!” we all yelled.

She still looked confused. Then she looked at me. “And what are you?”

“A rabid bat!” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “You look kind of like a bat that’s about to shave.”

Boogers.

She held out a basket of candies. “Everybody take one,” she said.

I looked into the basket. I couldn’t believe it.

All I saw were teeny tiny candy bars, and she only wanted us to take one each. Where were the big candy bars that matched the big house?

We headed back down toward the street. It seemed like a long way to the house next door. “Dad!” Alex yelled. “Let’s go!”

“Just a minute,” he called. He was still talking to Jeff, or whatever his name was.

We went up and down Alex’s street. Not one single house gave out big candy bars. No one let us take as much as we wanted.

We turned off of Alex’s street and went down the next one.

One of my wings came unhooked. I tried to put it back on, but I gave up and clamped it under my arm.

“This hair is really getting itchy,” Tommy said. “Especially around my neck. And the glue is so stiff I can’t move my face.”

“You can take it off when we get back to Alex’s,” I said.

But Hector was having a great time. “This is really cool,” he said. “I can’t believe people just give you all this candy. People who don’t even know you!”

He was one happy chupacabra.

I couldn’t help thinking a little about my neighborhood. And Matt scaring people. And even the Squid.

By the time we got to the end of the second block, everyone was slowing down. Except for Alex. I think he’d been eating his candy as he went along.

“Okay, boys. It’s time to head back now,” Alex’s dad said.

“Not yet, Dad,” Alex said. “We just started. I want to do a hundred houses.”

That was a lot of houses. We’d done about twenty so far. If we were going to do a hundred houses, we’d have to stay out until four in the morning.

“No, Alex,” his dad said. “I think we’ve done enough.”

“Daaaaaad!” Alex whined. “Just
one
more street.”

“One more
house
,” his dad said.

“Three more houses,” Alex said.

“Okay,” his dad said. “Three more. But after that we go home.”

I looked in my bag. The candy barely covered the bottom. I wanted more candy, but I was tired of walking around.

We did three more houses. One house let us have two pieces of candy. It seemed like a miracle. Who knew that big houses had so little candy?

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