Gwendolyn Kiste's quirky Halloween tale about sweet little witch.
"I'm old enough to trick or treat by myself!" she scowled. "I'm nine years old, you know. I'm practically an adult."
Her father folded his newspaper on his lap. "It is a good neighborhood," he said. "She should be fine."
"I don't know." Brow furrowed, her mother lingered at the window as a pint-sized alien complete with silver antenna dashed past. "We haven't lived here long enough to know all the neighbors."
"You better let me go," Abrielle said and waved her plastic wand. "Or else I'll turn you both to newts."
"She'll be fine," her father said. "And she's so independent. We should encourage that."
"Yeah!" Abrielle nodded once. "I'm super independent. And don't forget the newt threat."
Her mother closed the curtains. "Fine."
"Hooray!" Wand in hand, Abrielle scampered up the stairs.
There were still a few final accessories needed to complete the bewitching getup. From inside her jewelry box, Abrielle removed a green, glittering necklace.
"Can't cast spells without an amulet," she said.
After inspecting the doorway to ensure her parents hadn't followed her, she fumbled with the secret compartment on the back of the box. Something scuttled within.
"It's stuck," she said, a fingernail straining against one edge. "I'll pull; you push."
An instant later, the compartment door came loose, and a tiny one-inch goblin tumbled out.
Abrielle shrieked with glee. "You're so cute," she said.
The goblin whined and flailed in reply.
"I'm sorry," Abrielle said. "I know it's stuffy in there, but my parents won't let me keep you if they find out you're here. No pets allowed and all."
"Abrielle?" Her father's voice wafted up the stairs, bringing with it the sweet syrup smells of candy apples and pumpkin pie. "Are you ready? We want to take pictures before you go!"
"Almost!" She lowered her voice and whispered to the goblin, "Wait until you see the surprise I have planned for us tonight."
The goblin didn't care about any surprise. He just crossed his arms and tapped his tiny leather boot.
Abrielle tilted her head. "Oh, you want your spear, right?"
Rolling his pearl eyes, the goblin nodded. With the jewelry box turned upside-down, the spear toppled from inside.
Abrielle extended the pointy accessory toward the goblin. "My mother thought it was a sandwich toothpick last week," she said, smiling. "She almost threw it away."
The goblin snatched the metal toothpick from the girl, frowning the tiniest frown and jabbing her a few times with the weapon. The whole sight just made Abrielle grin wider.
"You can stab me later. Now it's time to go." She opened her burlap sack adorned with a felt black cat she glued on herself.
Sighing, the goblin hopped inside.
In the front yard, Abrielle's parents snapped dozens of pictures, stopping their constant demands to pose this way and that way only when they noticed something squirming in the trick or treat bag.
"It's - it's a wind-up toy," Abrielle said. "Goes with my outfit."
"Let me see." One hand blindly searching the sack, her mother produced the goblin, rigid as a stuffed toy.
"Be careful with him," Abrielle said. "He breaks easily."
The goblin flashed a quick scowl but otherwise just moved his arms back and forth like a vintage robot.
Both her parents investigated the so-called toy, passing him back and forth and turning him over and over in their hands.
Her father raised one eyebrow and then the other. "Where's the key to turn it?"
Abrielle shrugged. "He doesn't tell me everything."
Too perplexed to ask anything else, her parents dropped the goblin back in the bag and shooed Abrielle off to her revelry. As her black cape fluttered in the wind, she skipped away from the house, declaring "I'm free" as she went.
The afternoon rain still lingered on the sidewalks, and the streetlights cast reflections onto the pavement, making everything look like a mirror image, one that was both bright yet foreboding. Just the way Abrielle liked it.
What Abrielle didn't like were lackluster treats. The first house sacrificed licorice to the Halloween altar.
"Yuck," she muttered and trudged on.
The next stop distributed toothbrushes.
"Wickedness!" Abrielle shook the taboo offering to the sky.
The third house overflowed with bullies and insults.
"So you're a witch, huh?" An old man with a bucket of candy stared at her. "You do know witches are ugly, don't you?"
"I'm not ugly," Abrielle said. "And I don't like people who call me ugly either. I turn them to newts."
"Well, then." The man dropped a piece of stale bubblegum into her burlap sack. "You best be on your way."
"This isn't going so well," Abrielle said to the goblin as they roamed past house after house with no lights on.
She glanced into her bag. A half dozen wrappers were strewn across the bottom, and the goblin clutched his bloated belly.
"Leave it to you, and I'll have no candy at all when I get home." She sighed. "But at least someone likes licorice."
After another ten doorsteps turned out to be duds, Abrielle surrendered her trick or treat route for the year.
"Don't forget we have one more stop," she said, and when the goblin raised a grain-sized eyebrow, she added, "You don't want to be late for the skeletons, do you?"
The gates on the Woodland Memorial Cemetery were already closed, but Abrielle was small enough to maneuver between the bars.
"This is a big night for graveyards," she said to the goblin as they traversed overgrown grass and faded tombstones. "Their busiest of the year in fact."
The ground shuddered and shimmered in the moonlight.
Clutching Abrielle's hand, the goblin shivered.
"Are you cold?" the girl asked.
The goblin shook his head and murmured something.
"You're right," Abrielle said. "I bet graveyards have the best Halloween parties. And I'm sure they won't mind us crashing so long as we don't eat all the appetizers."
She gripped her green necklace and recited an incantation, all booming syllables and melodramatic flair. The goblin tugged on her arm, desperate to stop her.
"To the dearly departed," Abrielle said. "Let your barebones rise on this most hallowed of evenings. Rise and teach me and my goblin how to celebrate this spooky holiday in style."
She glanced around. Nothing happened. The goblin sighed and relaxed along the edge of the bag.
"Shucks," Abrielle said, and then thinking for a moment, she shrieked and added, "I almost forgot!"
Straightening her posture, she grasped the amulet tighter.
"Let my Halloween will be done!"
All was still around them. Then suddenly, the soil fell away, and as though in perfect synchronicity, dozens of skeletons clawed their way to the surface. They shook the dirt from their bones and lurched toward Abrielle.
The girl beamed. "Here come our hosts now!"
The goblin dove into the bag before clawing his way back up and peering over the top, his shivers worse than ever.
One after another, a row of gnarled white bones took their places like an army standing at attention before a general.
"So," Abrielle said, walking up and down the line, "I've heard that skeletons dance. But no one ever says what kind of dance. Is it the Charleston or the Foxtrot? Or some kind of weird, interpretive modern dance?"
The skeletons turned back and forth as if looking at one another.
"Well?" Abrielle stared at them, wondering if they could stare back, even without proper eyeballs.
At last, the ground started to thump. The remaining leaves on all the trees rustled in a rhythmic murmur, and an owl hooted over and over like a metronome.
The skeletons nodded at one another and began. First, they did the Charleston, all flashing femurs and thrashing tibias.
Abrielle squealed. "No flapper could do it better!"
Then after taking a much deserved bow, the skeletons broke into couples for a lovely Foxtrot.
"I've never seen the Foxtrot before," the girl said.
Once the couples tired, the younger skeletons separated into groups. Some glided and pirouetted like prima ballerinas. A few turned out some break-dancing moves. Others just removed their skulls and tapped along to the beat.
With the goblin perched on her shoulder, Abrielle swayed back and forth, studying every step. Then a bony hand grabbed hers and pulled her into the circle. Together with the polished white army, she and the goblin danced until the moon set and Halloween was almost over.
"Where have you been?" her parents asked when she wandered through the door, two hours late. "We were so worried we almost called the police!"
"You shouldn't worry," Abrielle said. "Skeletons are better babysitters than Grandma."
Her mother panted. "Skeletons?"
"I think the kids next door were dressed as skeletons," her father said.
"Were they?" Abrielle twirled in place. "How fun!"
"Go to bed, Abrielle," her parents said. "No dinner for you."
"That's okay." She smiled. "I've got my candy. If there's any left."
Her mother and father shook their heads and conspired in whispers and sneers about the appropriate prison sentence for their daughter. But the girl just laughed and skipped up the stairs.
Long after the lights in the rest of the house dimmed and her parents retired from their quest for the perfect punishment, Abrielle tossed off her sheets and slipped into her glittery black witch shoes again. Careful to avoid the creaks in the floorboards, she danced the foxtrot across her bedroom, shuffling and spinning and humming along to music no one else could hear.
No one but her goblin, of course.