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We are the writing collective at the Urban Institute For Contemporary Arts, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We've been at it for over 10 years, and are one of the most published groups in the state.

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Once Upon A Time On Halloween - Steve Beckwith

Halloween is a time for scary stories. Hopefully, though, there's a difference between make-believe and your own life.

Once Upon A Time On Halloween
by Steve Beckwith

‘Once upon a time on Halloween’, daddy’s stories always started. There were monsters and ghouls of every shape and denomination. Daddy always talked about their denomination, he said that’s how you could tell whether they were going to eat your face off first, or crawl up your privates and eat their way out from your belly first.

Daddy told us thirty-two and a half stories before he went away.

We went to visit daddy once, in a big school building where the policemen took daddy. All the other daddies dressed in the same shirts and pants and some mommies cried, but not our mommy. Daddy didn’t tell us a story when we went to visit him, he said that he was sad, and he said he couldn’t think up stories when he was sad.

We never went to see daddy again. After that mommy told us that we could never talk about daddy, and that we shouldn’t even think about daddy ever again. But I didn’t do what mommy said, I did think about daddy, and I tried to remember all of daddy’s stories. And when the little ones couldn’t sleep at night and their rolling around woke me up I would tell them what I remembered about daddy’s stories.

Sometimes I got things mixed up but mostly I remembered them stories the way daddy told them. I’d even try to do the scary voices daddy did, and make the little ones squeal like me and Bo did when we was little ones.

I really liked all of daddy’s stories, but I have my favorites, and Bo, he liked other ones than me-- before he was dead, I mean.

Course momma died first, but from something different. Bo, he got run over in his car by a big truck, like in one of daddy’s stories. And momma, she died of the cancer disease.

So now it’s just me, left to tell little ones daddy’s stories.

The little ones have little ones of their own now, but they still want Auntie Boo to tell them stories, all thirty-two and a half. Course I made up an ending for the half story daddy never got to finish.

It scary enough when the sun go down on Halloween, but Nine O’clock, well that when the world gets to see the other side, the Underside of the pretty things where all the ugly live.

And so, once upon a time on Halloween, I was out gathering up the candy that scared kiddies dropped on the lawns when they start to run from them ugly creatures of the Pent-coastal denominations. These Pent-coastals, they was good sailors, living by the sea and all. But what they did not know was that they was not the scariest sea-dwelling creatures on the Underside.

The Underside not like up here, lots of people and creatures, monsters and such, they stay hidden from each other sometimes and so nobody really knows what all is down there on that Underside. Pent-coastals think they know everybody cuz they travel around more than most, sailing the Underside seas.

Now them Pent-coastals were the denomination that likes face-eating, specially kiddie faces. But they always start with the fingers and the toes cuz those are the sweetest parts, and cuz kiddies can’t always feel when they start small until almost all your fingers is gone, and nearly all your toes too.

That why I was the only one out picking up candy, they get your fingers when you reach for stuff.

And let me tell you jus’ how ugly them Pent-coastals can get. Why if one of them had a hairy mole fer a head with nothing but a big ol’ eye on top looking up he woulda been the prettiest of the bunch. They are not as ugly as snot people of course, but that’s a whole ‘nuther denomination.

So there I was in the middle of the Lowe’s yard down the street, and I see a whole bag of candy some kiddie dropped. I run over and reach out for it and this happen.

Daddy held up his lil’ finger which was only half a finger and the little ones squealed and jumped back. Mommy said it weren’t no monster, she said daddy chopped his finger off when he was fishin’, and drunk. She said damn fool almost bled to death from his pinkie finger, cuz he was so drunk. She told me and Bo this before she stopped talking about daddy.

Now I’m standing there looking at where my finger used to be and them Pent-coastals  rise up outta the ground and they surrounds me. Now I know a little about the Underside cuz I had a really ugly girlfriend before I met your momma, and this girl she teach me things, like how to make certain denominations uncomfortable in this Upside world.

She say you gotta screech, and they can’t take human screeching. So I start screeching. Not screamin’ mind you, they like that, but screeching like a screech owl. What my friend did not know was that them Pent-coastals are used to Underside seagulls, and Underside seagulls screech louder than them screech owls on the Upside.

So my screeching was only getting them Pent-coastals more excited, and when they get excited they turn green and purple and their heads look like puddles of puke like if you been eating black raspberry ice cream and broccoli together in July.

Excited Pent-coastal denominations is not where you want to be in the middle of standing once they get going cuz they are likely to eat your butt off first and your face last, don’t nobody want that.

I stopped my screeching but it was too late. The largest sea creature there is came on up from under the Underside sea and crawled up through that swamp down the end of Bishop Street to see what all the screechin’s about. Now the Pent-coastals saw this thing coming and it was ugly enough that they knew it was from Underside but they was just sassy enough that they thought they knew all them Underside creatures and monsters and such, but they didn’t know this big slimy fellow.

So they stopped their excited shit and just stood still on the lawn, with me smack dab in the middle. The big fellow was unaffiliated with them denominations, he was like a denomination of one. I found out later that he was called the Booddalooda Bak, a creature older than grandpa’s mountain is old. And he left a long nasty trail of glowing orange slime that was meltin’ the road tar as he crawled closer.

This is where daddy got to in the story when the policeman pushed in our front door and started screaming and yelling at everybody and the little ones was crying and screaming back. And Bo told the policemen to go to hell, and mommy just lay down on the bed and refused to move. The policemen picked up one side of mommy’s bed and rolled her off onto the floor rug. That’s where they found daddy’s skinnin’ knife, under mommy’s bed.

So now, I know I can’t tell a story as good as daddy could tell a story, but gosh, you can’t leave a story in a place like that. So Bo told me that I had to finish daddy’s story. Then he went out and got killed and he never heard my ending to daddy’s last story. But I’m gonna tell you little ones the ending to the story before the library lady comes back and te3lls me to leave again.

So the orange slime was melting the road and in places you could see holes all the way down into them city sewers where it had melted through pipes and all. Them Pent-coastals were getting pretty worried, they are not a real brave denomination, more like those Lute-runs in daddy’s other stories.

Suddenly a pukie-faced old Pent-coastal pushed daddy to the front so the Booddalooda would eat daddy first. And then them cowardly Pent-coastals turned and ran. When Pent-coastals run they run all gangly like and daddy couldn’t help himself, he started to laugh.

But daddy’s laughin’ made the Booddalooda mad and so he slimed along faster down the street, his big snake-tailed nose stuck up high in the night air, heading right for daddy, and this big ol’ monster could eat daddy in one bite.

But my daddy, he was quick, and when he could smell that old Booddalooda’s breath a panting all that nasty odor he jumps to the side and throws that bag fulla candy right at the Booddalooda’s drooling mouth. Now I know this part’s hard to believe, but Booddaloodas, they don’t like candy, in fact candy is like poison to Booddaloodas.

So now the Underside Sea only has two Booddaloodas left cuz daddy kilt the third one.

But while daddy was busy killing the Booddalooda them Pent-coastals went right up and knocked on mommy and daddy’s door, and whadda you know Bo answered the door. Bo just thought they were late trick-or-treaters so he holds out the candy bowl for them Pent-coastals to take what they wanted. What they wanted was Bo.
The little ones was all down the street at the Petersons at a party with bobbin’ apples, and cold cider, and doughnuts.

Them Pent-coastals burst though the door and grabbed mommy biting her in half and then stomping on the two halves, as they stomped and stomped on mommy halves they started fires all over mommy and daddy’s house.

Bo escaped them Pent-coastals and ran down the street to the Petersons and got the little ones, on the way back he found daddy standing over the Booddalooda as it were melting into the ground right there at the corner of Maple and Ransom where the bushes are all dead and nothing can grow, even today.

Bo and daddy come running in with all of the little ones behind them.

The Boodalooda’s uglier sister crawls outta the sewer by that kid-crossing sign on Ransom, which I admit was a tight squeeze, and begins eating and stomping Pent-coastals until a mushy, burnt-up vacant lot was all that was left of our house and home. When all them Pent-coastals were gone the sister Booddalooda turns to daddy and Bo and them little ones and says in a sqeally kinda cackle, “Who kilt my brother.”

Now daddy wanted to be honest cuz that’s the kind of daddy he was, least to us kids. But he knows what he says here is gonna mean the end of something if he’s not careful smart.

So he points at Bo and says clear, Bo here is the hero what kilt your brother. Bo looked at daddy and started to say something, but the sister Booddalooda ate him down in one gulp. Then she grinned at daddy, turned and ate each and every one of them little ones just to make a point. She slimed away leaving daddy standing there alone in the middle of a mushy, burnt-up empty lot.

The full, sister Booddalooda Bak, then wandered off into the dark looking for Pent-coastals, or Lute-runs, or them horrible smellin’ Pisticalls, or some other denominations to gobble up before she went back down under the Underside Sea.

Daddy went away then and when I come home from sitting babies two blocks over, the house was gone. The Booddalooda, and mommy, and daddy, and Bo, and all the little ones who I used to tell daddy’s stories to were gone. The only one left was me, Auntie Boo, and I was very lonely, and kinda mad at them all too.

I don’t know if that’s how daddy would have made the story come out, but he wasn’t here to finish the story. And mommy didn’t like stories. And my little brother, Bo, he got out of raisin’ all them little ones by getting killed in his Camero car. And the little ones moved far away from here, and they don’t ever, never call.

So I ended daddy’s thirty-third story the way I thought it should end, the way it kinda did end.

Remember, if you drop a piece of candy on the yard on Halloween night after nine o’clock, don’t reach out to pick it up, you might just loose your fingers. And, eventually, that Booddalooda takes everything to the bottom of that ugly old Underside sea.

Auntie Boo

About The Author:
Steve Beckwith established and has managed the UICA Writer's Workshop for the past eleven years. He has published books on a wide variety of subjects, including marketing, biography, and poetry (Epiphamatic Moments by Inland Seas Press)

Currently he writes short crime fiction for Thug Lit, and is working on two hardboiled historical thrillers: Smoke and Mirrors (set in 1919 New York), and, Alvarado Street (set in 1921 Hollywood).

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