Liberty had never cared for Halloween. The night gave the false hope that when one was summoned to the door by a stranger’s knock, one’s most horrible fears could be realized by the appearance of ghosts, bats, ambulatory corpses, and the headless hounds of hell.
On a small key off the coast of Florida, Liberty guided three children, Teddy, Lindy, and Yvonne, through the streets to a small darkened shopping center where Nicky, the fourth member of their party, lived with his parents in the back of the Oh pottery shop. Clem, Liberty’s large white dog, followed in his black eye-mask. Teddy was a doctor, Lindy was a rose in a red tutu and long green stockings. Yvonne was a duck.
They passed a shop which sold sportswear. A sign in the shop window said, Yes! We have mastectomy bathing suits! Liberty tapped on the door of the pottery shop. Behind the shop was a kiln and a teepee. Roger and Rosie, Nicky’s parents, hadn’t been able to fire anything in the kiln for a month, ever since a pair of cockatoos had chosen to nest there. Liberty pushed the door open and saw Rosie squatting on the floor on her heels. Rosie’s eyes were bulging, her tongue hung out and the tendons of her neck were prominent. When she saw the children, she relaxed her face, unwound herself erect and came bounding toward them. She reminded Liberty of a particularly mindless Irish setter.
“Oh,” she said. “I feel wonderful! Vivid! But I feel relaxed too.”
“What’s that?” Lindy asked. She touched a pin on Rosie’s blouse. There was a man’s picture on the pin.
“Oh,” Rosie said, “that’s the Dalai Lama. I met the Dalai Lama. He wore horn-rimmed glasses and a little button on his suit just like this one that showed a picture of himself, the Dalai Lama. When I met him I felt his spirit piercing me like little arrows. I felt a great yearning for nonexistence. It was great!” Rosie ran her hand through the ringlets of her rusty red hair. She smiled at the children. “I used to take drugs but then I met the Dalai Lama and he made me clean. It was great to be clean, let me tell you. Then I met Roger-Dad and that was great too. I mean, I’m very accepting now.”
“Is Nicky ready?” Liberty asked. The room was filled with pots and bowls and cups and vases. There was a stove in the corner with a box of Corn Flakes on it.
“Oh,” Rosie said, “yes. He’s all set. He has the greatest costume but he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want to come out of the teepee. Why don’t you kids go and get him out of the teepee?
The children ran outside, calling.
Rosie beamed at Liberty. “You’re a Christian, right? I bet, I mean, I can imagine it.”
“I believe in guilt and longing,” Liberty admitted. “Confession and continual defeat. The circle and the spiral.” The words filled up the room pleasantly, like boulders.
“Jesus could never have saved me from drugs. Jesus is dead.” Rosie reflected sadly on this for a moment.
The children returned with Nicky. The little boy was dressed half as a man and half as a woman. Half a tie was sewn to half a frilly blouse, half a skirt to a single trouser leg. On one side of his face was glued a beard and a thick eyebrow. There was lipstick on one side of his mouth and a rhinestone earring dangling from his ear.
“What is he?” Yvonne demanded of Rosie.
“He is,” Rosie said proudly, “a representation in human form of the principle of wholeness.”
The children gaped. Lindy blew a large blue bubble and gathered it back in her mouth.
“Isn’t he a sweetie!” Rosie said, hugging Nicky. “Nicky-boy and Roger-dad are both such sweet little people!” She put a highly speckled banana in each child’s bag. “Have a ball!” she said to the children. The children looked at the first thing in the bottom of their bags. Before, their bags had been perfect. Now each bag had a banana in it.
The little group left the darkness of the old shopping center and entered a neighborhood Liberty knew well. There was a single star in the vast Gulf sky. Lindy held Liberty’s left hand, Nicky her right. There was a long purple bruise on Lindy’s arm. Lindy hurt herself often but seldom felt pain or showed any sign of alarm. Once, climbing on the kitchen cabinet to get a jar of peanut butter from the cupboard above, she fell straddle-legged on the open cupboard door below. Her vagina bled. The bottom of her Wonder-Woman bathing suit turned red. Liberty drove her to the clinic where it was necessary that she spend the night. Lindy never cried.
Nicky’s hand, the hand which held Liberty’s, was sheathed in a lady’s calfskin glove. Somewhere, out on the Gulf, rich people were eating unborn calf on a yacht. Roses grew in urns. Brass fittings gleamed.
Last Halloween, on the mainland, a motorist had discovered a decapitated, skinned, and limbless body lying in the parking lot of a Land-O-Sleep store. It was disgusting. The reporter from the newspaper had thrown up. First reports had been that it was a cult murder. Second reports had been that it was the result of a lovers’ quarrel. Third reports were that it was a side of beef that had fallen out of the unlocked door of a meat truck. The story faded away. People went back to their usual concerns of keeping their staghorns moist and their portfolios diversified.
“My parents went to a party last night,” Nicky said, “and they told me that there was a coffin in the house and it was filled with Big Macs.”