The House at the End of the Street
Thomas Cooper

Halloween night, the comedian came home from work to discover his wife gone, as in gone for good, and a note written on a piece of watermarked Italian stationery taped to the bathroom vanity mirror that said, "Whatever you think in terms of who, what, when, why, and how, you're probably right."

For months he'd braced himself for this inevitability, so he was surprised that he was surprised. He drank good single-malt whiskey throughout the evening as a procession of kids knocked on the door: a boy with a rubber arrow through his head, a girl with a dress like Dorothy's from Wizard of Oz, twins costumed as Hall and Oates. There was no candy in the house so he scavenged the kitchen. Out went a can of Hormel chili, a bottle of ketchup, a bag of frozen giblets. "Well, it's something," he'd say, sometimes laughing crazily, wondering if they smelled the booze on his breath, wondering if he might have been losing his mind like his wife said.

The trick-or-treaters pelted the house with eggs, tomatoes, shitbombs. They garlanded the branches of the front yard sycamore with toilet paper. They chanted motherfucker-this and cocksucker-that from the street. Finally, at half past eight, the comedian flung open the door and called a truce.

Out went the Tibetan crucifix he and his wife bought on their honeymoon, the Zodiac desk globe she gave him for their first anniversary, the granite Egyptian Ramses he gave her for her fortieth birthday. It felt like a great unburdening. "Everything must go," he explained. "Halloween sale. One hundred percent off."

The kids kept coming, dressed like zombies and witches and vampires. Even some adults, bold and shameless, disguised under blankets with holes cut out for their eyes. Out went the carved wood fireplace bellows, the scrimshaw swordfish bill, the ivory mah-jongg box.

Years later, after the divorce, after the comedian moved away to Texas and fired a bullet through his brain, they still kept coming on Halloween nights to the house at the end of the street, drawn there by some vague memory of feast and ruin, like ghosts haunting their domain.

Thomas Cooper is a PhD candidate in the creative writing program at Florida State and has fiction forthcoming in Lake Effect, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bayou, Underground Voices, and Opium, among other places. His work has been nominated for a 2008 Pushcart Prize.

To link to this story directly:

Photo on page main page courtesy of John Cohen.

w i g · l e a F               08-17-08                                [home]