The Spirit of Halloween: Post-Nuclear Family Edition
Meagan Cass

She wears her martini-patterned Goodwill dress, costume pearls, a wig with a mutant infant sprouting from the top. He Spirit-gums plastic wounds up and down his arms, affixes a mask of melted features. They swath their bodies in caution tape, sip gin and tonics, listen to Sinatra. They are zombie Cleavers, Barbie and Ken Easy-bake ovened, newly engaged, ready to party.

"It's a Joy Division kind of night," he says in the car, popping in the CD.

"Why don't you ask me what I'd like, for a change?" she snaps, surprising herself.

She is not becoming her mother, nodding to her father's Zeppelin and Dylan, her afternoons bent over a vacuum. Soon she will exhume her guitar from the closet, write new lyrics on her silver laptop, scrawl back to Bikini Kill roots. And he's not his father lecturing her on Pynchon, moving them for another academic job, interrupting her stories to tell them himself or to rant about the climate change deniers, how you can't argue with people who won't believe the evidence.

She works part-time for a progressive organization. Their rooms are Archie McPhee, their nights early Death Cab, early del-Toro. Their house is wood-floored with secret passage ways, would not morph into something stock and safe, something from childhood while they sit on their patio eating octopus or pork belly, waving off flies.

At the party their friends admire their costumes, reach up and touch their snarling, big-toothed child. Later he will dream they have a real baby, that he abandons it in a shopping mall, is filled with relief. And she will dream the mutant has gnawed its way back into her body, a deformed Athena, armed and pounding at her skull when she wakes.

Meagan Cass is the author of RANGE OF MOTION, a collection of stories. She teaches at the University of Illinois Springfield.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Gioia De Antoniis.

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