Anna Doogan: Voodoo

“We didn’t go to that house,” I say, pointing. Large and dark, set back from the road. The lawn looks run down, overgrown. Most years it’s completely dark, but the porch light is on tonight. The universal sign for offerings of Halloween candy.

Kelly shakes her head, takes a step back. “I’m not going there. That lady is crazy.”

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Voodoo

New prose by Anna Doogan

Halloween in Pennsylvania is cold. Bone-chilling cold, winter’s coming soon cold. It sucks when you’re a kid, because you inevitably have to wear a turtleneck under your costume or a sweater over it, and it ruins your look. I whine to my mother that Tinkerbell never wore a turtleneck.  My brother complains that Yoda never wore a jacket, but she’s not buying it.

Kelly and I meet up at the bus stop. Her dad’s going to walk us around for trick or treating. My brother and his friends are older, and they go off on their own, armed with toilet paper and eggs. Our street is fittingly named Sleepy Hollow Drive. No one ever believes me now when I tell them I grew up on that street as a kid.

Kelly and I pass most of the kids from school when we walk. She’s Tina Turner tonight, wig made out of gold glitter, off the shoulder top. Her parents let her wear high heels. Her parents also didn’t make her wear a sweater. I’m pissed about it, and I adjust my wings over my bulky white turtleneck.

We know which houses give out the good candy bars, and which give lame stuff like pencils and stickers and floss. Kelly’s dad agrees to walk half a block behind us so that we can talk.

When we’ve almost circled the entire neighborhood, Kelly’s dad tells us to call it a night. Brown leaves crunching under our feet, cold breath in clouds near our faces. Maybe snowflakes tomorrow.

“We didn’t go to that house,” I say, pointing. Large and dark, set back from the road. The lawn looks run down, overgrown. Most years it’s completely dark, but the porch light is on tonight. The universal sign for offerings of Halloween candy.

Kelly shakes her head, takes a step back. “I’m not going there. That lady is crazy.”

“Your dad can come with us. Her light is on!” I’m not sacrificing any potential candy. My brother will make off with half of my bag anyway.

Kelly shakes her head again, more adamantly, gold tinsel whipping her face. “I heard she cut up her cat and buried it in the backyard. And she does weird voodoo spells and things. She’s a witch. That house is haunted.”

I think she’s being silly, and I grab her by the elbow.

“Come on. This will be the last house.”

She’s not coming. She wrenches her arm out of my fingers, stands near her dad, arms crossed firmly across her off-shoulder top. “No way. You can go if you want.”

I adjust my Tinkerbell wings, my turtleneck. “Fine.”

I make my way up the cold stone path, tangled branches, dead rosebushes poking thorns. It feels gloomy, creepy. I can’t chicken out. I get to the front step, ring the doorbell.

The woman who answers looks sane enough. Small and frail, wiry white hair and glasses. Hunched back, black sweater.

“Trick or treat!” I manage.

She smiles at me with watery eyes, shakes her head.

“I don’t have any candy. But let me get you something else.”

She lets the door swing shut, shuffles away. I turn to Kelly, waiting at the end of the path. She’s tapping her foot, her arms crossed, impatient. I shrug at her.

After a moment, the woman returns, a clump of knotty hair clutched in her fist. Upon closer inspection, I see that she’s shaped it like a doll.

“For you,” she says with a smile. She holds it out.

I’m half creeped out, half grossed out, but I hold out my bag. The woman drops it in. I think about it touching my candy.

“Take this, too,” she says then. “For your friend.”  She holds out a withered and wrinkly apple, nods her head in the direction of Kelly. I’m starting to feel scared, so I just continue holding my bag out, let her drop the apple in.

“Happy Halloween.” My voice trails off, and I watch her close the door before making my way back to Kelly and her dad.

“Gross!” Kelly shouts when I show her the apple and hair doll.

“Let me take those,” Kelly’s dad says, and I give them to him.  I watch his eyes examining them from behind his glasses.

“She’s just an eccentric old lady,” he explains. “She’s harmless.” He throws them into the next garbage can that we pass.

But I know differently. There’s something creepy about that old lady in the twisted house. Hair voodoo dolls and cat bones and withered apples.

When trick or treating is over, Kelly and her dad drop me off at home. My brother is already on the couch, chewing on candy bars, empty wrappers piled around him. His hoodie is off, last traces of face paint still visible around his hairline. I sit quietly next to him, still freaked out, wondering if the lady knows we’ve thrown the hair voodoo doll away.

“I’ll check your candy now,” my mom offers, coming into the room. I jump at the sound of her voice, then nod without a word.

I spread the candy out on the table, let my mom comb through it for razor blades.

 

Anna Doogan is a writer, dancer, and mama of three. A regular contributor to Hip Mama, she lives in the rainy but lovely Pacific Northwest.

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