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She had the whole afternoon. It would go achingly slow until they could go trick or treating after supper. The whole affair reminded her of the countdown to Christmas every year, a similar agonizing feat.
Feeling the wind gust, Patricia slipped her hood on.
When she turned the corner at the street where her gram lived, she saw her family car parked outside. She saw several aunties’ cars too.
What are they doing? Why are they all at Gram’s house?
A chill passed down her spine. She huddled under her coat. The day was changing, the sun was dimming, the wind began to rise. Her world was morphing into something but she knew not what.
Patricia walked to the crumbling old house and stood outside. She could hear her father’s raised voice. Suddenly they all began filing out of Gram’s little gray house. Gram was being led out by Patricia’s own mom, who had Gram by one arm and by Aunt Rose who had her by the other arm.
Gram appeared slightly alarmed. Her milky eyes darted all about. She was wearing that same light blue scarf around her head that she always wore and that old lumpy overcoat she refused to get rid of. She shuffled along in her black galoshes. Yet it seemed to Patricia that the old woman was lightly resisting, being pulled against her will.
The shrillest of all the aunts, Flo, was loudly insisting, “We’re just going to go for a little drive. That’s all. We’re just going to take you out for a ride, a visit.”
Patricia’s father spilled out of the house. She saw him lock the door. He dropped the cigarette he had been smoking to the ground and carefully crushed it with his foot. When they made eye contact, he said, “Run along home now. We’ll be back shortly.”
“Where are you taking Gram? Tonight’s Hallowe’en. She has to be home to hand out her stuff.”
He pointed in the direction of their house. It was his silent invocation to tell her to get home immediately.
They all drove off in their respective vehicles. Patricia ran behind them. But not for long as by the time she reached the corner, the procession was leaving the outskirts of town.
Where are they going? What’s happening?
Patricia felt worry, it hit her like a sudden hard slap. Everyone knew that Gram left her house rarely, only to go downtown to the post office or perhaps to the All Purpose store for a few groceries. In summer, she took up residence in her flower garden while in winter she sought the comfort of her TV. Every Sunday she went to church without fail, even in the most inclement weather. It was a quiet, almost cloistered life. But it was hers. Gram’s.
Does she need to go somewhere? Are they taking her to an appointment? The Doctor?
But Patricia doubted it. She recalled the snippets of conversation she had heard that morning and over the course of the last few weeks.
They tricked Gram! They tricked her into leaving and now they are going to put her somewhere! She had heard the talk, all the behind the scenes chicanery, the germ of deceit that had finally come to fruition.
She paused and one solitary cry came out. The wind was now nearly as loud as her voice, though.
Running to where the snowball fight had been, she found it abandoned. She reckoned that everyone had gone home for lunch. Finding a pile of ready-made snowballs by one of the walls, she scooped them up. She walked briskly home two blocks away, cradling the pile in her arms. It gave her satisfaction to know she had ripped off the boys. Hah!
She was going to let her nasty fairy come out to play, the other side of Tinkerbell, the imp. Don’t care if I get caught. Don’t care if anyone sees me.
Spying a street sign, Patricia promptly unloaded a volley of snowballs at it. It was the sign for Dante Street. When she reached 7th Street, she pelted their sign too. Hah!
Reaching home, she saw the driveway was empty. They’re not here yet. Their tiny yellow house with paint peeling in the corner sat desolate. Patricia threw a snowball at it. When it touched down on the eavestrough, rattling it, Patricia smiled.
Saving these last two snowballs, one for Auntie Rose and one for Auntie Flo. I’ll let them have it too!
Like a thief in the night, she slipped through a nearby alleyway. She felt as cool and mature as the teenagers who threw eggs or snowballs every Hallowe’en. It pleased her to know that she emulated them. Sometimes they even let younger kids accompany them on their prowls.
She scooted along with a snowball in each hand, pausing only to catch a snowflake on her tongue and feel it dissolve.