Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
PART III (of VII)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
They both turned to see Tanya, embraced by behind by an intoxicated Max. “Do I still have to show Max my boobs?”
Angie cleared her throat. “Honey, I think that’s going to happen of its own accord.”
“What is she talking about?”
“Oh, um, we made a bet before we came here.” She sipped her drink.
“A bet? What was the bet?”
“She bet me you wouldn’t come, and I said you would. If she won, I would have to make out with Max, but if I won, she would have to flash Max.”
“You knew I would come.”
“Who are you?”
His curiosity was interrupted by Max’s shout. “Okay, everyone, the Phi Delt’s are hosting a haunted house in the McMurray cornfield. Tanya and I,” he slobbered a kiss on her neck, “are taking travelers and hitting the road. Who’s with us?”
Angie’s hand immediately went up. “We are!”
“Yeah, it’ll be fun. Chug your drink. We can grab another one for the road.”
Five minutes later, Jonathan helped Angie with her black velvet cape. They refilled their now empty Solo cups and followed a group of about ten people out the back door, down the porch steps, and onto dying grass, already wet with evening dew. While the other kids ran to stay at the front of the pack in the deep darkness of New York night, Angie and Jonathan stayed to the back, their arms barely touching as they walked down a sidewalk covered in autumn leaves.
“So tell me how it feels. To be free.”
He smiled up at rolling October clouds. “It feels pretty good.”
“You’ve never been out for Halloween, your whole life?”
“Can we just address an issue, really quick?”
“Ichabod Crane isn’t real. The character. Isn’t real. I thought Irving based him on some guy he met in the army.”
Jonathan nodded. “My great-great … great grandfather.”
“I’m serious. Irving was, um, when he was a kid, his parents sent him to Tarrytown to escape an outbreak of yellow fever in Manhattan. Tarrytown was … is … right next to a place called Sleepy Hollow. What the biographers don’t know is that Irving eventually came back to Tarrytown, which is when it happened.”
“When my great-great … great-grandfather ended up headless.”
Jonathan chuckled while drinking his Hairy Buffalo. “The townspeople knew the Hessian’s ghost did it, this soldier who was decapitated by a cannon ball during the American Revolutionary War. Apparently, the people of Sleepy Hollow said there was something personal between the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. That he didn’t like Ichabod for some reason in particular, and that our family was cursed. That if any of us showed our faces on Halloween night we would lose our heads, too.”
“Uh-huh. Right. Okay. I call bull shit.”
“Hey, call it what you want, but my family’s been adamant about the whole thing for almost two-hundred years.”
“None of you have ever gone out on Halloween before?”
“Nope. But enough about me. Tell me about you.”
She groaned and kept walking.
“I don’t know anything about you. Literally.”
“My name is Angie Duncan. I’m a theater major.”
“Where did you grow up?”
“Massachusetts.” She kicked a rock on the path. “A little Podunk town. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it …”
“Hey! Slow pokes! We’re here!”
At the sound of Max’s voice, Jonathan looked ahead of them where he saw their little crowd circled around the well-lit entrance to the McMurray Farm cornfield on the edge of campus. Two frat boys dressed as goblins guarded either side, and tiki torches cast an orange glow on the faces of their companions. As they neared, Jonathan noticed Max and Tanya were still attached at the hip, which was irreconcilable with basic reason.
“Live in fear, those who enter here!” shouted one of the goblins, while the other extended his black-gloved hand in welcome.
“Ooooo …” Angie grabbed onto Jonathan’s hand, and neither of them let go.
Into the corn maze they went. What was that saying? The corn was as high as an elephant’s eye? Jonathan could believe it. At six-three, he couldn’t see a dang thing beyond the path. But back to Angie …
“Can I ask you another question?”
“Yeah, as long as you protect me from monsters.”
“Why did you transfer to a new school your junior year?”
“Ah, that. Well, I decided to go to school close to home; I soon realized I was too close to home. Plus, there were complications.”
“Yeah, I got into some trouble.”
“Now, this is good conversation.”
She laughed just as a kid clad all in black jumped out of the cornstalks and screamed at them. Jonathan and Angie weren’t fazed.
“Seriously, what kind of trouble?”
“I … don’t always fit in very well.”
“What are you talking about? You’re the most popular girl on campus right now.”
“Okay, I misspoke. I don’t always fit in with other girls.” She looked at him and lifted her eyebrows.
“You stole someone else’s boyfriend didn’t you?”
She feigned insult. “My goodness, I would never do anything like that.” Pause. “Okay, so I stole some bitch’s boyfriend. And it got ugly. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so I left.”
“And that’s why you went after me.” He tried to cover his comment with his Solo cup.
“You don’t have a girlfriend.”
“No, I’ve never had a girlfriend. I was a challenge, so you went after me.”
She stopped walking again, and her hand escaped his grasp. “I didn’t go after you because you were a challenge.”
“Then why did you?”
“Because you’re hot.”
He laughed. When had he ever felt this good? In all his life, when had Jonathan Crane ever felt quite like this? Angie laughed, too, and she put her arm around his lower back as they walked together deeper into the darkened maze of corn-filled horrors.
Jonathan loved when she screamed and held onto him tighter. He loved the way her black hair smelled and the way her little hands squeezed his when she was afraid. In all honesty, he could have stayed in that cornfield with her forever, just to be strong for her, to protect her. The ride ended too soon, though, and they were coughed out onto the edges of Tarrytown Forest. A fog had settled, and without a moon, the colors were muted. Tree shadows mimicked wild beasts, and Jonathan could sense trepidation in all of them at going any further.
“Seriously?” Max turned around in circles. “They lead us into the damn forest? Great.”
“Guess his buzz wore off,” Angie whispered, which sent Jonathan into his own buzzed giggles. “Come on.” When no one was paying attention, she dropped her Solo cup and pulled him further beneath tree cover.
“Where are we going?”
Deeper they went into the darkness, with only her hand to guide him.
Once at a sufficient distance, she turned around and pressed her chest against him. “Kiss me.”
His Solo cup hit the underbrush as he leaned her against a tree and pressed his lips against hers. Surely his face would be covered in red lipstick, but it didn’t matter. As the warmth of their lips melded, he felt dizzy. From her or from the booze, Jonathan didn’t care. He was hungry for her touch, and he noticed her mouth tasted of cinnamon. Her body was soft and warm against his palms, and when he moved his lips to the top of her corset, she didn’t stop him. Instead, she moaned his name and held onto his head, urging him to delve deeper into her skin. Her fingers pulled on his hair until his lips were back within her reach, and they kissed and kissed—for how long, who knew? But when they finally stopped, they were alone, their group, gone.
They slumped down together against what would forever be “their” tree, and Angie dug in her small purse. She pulled out an unfamiliar pack of cigarettes. “Clove?” she said through gasps.
“Like the cooking spice?”
“No, it’s a kind of cigarette.”
“Sure.” He leaned his head against the tree, unable to catch his breath. “I love kissing you.”
She laughed and handed him a smoke.
She lit his before lighting her own, and Jonathan was surprised at the taste. “It’s like pumpkin pie.”
“Wait, aren’t these the things the president declared illegal?”
He watched her blow smoke into the night air. “Well, how do you have them?”
“I’m a hoarder. As soon as the legislation passed, I bought out all the stores.”
It was Jonathan’s turn to laugh. “You are like no one else I know.”
“I’ve heard that a lot.”
He stood up and brushed the leaves off the back of his jeans. “Come on.” He extended his hand down to her on the ground. “I want more Hairy Buffalo.”
“You lush.” She extended her hand to him, and it was amazing how light she felt as he lifted her to her feet. “What’s the fastest way back, you think?”
“I don’t know. This way.” He pointed.
“Sure. My captain, my captain.” She gave him a salute.
He took her hand in his as they continued to smoke their pumpkin-flavored cigarettes while walking through the forest toward what they imagined had to be street lights.
I can’t tell you who heard it first, the horse hooves, but it was Angie who stopped walking and pulled back on Jonathan’s hand. “Do you hear that?”
“No, really, do you hear that?”
“Do I hear … what?”
“Shut up and listen.”
Jonathan dropped her hand. “No.” The word was barely a whisper.
(Part IV comin’ at ya Wednesday! Until then, remember to vote tomorrow!)