Seeing Her Safely Home

I was in the shadows hunkered in the goat suit Mom made me for Halloween. I felt like a spy or a Army scout. I didn’t move. Bo Peep came along the street, then went out of sight past the Woolworth parking lot. I waited quite a while, until I couldn’t hear her sheep-hook staff thumping. Then, I sneaked to the corner of the building. I looked around, but kept in the shadow.

I didn’t see her, but there was one car in the parking lot, and the moon shined on the windshield. Leaves and junk rustled and rattled on the road and on the parking lot gravel. The Last Lost Dollar juke box noise and tire whir on Main came up the alley behind me. A owl whooed from the trees along the road to her apartment, and I slid back against the wall. Owls are creepy, with those huge eyes and that head turning all the way around. It is kind of cool, but you always get the feeling they are watching you like you are a mouse or a rabbit. Mom said when you hear an owl on a clear night, things are going to get cloudy pretty quick.

I sneaked toward the car, so it hid me from most of the road where she had gone. When I got close, I could hear snoring. The window was down a little bit, and I could hear somebody gargling in their sleep. The car was pretty old and had a Idaho license on it. My feet crunched on gravel, so I stepped really quiet as I could. I hunched beside the car. I lifted myself up slow to look in the window. I probably should not have done that, but sometimes you just have to know more about what is going on. I felt like a sneak looking in the windshield like that.

There was a guy asleep on the seat. He was curled up on his side with his mouth half open, snoggling snores. The moon was on his face, but I didn’t know who he was.

Then suddenly his head jerked and his eye was open and looked right at me. Except for jerking his head and opening his eye, he didn’t move. He stopped snoring, and you could hear quick jerky little breaths. The eye got wider and blinked. He had seen the goat mask. I ducked down.

I didn’t know what to do then. If I ran he’d see me, and if I didn’t he would, too. Shouldn’t have looked in the window, idiot, I thought. What I did was I bent low, leaning close to the ground, and started to run, sometimes shoving the ground with my hands to keep from falling. I went for the end of the fence between the alley between the parking lot and Dotty and Jim Granier’s house. It was the shortcut we took from school to get to Warner’s Drug on Main. In the alley I’d be in shadows of trees again.

“Jesus,” I heard the guy say. “JesUS.” Then I heard the car engine start to crank. It fired and gears ground and then it spit gravel and took off. I stopped and turned to see. It went straight across the lot. He didn’t even look for the driveway out. That car hit the curb still gaining speed, and jumped, its wheels spinning. When it came down it slid and weaved on the pavement, and turned toward Main still gaining speed, him grinding gears as he shifted. I heard tires squealing at the corner of main and Third. Then the clutching up of the gears. Then I heard a siren; Ole Mosey Mel had seen him.

I started laughing. The goat snout mask made it too loud, so I hushed. I slipped into the alley and sat down. I bet he thought he saw old Scratch, himself, I thought. Then I thought, maybe he did. That made me giggle.

I wanted to tell Chub about it, how that car just bounced across that cement curb and tires squealed like pigs up the street. But if I told him, of course, I’d have to tell about the goat looking in the guy’s windshield. I don’t know why I didn’t want to tell Chub about it. I think I didn’t want him to be in on it. If he knew about it, it wouldn’t be me any more. It would just be a costume Mom made. I tried to figure how I could. But it all amounted to talking about the goat. And if I started talking about scaring a guy sleeping in a old Ford in the Dime Store parking lot, I’d just keep on going about other things the goat seen. I guess, I just wanted all that for me.

I turned up the alley to the street she had been walking home on.


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