I dreaded passing anywhere near it. But of course, I must, because it stood between me and my one-room school. It was The Tree That Would Never Die. The dreaded tree was a lone charred guard, a recalcitrant survivor of lightning that stood silent in the center of a field.
My dad tried to burn the deadened tree down – twice. Planting and harvesting hay would have been easier. But The Tree seemed to feed on the fire. And come summer when the field surrounded it with purple alfalfa blossoms, The Tree always shot up sparse green starts.
Other than that, this school thing was panning out. The day before Halloween, I wore a black dress with little witches and ghosts on it to school, one my Aunt Mary had sewn. And on Halloween everyone would dress up in costumes created with clothes on hand and creativity, for we had never heard of ready-made ones.
But first I had to take my little sister down to The Tree That Wouldn’t Die and collect some fungus that grew freely on limbs it cast off. My sister was visiting school with me for Halloween, and we were going to do a special crafts project that involved fungus.
I dreaded going down to The Tree, especially because the day was already fading by the time I got home from school. And twilight had hit by the time we finished and were back at the house. Unfortunately I left my mother’s kitchen scissors at the tree. She made us go back, for surely the melting morning frost would do them no good.
We raced across the field before night claimed us. And just as my hand reached for the scissors, an eerie sound froze us in place. I was so terrified, I couldn’t move – for the first and only time in my life. Paused in place, we were easy prey for The Tree. Suddenly adrenaline kicked in. I grabbed the scissors with one hand and my little sister with the other and we flew home.
The next day in full costume, we bobbed for apples and drank homemade cider. And during crafts, my little sister managed to spill a can of varnish in her hair. I have no idea how we ever got it out.
Halloween night came, and we piled into a hay-filled wagon. It was the night where monsters hid in the shadows and zombies stirred in mausoleums. At each farmhouse we all shouted, “Trick or treat!” And smiling neighbors filled our paper bags with popcorn balls, made-from-scratch cookies and more apples.
It was so cold I could see my breath, but we were bundled warm. And as we headed back to the school, as few magical snowflakes floated down upon our cherry-red cheeks.
These days, I do the haunting. I haunt a store that has returned from the dead this past August. I Love A Mystery, a niche bookstore with blood dripping down its awnings, was starving to death financially. The big box stores have sucked the life out of independently owned stores of all sorts. And E-books have done their damage.
We patrons of I Love A Mystery were grieving her passing after over 11 years of life, cringing as she sold off pieces of herself at fire sale prices. A bookshelf here. An antiquated game of “Clue” there.
Then at the last minute, like The Tree That Wouldn’t Die, the store resuscitated herself with a new business strategy and the support of many dedicated patrons. Just in time for Halloween.
Copyright 2015 by Gloria Christie. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission.