Picking the Perfect Mask

It was 1973.

Back then, Halloween costumes came in cardboard boxes with clear plastic windows where you could see what the mask and the matching “tie-on” costume itself looked like. The problem was, that if you got to the store too late in the season you had to settle for a generic bat-type superhero (NOT the same) or some other unknown character that wasn’t going to be such a big hit. See: “Clown, Circus:”

In any event, Mark was excited because Dad had decided to just get things out of the way on the very first day the costumes hit the shelves and go to the store that night after work and get one! Mark spent that entire Autumn day watching the clock on the wall in his 5th grade class and basically ignoring everything else, just dreaming of getting home and going to get that perfect costume. It would be the very first time he had ever been able to do that! Forget about reading, or long division, or how to identify the parts of the atom…although that was kinda cool; He wanted to get to TG&Y and get at those costume boxes!

It was 3:30pm and the bell finally rang. Like racehorses, the kids bolted out of their seats and out into the Fall afternoon like leaves from a pile just jumped upon. It was also a Friday, which means in terms of school, that the teachers also bolted out the doors in the same fashion.

Mark ran without stopping down the street and across the main road and down to his home where he knew his room would have something great for him to snack on before he went to his room and pretended to work on his homework. Instead, Mark spent most of his time reading his comics and drawing his favorite superheroes. Homework could wait. As it did most of the time and his grades showed it.

He watched his desk clock slowly turn. He read his comics and worked on his drawings and even decided to take a couple of peeks about that atomic structural thing (because it was interesting when it came down to it); anything to do until 5:30 when Dad would drive up.

Finally, the clock said 5:30 and, like a well-oiled machine, Dad’s green pickup truck pulled into the driveway and that meant two things: dinner and costume! Mark ran from his room to give his Dad a hug and begin the inevitable badgering about when they were going to go to the store. “Ok, Mark, ” Dad said, lighting his pipe; “We will go after dinner–just let me sit down ok?”. Mark agreed without arguing. He didn’t want to push this one.

It usually took 30 minutes to get dinner on the table because his mom ran like clockwork as well. Sure enough, at 6:00pm straight up and down. there was “Mystery Meat” croquettes with cream-style corn (yuck) and green beans on the table. Mark didn’t care. He eagerly ate everything on his plate and then asked to be excused, took his plate to be washed and then ran to wait. He forgot to wash his hands and was readily reminded of that but still, he did pretty well for the typical over-excited 9-year old child.

This was the time he dreaded. He called it the “slow time” and it meant Mom and Dad talked to each other a lot and they put things away and then they cleaned up this and cleaned up that and it took about an hour. However, tonight, to his utter shock and amazement, Dad said “Mark?, Let’s get on to TG&Y and get that costume….Mom says she’ll stay here and mess around in the kitchen.”. This was crazy. Dad and Mom never acted that way; but he wasn’t arguing.

He got into the green truck with Dad and they back out and drove, not unlike molasses, very slowly to the store. Dad was never the one to waste gas by going too fast or “driving like a crazy person; which he said loudly, and a lot, when he usually drove anywhere. It took them forever it seemed to get to TG&Y.

Now, TG&Y was what was called a 5 and 10 cent store. Most everything there cost 5 to 10 cents or sometimes as much as a dollar but no more than that. Paying a dollar was for people who had “money to burn” as Dad had said many times so Mark knew he would be going for the regular costume assortment. Again, though, to Mark’s surprise, Dad said “Mark, go ahead and look at those dollar costumes why don’t ya?”. Mark was under the sudden impression that someone else was impersonating his Dad…but he looked the same.

Mark dove right into the dollar costume section. He wanted the really cool Spaceman outfit and, after several minutes of looking through, and discarding many other outfits he thought would be good second choices. After looking and discarding for many minutes, he found it! It had a helmet with a human spaceman’s face and a bright silver tie-on Spaceman outfit with knobs and buttons painted on it and everything! It was going to be his too because the “Only $1.00” sticker was firmly stuck on it!

It was then he saw his friend Russ. Russ looked dejected because, even though he also was there on Day 1 of Halloween costume day at TG&Y, he could only get the regular costume and not the “Only 1.00” costume this year It hadn’t been good for Russ’ family since daylight savings time had cut into his Dad’s night job. Russ had to chose the “Human Army Man” outfit. This was OK though because it meant they could still go Trick or Treating as a team. of sorts. Lots of Spacemen and Army men were busy on Earth these days.

It had been a good year for Mark’s Dad being a zombie. Zombies didn’t have to wait for sundown to come out and there had been a lot of really fat people with good brains to eat that had been available for them to feast on since the Apocalypse had happened early; but Russ’ Dad was a vampire and he had to wait until sundown and then could go to work.

It had been hard for them to make ends meet and eat properly, but he still got his human costume and didn’t have to settle for an imaginary creature like a Prince or a Magician. Human costumes were all the rage too since so many of them were being replaced by zombies and vampires.

He wondered what kind of costumes would be around the next year for Halloween at this rate–“Oh well”, he thought, “There will always be clowns. Even we’re scared of them.”

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