Maynard sat on the sofa, curled up against the backrest with his face half buried in the cushions. He didn't say much.
Nikki stared at him. She wondered why she hadn't noticed before that Maynard sort of looked like a turtle. She kept thinking that his nose looked funny tonight and his feet seemed bigger than before. His shoes were hip-hop raver, kind of funny looking, but it didn't matter. She wanted to touch him, just to see if his skin felt cold or warm. She lit two cigarettes and gave one to Maynard. It hung on his lower lip as if he were a musician playing the blues.
"I like your shoes," Nikki said.
"Thanks. My mom bought 'em for me."
Nikki had been chasing after this boy forever, and now that she had caught him, she didn't quite know what to do with him. She blew three perfect rings of smoke. "You wanna have sex?" she said.
Maynard shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know if it'd be right -- given the circumstances and all." Maynard's girlfriend had died in a car wreck the month before.
Nikki said, "I remember when my friend Paul died. I mean, I didn't know him that well. He was kind of nice to me in high school and all. I hadn't talked to him in years. Nobody told me he died 'til the next spring, and it made me think. It's kind of creepy, ya know?" Maynard looked like a lost little boy, wet eyed and distant, and she thought maybe she'd said the wrong thing. "I guess it's not the same."
"It's okay. She was cruel to me anyway," he said.
For the briefest of moments, disillusionment gave way to unobstructed truth, and Nikki remembered that Maynard wasn't Maynard at all. The real Maynard lay naked inside a shallow grave within her earthen cellar, with her studded leather belt wrapped tightly around his neck. She had stuffed the clothes he had died in with hay, and then sprayed them with CK-1, his brand of cologne. She had given him a jack-o-lantern for a head. She had scalped him and hot glued his hair to the top of the pumpkin. She had spooned out his eyeballs, stuck them on toothpicks, and then inserted them into the jack-o-lantern’s triangle eye sockets.
"No. I'm the cruel one," Nikki said. "I don't know what happened. I just kept thinking about how beautiful you are and how good you would look with blue skin and lips, and, and things just got crazy. Look, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I love you, Punkin'," she said and kissed Maynard on the cheek.
Nikki looked at her watch. "Oh goodness! We are going to be late. I've still gotta put my costume on!"
* * *
The intoxication of the Halloween crowd spilled out the club walls in whoops and hollers by the time Nikki and Maynard arrived. A local band massacred the Electric Hellfire Club's 'Mr. 44' on a small stage. Nikki dragged Maynard through a host of costumed fools stumbling and fondling one another to a sofa in a dark corner.
A young black man, dressed like a French whore complete with wig and make-up, plopped down on the sofa next to Nikki. In a bad French accent, he said, "Oh! Hello, hello! Let me introduce myself," he said. "I am Claire Nin de la Soufflé. I'm not a drag queen, but I am bisexual. I mean, I could be a girl, but it's just not in my plan for life. Oh, I'm losing my accent 'cause I'm really drunk. What are you supposed to be?"
"I’m myself," Nikki said.
"Oh. Are you one of those little gothies? I have a friend who's into that. Maybe you know him. His name is Maynard.
"Of course I know him. He's my date," she snuggled into the scarecrow beside her.
"Maynard? I know Maynard well. He is my best friend. Hello, Maynard. I like your costume. It's good. I didn't even recognize you."
Maynard's pumpkin head wobbled a little.
"He's really drunk," Nikki said.
“Let me tell you, I was into that goth thing for a while," Claire said. "I used to wear all the black and talk about death, but it just wasn't in my heart, so I couldn't do it. And you know, I think to be truly gothic you just sit in a dark room all day and listen to The Cure and cry. It doesn't have nothing to do with fashion at all or nothing else. Oh! And Maynard here, let me tell you, that boy's gonna just grow out of it. You see, I think the only reason you're goth is if you have bad sex 'cause when I was goth, all I had was bad sex and I mean, I thought it was good at the time and all, but let me tell you it wasn't. As soon as Maynard gets good sex he's not gonna be gothic no more either."
Nikki stood up. "On that note, I think I need a drink," she said. She cocked her finger like a gun. She pretended to shoot Claire and then winked at him and walked away.
When she returned with a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons, Claire had left. A girl dressed like Raggedy Ann had sat down next to Maynard. Her hand rested on his crotch. Nikki flushed with jealousy. "Bitch! You better back up off my man!" she said.
"Whatever. I've had him. He ain't all that." The girl got up and walked away.
Nikki plopped down on the sofa. "She must have been some of that bad sex Claire was talking about," she said. She leaned over and kissed Maynard, running her tongue inside his pumpkin mouth, tasting the drying pumpkin guts. The pumpkin proved to be a better kisser than Maynard's corpse had been. She snuggled against his musty form.
A can of Raid approached the lovebirds. "Hey Maynard, nice costume," a familiar voice said. He toked a joint, and blew the smoke out like a fume of bug spray. "You want a hit?" he said and put the joint up to Maynard's pumpkin mouth.
The jack-o-lantern rolled off and landed face up in the scarecrow's lap. Nikki's mouth gaped. "Oh my God!" she screamed. She grabbed Maynard's head and recapitated him.
"Maynard, dude man that was cool. How'd you do that? Do it again!" the can of Raid said, putting the joint against Maynard's jagged smile. His head rolled off again.
Nikki smiled. "Isn't he so cool," she said, retrieving the head. "Can I hit that joint?"
"Oh yeah, yeah," the Raid said, passing her the weed.
She vigorously toked and then held her breath until her face turned red, and she had to exhale. Then she took another and gave Maynard a shotgun. The smoke rolled out of his holes, swirling about the gouged out eyes.
"You guys wanna shoot a game of pool?" the Raid said.
"Sure. Help me get Maynard over to the tables. He's too wasted to walk."
Moments later, Nikki leaned across the pool table, her black hair hued amber from the Miller light dangling from a chain above the table.
Maynard didn't play, but instead just sat there in the corner watching Nikki like a classic man watches Marilyn at a late night film festival.
"Did you have any trick-or-treaters this year?" the can of Raid asked as he scratched the ball.
"No," Nikki said, sinking the last of her stripes. "All my neighbors think I'm weird."
"We just had one kid. My mate and I had rigged up a walkie-talkie inside a jack-o-lantern and left a bowl out there, you know. We figured we'd peek out the curtains and watch and when the kids came to the door we'd say 'one piece each,'" the can of Raid spoke in a guttural voice. "So we smoke some dro, and you know, we were feeling good when the first kid arrived. And it was the retard from across the street, so we thought, this shit is gonna be hysterical. The 'tard, man, he freaked out, and he grabbed the jack-o-lantern and put it up over his head and smashed it on the porch. He grabbed the whole fuckin' bowl of candy and ran off down the street."
"Side pocket," she said, pointing at the hole on her left. She pulled back and then thrust the stick forwards with a smooth stroke, running the eight ball to its predicated destination. She turned around and realized she had run the cue into Maynard's nose and decapitated him again.
"Oops!" she said, and collected the head, again. "I think Maynard's getting tired. Perhaps we should go."
"Here's your twenty dollars," the Raid said.
Nikki shoved the money in her pocket, scooped up her scarecrow lover, and dragged him out the door. As she crossed the parking lot, she lost her grip and dropped him. She heard the screeching of tires. "Nooooooooo!" she screamed as, with a KATHUMP, a tire rolled over Maynard's head, disintegrating it into a pile of orange mush.
Cigarette in hand, Claire got out of the car. "Oh no, oh no!" He fell to his knees, cradling Maynard's body. "I shouldn't have been driving drunk! I've killed my best friend." Just then, the cherry fell off the cigarette and into the hay stuffed clothing, and Maynard's body burst into flames.
Nikki laid her hand on Claire’s shoulder. "It's okay, Claire. I won't tell," she said.
"My name is Larry. Claire was a joke."
"Larry, why don't you come with me back to my place? I'll make you forget all about poor Maynard."
"Yeah, okay. I need to get out of here before the cops come. Maybe I'll lay low at your place for a while."
The light glinted off Larry's face in a curious manner. "You know," Nikki said, "the shape of your head kind of reminds me of a zucchini."