|Cover art and illustrations by Joseph Mugnaini for Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree."|
With their mother acting as trail boss and the voice of reason, the sisters and the brother-friends eventually began to arrange themselves in the car for the ride to school. Mrs. Garrick would pick them up, assuming no incident occurred before the last bell rang. Sireena had already been told she could not go barefoot, regardless of how that compromised the authenticity of her costume. The sisters had each made a copy of the photo showing their vintage selves with dollies and wore it like a Comic-Con badge around her neck. They wanted everyone to know how exactly like the long-vanished girls they were. They hoped some of the less attentive students would believe they were their own ghosts.
Starting somewhere around dawn or perhaps earlier, Ellington and Henri had arrived, ready for their make-up. They'd made a pretty good start of it (had they slept at all?) but needed help reaching the backs of their necks and ears and the girls' unsurprisingly professional touches. The pomade used to slick the boys' dark hair even smelled vaguely of flowers. Ambulancia pulled a tin of it from their, as they called it, Trunk of Wonders where it may have rested since the 1930s. One could not be sure.
Once they finished sewing their costumes, the girls took the various pieces outside, rumbled them around in dirt and dust, then smacked them half-way clean again so they had a lived-in look. They powdered their skin and hair, shadowed their cheeks and eye sockets and did look convincingly spectral. The last thing they wanted was to be mistaken for zombies, a costume they felt was just too common for words, though they understood why so many chose it. Odd and screamy as they were, neither girl was unkind. They rehearsed together paying sincere compliments to fellow students. They were not snobs as some assumed, they were simply great fans of nuance, as were the brothers, not that many of their contemporaries would notice. Before piling in the car, they posed together and separately for photos to document this year's achievements. The boys looked happily peculiar with clip-on bow ties attached to horizontally striped tee shirts, worn with plaid shorts, the waists of which reached nearly to their armpits. None was trying for a Best Costume prize but instead savored the contentment which came from hard work and goals achieved.
As the car stopped at the curb, a minor hoard of zombies pretended to claw at the windows. "Menace 101," whispered Ambulancia. "Tell Allison her hair is fab," she reminded her sister. "Tell Jaleel his fingernails terrify you." With dramatic shudders at the horror they faced, the quartet squeezed from the car and the sisters began to shriek, another reason why Halloween was their favorite holiday.