At this time of year, we are awash in all things ghostly and ghastly. Halloween reminds us to have fun, play pretend, grasp someone’s hand when we’re feeling scared, but November 1 is All Souls Day, a time of remembrance and sadness for many. The fall, with its darkening skies and cooling temperature, is when we get in touch with the horrors of life, both real and imagined. This time of year offers two sides of the human coin for us to ponder and write about.
To help you get in the Halloween spirit, we’ve dug up a few pieces from the Literary Mama archives for you to read and enjoy.
Ghosts at the Costco, Creative Nonfiction May 2016, Sharon Foreman
I fight off sudden chills. I’m a practical woman and a rabbi. I’ve always preached that there’s enough mystery in the here and now not to waste much effort worrying about what comes after this life. Yet now, in the silence of my home, I wonder if I, too, have begun to detect the echoes of distant heartbeats. I wonder if I believe in ghosts.
Until today, I’d never been able to explain the inchoate dread that overtakes me whenever I approach the local Costco near my house. The store itself is innocuous enough, a generic giant box with gray cement walls and a sizable parking lot. But the moment I pull in, before I even get out of my car, a magnetic tug propels me to flee, as if a silent force is pushing me away. It’s a sensation I experienced once at my daughter’s first playgroup, when, in the middle of the circle of children and caregivers, one of the toddlers suddenly vomited. I wanted to run as far away as possible, put a barrier between his germs, the foul odor, and my own child’s immune system. In the Costco parking lot, I’m gripped by that same compulsion to flee.
All Souls, Poetry April 2011, Carol Church
But why is Halloween over,
the toddler asks from his stroller, bemoaning
the loss of the hairy black spider at daycare, the absence
of tiny bright pumpkins bedecking the trees.
Because it is, you tell him. Because things end.
Oh, he says, in the way that he has, and settles back into his pushchair
awaiting his passage home.
Tsantsa, Fiction November 2010, Kathleen R. Sands
It wasn’t called sexual grooming back then. And the shrunken head — the tsantsa — wasn’t the usual expensive designer jacket or Hammacher Schlemmer übertoy.
Janey sat sideways across the upholstered wing chair, bare legs dangling over the arm, looking at photos of naked Amazon Basin people in National Geographic. She raised her eyebrows at her mother. “No way! Where did you get that?”
Denise handed her the wooden pedestal with the shrunken head on it. “Hey, aren’t ten-year-old girls supposed to be reading Nancy Drew or something?” She laughed to show her approval that Janey was not reading Nancy Drew. “A private collector sent me some photos a couple of months ago and asked if I wanted to buy it. He’d gotten it illegally, of course, and couldn’t sell it on the open market, so I said sure. Just a tiny lapse in my professional ethics.” She smiled and winked at her daughter.
Where the Wicked Witch Lives, Poetry March 2019, Susan Landgraf
Having been raised on Grimm
we mothers set rules: Don’t take apples
cakes or candies from strangers. Don’t fall
for promises. We call our children in
But the children want to dig up the trick
of being simultaneously brave
as oaks and rhododendrons quick-
change into robbers and bears.
Masks, Fiction February 2019, Arlaina Tibensky
This was her husband’s idea. “Go,” he said, “Text me, I’ll come get you.” He’s half right anyway, parking in this town is a nightmare. The concert is a “Halloween Week” school event. Halloween has twelve days now, like Christmas. It’s a Season. On the town’s Facebook page, a neighbor Renee had never met posted a photo of a decapitated deer. He’d passed it on his way to work, lying on its side on the corner lawn of a million-dollar house near the elementary school with the extraordinarily active PTA. Its head was missing, just a hamburgery stump. Is this legal? he had typed. Is there a number to call so someone can do something?