Halloween at the Steins
Things were abuzz in the Franklin Stein household on Halloween. Franklin’s wife, Mary Shelly, was hosting a party.
Shelly usually did all the work for the soiree herself, but this year she asked her friend Elvira to help. The girlfriends agreed: a sit down dinner was out; a buffet was in, so guests could mingle. No elaborate seating charts and worrying about who wanted to drink the blood or eat the brains of a fellow guest.
And while Franklin would normally be watching football or gardening by moonlight, tonight he made a rare appearance in his wife’s kitchen.
“Shel, do you want cheese on these?” Franklin said.
“Yes, Muenster,” she said.
Franklin poked around in the refrigerator but his hands were so big he couldn’t grab the tiny packet of cheese. He pulled the whole drawer out and dumped it upside down. Packages of meats, cheese, sticks of butter and a plastic sheath of vacuum sealed brains scattered on the counter-top.
Shelly watched him from the corner of her eye as she arranged a platter, determined not to say anything. This is Franklin’s way of helping, she said to herself.
He ripped open the package of cheese and an entire pound of sliced Muenster flew across the counter. He slapped his gigantic palm down to stop it from skittering to the floor. He cut the Muenster into huge chunks with a knife and plopped them on each tongue sandwich. The sandwich tops teetered at strange angles on a large silver tray.
“How’s this?” he asked.
“Cuddle bear, you’re so helpful,” she said. She pulled his arm until he leaned down. She kissed his cheek. “Would you put it on the buffet table next to the fried crickets?”
Franklin grunted his agreement. He walked into the dining room with the tray balanced precariously between his hands.
Shelly started to gather up the spilled items when the door bell rang.
“Trick or Treat Shelly,” the woman on the porch said. The skin tight fit of the woman’s black dress was accentuated by her long black hair and lovely face.
“Vi, it’s great to see you,” Shelly said and gave her friend a hug.
“Hi Vi,” Franklin said. “Love the dress. Where’s D?”
“He can’t make it; he’s working graveyard shift, as usual.”
“Franklin, do you want to watch the game? Vi and I can handle the kitchen.” Shelly said. Franklin grunted and lumbered off to the living room.
Shelly took a pitcher of blood from the refrigerator and poured a glass for her guest. Vi took a sip. “Shel, you know my favorite blood type is B+? You’re such a dear.”
“What are friends for, right?” Shelly said.
She opened the refrigerator and pulled out festive bowls and platters with a variety of treats. There was bone marrow, sliced brains, blood sausage and pearl onions on skewers, hummus and baba ghanoush with pita chips, and a pot of ghoul-ash. Shelly prepared the secret family recipe given to her by Franklin’s mother. She put the stew on the stove to warm it.
Vi took each vessel and arranged them on the buffet table. When she came back to the kitchen, Shelly was stirring the pot with a wooden spoon and crying.
“Shel, what’s the matter?”
“I don’t know…the smell of the stew reminds me of the old country, when Franklin and I first got married. We’ve been together so long, he hardly looks at me anymore Vi. I hold these parties so he can see his friends every year, but I hope he also notices how much I care about him.”
“Oh honey, don’t try to figure a monster out, it doesn’t work.”
“But we used to be so…frisky. At our house in the countryside, we used to play a game. I’d run around the bedroom with a pitchfork and a candle shouting ‘Get the monster!’ Franklin loved that; ever since we moved to the suburbs he’s always going on about football and gardening. Vi, we’re becoming regular people. It’s terrifying.”
“Listen, I’ve been with Drac for 42 years, he met me when I was thirty-eight. I was just a baby. Do you think it’s easy being the seventh wife? No. He’s Transylvanian and I’m American, so there are big cultural differences. But we’re still together.”
“It’s hard with Franklin, he doesn’t talk much. Half the time, I’m trying to decipher his grunts.”
“It’s not easy for anyone Shel, but keep at it. Tell Franklin what you want. He’s not a mind-reader.”
Shelly sniffled. “I suppose you’re right.”
“Well of course I am. Now wipe your eyes girlfriend, you’ve got a party to host.”
The guests started to arrive. Mr. and Mrs. Mummy came first. The ghost of Edgar Allan Poe slipped in the back door and haunted the kitchen for a while. Then there was David the werewolf with his British girlfriend along with David’s zombie friend Jack and Jack’s wife. Finally, the headless horseman made a grand entrance with a freshly severed head, which got a big laugh.
By midnight, the guests had consumed most of the food and everyone had found their chatting partners for the evening. The doorbell rang again. Shelly was preparing the desserts, so she asked Vi to get it.
Vi opened the door to find the Jersey Devil with a half-empty bottle of tequila dangling from his tapered red claws.
“Vi, you look amazing.” He kissed her on the cheek and lingered there. “C’mon baby,” he whispered, “admit it – you’re glad to see me.”
She opened the door wider and stepped away from him. “Come in Virgil. It’s just like you to show up after dinner when you’re invited to a dinner party.”
“Yeah, uh, sorry,” he said and shucked off a coat he draped over his wings. He threw it on a nearby chair. “I stopped in Atlantic City for a few games of roulette. When I hit the Turnpike I ran into traffic. You know me baby, I gamble big. Where’s Shelly?”
“Did you know the headless horseman is here?” Vi said, diverting his attention.
“No way, where is my best dude? I’m here, so we can get this party started!” He shimmied his shoulders and his wings shook as he made his way into the living room.
“Okay Virgil, whatever. Clearly you need no invitation.”
Vi came back into the kitchen and rolled her eyes. “Shel, it was my ex! I didn’t realize you invited him?”
“I’m sorry Vi, I should have warned you. Franklin insisted. But Virgil is so unreliable, I never thought he’d make it.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I’m over him and his wild ways. I’ll say a few ‘Serenity Now’s’ and move on. But it’s a good thing Drac’s not here.”
“I keep telling Franklin our ‘special’ friends should be invited to the house separately, but he won’t listen.” Shelly sighed. “I hope Virgil doesn’t break anything. When he and the headless horseman get together…”
“I know,” Vi said. “I can’t believe I used to live with that devil. My life was chaos. It makes me so thankful I’m with Drac.”
Shelly pulled out a silver cloche covered plate from the refrigerator. “This might cheer you up, Vi. I got a dessert especially for you.” Shelly removed the cover and revealed a plate of lady fingers.
Vi clapped. “You shouldn’t have Shel, they look fantastic.” Vi took one of the lady fingers and proceeded to crunch away. “I love how you decorated the fingernails in orange polish, it gives them that extra textural element.”
The two friends cleared away all of the dinner plates with nary a fried cricket left. In the living room Virgil and the headless horseman led opposing teams in a game of charades. Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost was miming the 1958 movie title I Married a Monster from Outer Space but no one could understand him. Mrs. Mummy kept shouting Monster! Monster! but Poe was already on the word space.
Vi pulled Franklin aside and chatted with him. Shelly watched them talking. Franklin did his usual grunting and nodding. When they were done, Vi gave Franklin a hug, and he grinned like a little kid.
Shelly set out the desserts. But before anyone could dig in, Franklin stood up to his full seven and a half feet and said, “I want to say something.” The room quieted.
“Honey, thank you for a wonderful evening, you’ve outdone yourself this year. Let’s raise our glasses to my incredible wife Shelly,” he said.
“To Shelly,” the guests said in unison, raising their goblets of wine or blood.
As Franklin saw the guests off for the evening, Shelly and Vi washed the dishes together in the kitchen.
“Vi, you didn’t have to coach Franklin to make that speech tonight.”
“Shel, I knew you would think I put him up to it, but I didn’t, I swear. I told him you two were lucky to be so in love after all these years. He said those things on his own.”
“Come on, really?”
“Yes, really Shel. He loves you,” Vi said.
“You know, Franklin still surprises me sometimes. He may be a big oaf, but he’s my big oaf and I love him too Vi.”
“I know you do hon. It’s getting early, I’m going to try and catch D before he climbs into his coffin. Call me tomorrow.”
Shelly wrapped the left over lady fingers for Vi to take home. The two friends hugged and Vi left. Shelly began to dry the dishes when Franklin came into the kitchen and leaned down to nuzzle her ear.
“Did Vi tell you what she and I talked about tonight?” Franklin said.
“That she was impressed we were still in love after all these years, I know,” Shelly said.
“Shel, of course I love you, but that’s not it. First she said you’re the best friend she’s ever had. Then she said it was time for you and me to rekindle our flame.”
“That was sweet of her, I’m glad you had a good chat,” Shelly said.
“It wasn’t just a good chat, it was great advice. It reminded me of something we used to do.” He went to the drawer and pulled out a candle and matches. His mouth spread into the boyish grin Shelly knew well.
“Let’s make our own fun for Halloween this year,” he said. “I think the pitchfork is in the closet…”
Shelly laughed. “Oh Franklin, you say the most romantic things.”
Filed under: Humor, Short Story | Tagged: Dracula, Edgar Allen Poe, Elvira, Fiction, Frankenstein, Halloween, Halloween at the Steins, Headless Horseman, humor, Mary Shelly, short story, The Jersey Devil, Werewolf | Leave a comment »