I’m not a superstitious person by nature. I don’t think of black cats or the number 13 as unlucky. I don’t knock on wood to ensure things go well. When my right eye twitches, I don’t believe there’ll be a birth in the family. And if a candle suddenly blows out, I’m certain it doesn’t signal spirits will come calling.
Except (maybe) sometimes. Because something so bizarre befell us one long ago Halloween night, people have been brushing the residue of salt off my left shoulder ever since.
It happened up north, in a time when the holiday was still animated by moms making scrap cloth costumes for their kids, then letting them run, unassisted, through neighborhoods where every house had someone eager to marvel over foil-winged angels, feathered fairies, eye-patch pirates, sheeted ghosts, and comic heroes in tinted tights wearing scarlet skivvies and donning pillowcase capes.
Liz and I had just such a home that omened October, numbered 13 Cheshire Street, set back on a cul-de-sac, with its vintage wraparound casements porch facing north, and attached deck laundry facing south.
Why we’d decorated both rooms that year remains baffling, but we did, with every accordion-style paper ghost and goblin we could find at the five-and-dime. We tied dried cornstalks around the doors, and scattered straw over the floors. The sidewalks were lined with jack-o-lanterns lit by three inch sabbath candles. A witches silhouette swayed on the front door with tiny plastic bats dangling from her broomstick. A black cat cutout hung on the back door, over a “Scat!” sign scribbled especially for the occasion.
Inside, candied and caramelized apples, pink popcorn balls, teal blue bubble gum cigars, white powdered donuts, and warmed cider in fold-out handle paper cups were arranged on a long linen clothed table, free for the glee of anticipated trick-or-treaters.
Who never came.
Nary a one.
Instead, a moonless, tempestuous, indigo sky of four winds spewing sleet descended, making mayhem before depositing a gravestone cold in its wake.
Wiser women would have felt a sense of foreboding.
We just went to bed.
“Wake me when it’s over,” Liz said, dispirited. “And not a second sooner.”
Around midnight, I heard howling; intermittent at first, but gradually growing into a wail, like death scratching at the door. I slipped out of bed and felt a shudder when opening the window to spot a solitary candle still flickering within a collapsed blackfrosted pumpkin. Soon, that lone light in the night died.
“Power’s just out,” I whispered to myself while creeping blindly down the stairs and through the house to the kitchen where I felt around to find a flashlight; still fearful of the steady, doleful crying.
Nevertheless, I unlocked the kitchen door leading into the laundry room, then mustered the courage to cautiously crack open its backyard door, illuminating the deck steps.
There sat a black cat, yowling through frosted whiskers.
“You’re quite the screamer,” I hushed, ushering him in.
After wrapping the cat in a towel grabbed from the hamper, I fashioned a bed from some leftover straw, placing it, and him inside the dryer before cracking the door and returning to bed.
At half past four the caterwauling began again. This time, a flashing clock dial signaled the power was restored. Exhausted, I staggered up and stumbled down to the yard door, only to find Liz had put the screamer back outside.
“How could anyone be so callous?” I asked the cat while scooping him up and carrying him — this time to the basement, where I hid him in a corrugated box filled with my best cotton rags. During my sleepwalk back to bed, I fashioned the tongue lashing I planned to give Liz for her indefensible bad behavior.
The scolding wasn’t to be.
Well-rested and up early, Liz was already at the sink making coffee when I hurried past her heading down the basement stairs, shocked to find the screamer, smug as a bug in a hug while nursing six newborn kittens.
“Egad, I’m in for it now!” I surmised, way-way too loud.
“In for what?” Liz called back.
I didn’t answer. I couldn’t. Instead, I sheepishly carted the box of kittens up to the kitchen with momma cat in tow.
THE ABOVE EXCERPT IS FROM:
Seriously, Mom, you didn’t know?
by Marguerite Quantaine © Copyright 2019
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This freshly edited, updated essay was first published in 2011 in Kissed By Venus Magazine. Copyright by Marguerite Quantaine © 2011 & 2013.
Do you have a favorite Halloween memory?
Please share your thoughts, here, by selecting REPLY.
I’m all eyes and heart.
But we’re all still young (at heart) Jeanne, so there’s always still time, yes? Now get out there and take candy from strangers. (Have a fabulous Halloween!)
Great story! gave shivers. I can’t top that!
Best Halloween eveh I just know it was. Great story and so glad all the kitties had you for mom’s
Yes, the best AND the most memorable. But we were the lucky ones. Every single one of those little darlings was a gem. Thanks, Linda!
Thanks for reading Carol! Much appreciated.
I am not a fan of cats but I have two friends who love their black cats and would have none other…..good read Marguerite…….thanks again for sharing….
The best place for him! Mine requires his own pillow beside my head. So grateful he doesn’t snore! Thanks for loving cats and rescuing one.
great story! well written, where you heart for cats shines through. My lucky black cat who was rescued from outside is snoozin on the end of my bed right now.
If you’re lucky, Sally. If you’re lucky.
If the cat wants you, Sally, it’s the best of blessings. You will be rewarded in endless ways. It’s a scientific fact, the cats emotional system is closer to that of a human than any other animal on earth. Trust me. If tge cat chose you, it’s a good-good thing.
She is a pretty girl (female until proven otherwise says me) and loves the porch. The first cold night, I am sure she will love the whole house.
wonderful story – we have one cat wanting to take up residence with us – and the thought scares me
I really enjoyed this story! You have such a gift for story telling! Wonderful!!
So very glad you enjoyed it Maggie May. (And, yes, I do know you’re an amazing cat.)
Me, too, Elizabeth. And everyone who knows me knows I especially love the name Elizabeth. Does that make us twins? Thanks for reading and loving cats.
This was wonderful. I love Halloween and black cats. So much fun. Thank you!
Perfect “instant cat lady” story. I loved it! Thank you for sharing.
And I’ve been whispered and pointed-out and cajoled as a cat lady ever since, Glenda. Can’t say it’s done me any harm. Can say, it’s filled my life with joy. Thanks for stopping by. Y’all come back again – hear?
There’s just something about kittens that bring out the mothering not-in- me, Rogena. Years later we rescued a dog that (surprise!) had 6 puppies in the morning. Kept all those too. The last surviving two are now 14. So much of our joy has come from our love of animals. I swear, they return it, ten-fold.
Oh, my goodness!! That would be just my luck, too! And what else could you do, but keep all thirteen of them? I’m sure it would have been bad luck not to….. Bless you both!
I so appreciate your input, Kieran, and am doubly glad you enjoyed it. I occur, of course, about it being the best ever. We still laugh about it these years, and cats, later.
This is the best Halloween story ever! I’m left with all sorts of visual aids, and chuckles, and a smile that will last the season. Thanks, my friend!!!
Great memory, too, Leigh. They all lived to 14+ and I couldn’t have loved them more if I’d birthed them myself. Thanks for the thumbs up.
Great Halloween story!
You betcha, Jo! (Um, too? What else?)
Sucker for cats too then huh? xx