jack-o-lanternCarter came hurtling up the stranger’s driveway at a speed that suggested a collision was imminent. At the last minute he slammed on the brakes, swerved, and came to rest on the porch.

“Trick or treat!” he shouted as the door opened.

“You’re going to get all worn out, and it’s only seven o’clock,” he mother suggested as he came back to the sidewalk.

“It’s okay,” he chortled. “Candy gives me energy!”

“But you’re not eating any of the candy; it’s just sitting in your bag.”

“Having it in my bag gives me energy! It’s super warp-drive candy!”

Bonnie laughed in spite of herself. Raising a Calvin was a lot of work, but moments like these were a well-earned reward.

Carter had wanted to go as a “death booger,” but Bonnie couldn’t think of any way to make a costume that looked like a death booger, and got him to settle for mutant booger monster. Except for the mutant part, she mused, it wasn’t far from the truth. Which reminded her. She got out her handkerchief and dried his nose yet again.

“Mawwwwm!” he wailed. “How can I be a booger monster if you keep wiping my boogers?”

“Your costume lets everybody know you’re a booger monster,” she said, suppressing a laugh.

“I asked them at that that house if they knew what I was, and they said I was a swamp monster.” The disappointment in his voice was sliceable.

“Then what?”

“I asked them if they knew what the green spots were and they said seaweed. I had to tell them it was boogers.”

“Then what did they do?”

“Then they said ‘ewwww’ and slammed the door!”

He said this as if it were the best thing that had ever happened to a six-year-old boy. “Be right back!” he cried as he raced up the walk to the next house. The usual ritual, and the usual race back to the sidewalk.

“When I get home I’m going to sit down and eat all of this candy!” he exclaimed.

“Um, actually, no, we’re going to put some of it away for later.”

“You’re a meanie! You’re the worst mom ever!” he yelled. He crossed his arms and stuck out his lip and hurried forward to walk a yard ahead of his mother.

“Don’t cross the street until I catch up with you!” she called.


Bonnie sighed. Carter’s dad was long gone, and his grandparents lived in another state. She was all he had. And he was all she had. “I need a man,” she thought. “Or do I?” she added. The right man, maybe. Not any man. Not another Paul.

“Who?” a plastic owl nailed to a wooden fencepost didn’t say.

“What I really need is a hot bath and a glass of merlot,” she said to the owl. It didn’t blink.

At the corner, Carter was standing on the curb, his arms straight down and ending in angry fists. Bonnie stooped to take his hand and he pulled back.

“Guess we’d better turn around and go back home,” she said.

“Meanie,” he said under his breath as he stiffly lifted an arm and let her grab it. They crossed the street and he was soon running up another driveway.

“What did you get?” Bonnie asked when he got back.

“Tootsie Rolls,” came the morose reply.

“Those kind of look like little bits of dog poop,” Bonnie said helpfully.

“Yeah?” He asked, thinking it over. “Wow, yeah!” he said, his face brightening. “You’re the best mom ever!” He gave her leg a hug.

A little boy who alternately thought she was the worst and the best mom ever. A house, a job, a car. And the occasional hot bath with a glass of merlot.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty good life,” she said, not realizing she said it out loud.

“Huh?” Carter asked. Then he was off running to the next house.

“Wow, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!” he beamed when he got back. “Those are kinda like barf inside, right?”

“Peanut-butter-flavored barf,” Bonnie suggested.

“Well, yeah, you can’t have everything,” Carter said philosophically. “But it’s still pretty good! It’ll do!”

“My life is like the inside of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup,” she mused. She smiled, holding the thought as they walked to the next house and Carter raced up the driveway.

“It’ll do.”

Copyright © 2012 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

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