Friday, October 24, 2008

Welcome to Friday!

Here in Oklahoma, we have the year's major religious celebration next week, one we've been waiting for with breathless anticipation since, oh, July or August when all the decorations first appeared in area stores. Yes, Halloween is upon us once again.

I'm not going to rail against the pagan nature of the holiday. Nor will I dwell on the historical significance of the eve of All Saint's Day, or the usurpation of older, non-Christian celebrations by the early church.

No, I'm all about ghost stories, scary movies, and things that go bump in the night. But I'm not a fan of the gore-fests that get passed off as entertainment. I like the ones that rely on our own imagination - which can be far more frightening than any literal description - because they're ultimately more terrifying. Think "Psycho" or H.P. Lovecraft's "Rats in the Walls."

So, with the above as introduction, here's a little something for your amusement. It's kind of a down payment and a brief segue into next week's theme.


I drove across town, frantic to reach my grandmother's house and terrified of what I might find. She lived alone, lavishing her attention on the flower bed and vegetable garden, where she shooed birds away from the ripening berries. She loved the birds too, except for the ones that pecked at her raspberries, incurring her wrath and a stream of invective in Serbian.

Zombies had attacked my house the previous night. I was trapped, afraid to sprint across the lawn to the detached garage. Just after dawn the police arrived and the shooting began.

I tried to call her but all I got was a busy signal. She seldom used the telephone and would leave it off the hook for hours. What chance would a helpless 80-year-old woman have? Yet there was no denying that she was tough in many ways. She'd emigrated from the "Old Country" as a teenager, and she still had a heavy accent. She cooked, cleaned, and tended her plants by herself and disdained any offers of help.

I pulled up in front of the house, my heart in my throat. A man's body was lying on her front porch partly inside the open door. I climbed out of the truck carrying a baseball bat.

"Grannie?" I called through the door. "Grannie? Are you there?"

"Who is it?" Her voice floated down the hall from the kitchen. She stepped into view, a long carving knife clutched in her bony hand. "Oh, Michael, good! Drag dat ting outta my door. It's letting flies in."

I was relieved she was OK, but I did as I was told, dragging the body by the heels. Then I closed the door and locked it.

Grannie was in the kitchen stirring a huge pot of soup. Loaves of freshly baked bread were lined up on the table. "Sit down,” she said. "Eat. You're too skinny."

"What happened? Are you OK? How did that guy get on your porch?"

She gave me a withering look. "When I was little girl day come down from mountains in winter. Day kill alla sheep, bastard sombie." She says something in Serbian and spits. "My father show me how to kill dem. Quick with a knife through eye or up under chin. I'm short. Chin is easy." She gestured with the knife and grinned.

It was unnerving. The whole city was in a panic, yet this old woman was calmly matter-of-fact as she described how to kill a 'sombie' with a knife.

"Eat," she urged. "The electricity no work. Refrigerator no work. Eat before it go bad."

I sat down at the table, but I had no appetite. She quickly put a bowl of steaming soup and some still warm bread in front of me. Then she looked past me through the kitchen window. "Sombie in my garden," she hissed.

It was true. A zombie lurched through the garden, knocking over tomato stakes and a rose trellis. Grannie was out the back door, her carving knife flashing in the sun. "Shoo!" she yelled. "Shoo! Shoo!"

At least the birds could fly away. The 'sombie' never had a chance.




Blogger lemmiwinks said...

Great story Ed :-)

Halloween really bugs me a lot, for the simple reason that it's not an Australian tradition. Never has been and hopefully never will be, but in the last few years the retail chains have cottoned onto the fact that there's an opportunity to make a few bucks going begging and so they're trying hard to get it off the ground. Here's hoping they continue to fail.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

We have Halloween and, in the Hispanic community, el Dia de los Muertos - which translates as Day of the Dead. It's kind of a Spanish remembrance day spanning Nov 1 and Nov 2. On the Catholic calendar, they're All Saints Day and All Souls Day. So Halloween was the last day the devils had authority for the year - I think.

Locally, since many of the strait-laced churches cannot abide the idea of having anything to do with those 'nether forces' - they have Harvest Festivals instead of Halloween. No costumes, of course, but they have sugary goodness for the kids. Honestly, some people wear their underwear a couple of sizes too small. It seriously restricts their thinking and they miss the irony of their harvest festival replacing a Catholic festival which was originally intended to replace a pagan harvest festival.

5:02 PM  
Blogger lemmiwinks said...

Oh I'm all for the USA having Halloween etc, after all it's traditional :-) I just don't like retailers here trying to boost their sales by importing a tradition.

As for any church that's too uptight to allow kids to dress up and have a bit of fun... Well, let's just say I worry about the evangelical Christian right you got over there.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Jamie Fellrath said...

Ed, I like you more every time I read your posts. First the zombie thing, then the vampire thing, now your reference to Lovecraft. Excellent.

And a great story, too. Funny on one hand, but poignant in its look at the effects that catastrophe can have on a person in the way Grannie didn't worry about her own safety as much when dealing with the zombie. Great stuff.

I'm a big fan of Day of the Dead art - I used to have a calendar with pics of the stuff. Naturally, I didn't post it up at work... that'd "offend" too many of the tiny-undies folks you mentioned. Too bad, too.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I read Lovecraft when I was a sophomore in high school, Jamie. It kept me awake nights. Well, that and thoughts of the girl who sat in front of me in geometry. Let's not go there.

5:06 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home