Halloween is nothing more than a lantern hung high above the shadows of Autumn. It is a door that swings and beckons you into winter – the cold and lonely coffin of the year.
It is a time for stacking firewood and laying in supplies and recollecting old ghost stories that you will tell as the flames crackle and roar through the long cold winter.
In the winter ALL stories are chowder-thick with ghosts.
Chimneys puff like old men leaning against their last wall.
You feel the cold creeping into your bones.
You feel brittle.
You feel like you might snap.
So now, before the winter settles in and smothers you in a frosty blanket you put on a mask and you run from door to door, ringing the doorbells and rattling your knuckles against the oak and calling out for tricks and treats.
Every year a great group of we writers gather for what is known as a Coffin Hop and as part of this year’s Coffin Hop I would like to share with you this story that I have written about the ghosts of past glory.
There are moments when I am deep in the game.
There are moments when I hear nothing but the boom and the echo of the crowd’s slow thunder – echoing long after everyone else has stopped yelling.
He is always up there. He most likely always will be. I can see him up there – my Grandpa – high in the seats and hunkered down, hollering cheers and encouragement aimed straight at me.
But from this far away all that I can see of him is the flash of the rink lights glinting off of his eyeglasses.
All I can see of him are the smoke signals of his frozen breath and the constant Players tobacco halo mixing freely with the steam from his never-emptied cup of coffee – a Tim’s double double, every time.
He never misses a game.
He drives me to every practice.
He lugs the bag full of gear when I am beat down tired. He chucks it into the trunk of his rusted smoke-silver-gray Chevrolet Impala.
Chrome and tinges of blue steel.
He sits and he watches the NHL games on the television with me when my homework is finally done – and even sometimes when it isn’t – thumping the arm of his black leather recliner with the side of his fist – hard and steady like a tom-tom drum.
He knows who to cheer for.
He knows when to yell boo.
He can perk the television rabbit ears just right and can pop a perfect bowl of popcorn – heavy yellow butter – all without a microwave oven.
Grandpa was old school.
Nothing new will last were words he lived by constantly.
Best of all were the stories.
The nights when he would sit and spin out the old yarns of how he used to play for the Sudbury Wolves back when they used to be somebody to beat.
Sitting there listening I could hear his skates hitting the ice, I could hear his low bearish growl as he threw his hip into a heavy check. I could feel the varnished grain of his hockey stick – hand carved and hand polished by the constant wear of his grip upon the stick.
Last November he fell asleep in his black leather recliner – waiting for me to finish my homework.
Mom tried to wake him up.
I heard her call out.
Supper turned cold as we waited for the ambulance to arrive – a twenty mile drive from Sudbury, Ontario – on a wintered highway, slick with ice.
The ambulance came too late.
The tom-tom stopped its constant drumming.
Now I play for a team that IS somebody to beat. The crowds are huge and they roar and they boo and it is like listening to the waves rolling onto the shore.
Yet even now – some days when I am deep into the game and playing hard I look up to the stands where my Grandpa used to sit and I can see the semaphore flash of those heavy glasses of his looking down from so far away.
Cigarette smoke signals, haloed in the steam from his never emptied coffee cup.
If you are a Halloween sort of a person…
If you dig ghost stories and horror stories and all manner of booga-booga…
If you can smell winter in the air and you feel the urge to throw one more log on the fire…
Why don’t you check out some of the other blogs on our 2014 COFFIN HOP?
That is a wicked cool illustration.
It puts me right in the mind of my full length horror novel, TATTERDEMON, which is on sale for the month of October for a mere 99 cents. That’s over 400 pages of scarecrow horror like you have NEVER read before – for less than the price of a cheap cup of coffee.
Or – if short fiction is more your cup of tea why don’t you check out my brand new collection, OCTOBER TALES?
And finally – I am going to be giving away a free copy of either TATTERDEMON or my hockey-vampire novella SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME to one lucky reader who leaves a comment on this blog.
Now go forth and get hopping!
yours in storytelling,