Scarier than a monster
He leaned back in his chair, swinging his legs and absentmindedly looking out of the window.
"Today, as it is a Friday, and the Halloween party is next week, you are all allowed this afternoon to design your Halloween costumes, the theme for the party is to make your costumes as scary as possible, I want to see them by Wednesday and the scariest one will win a prize." Mrs. Foster said looking at her class.
As usual there was the eclectic mix of children, the overachievers at the front which were hanging on every word she said.
The mid range children who were excited and already starting to chat about the assignment, the 'hard' kids those who didn't really care about what she said and wasn't paying attention.
Then there was him.
He was a good kid, he tried hard, but in group activities he tended to close off.
She worried about him, she'd talked to the principal and suggested he call in the parents to find out what was going on with him.
He had sent a note home…he hadn't been back for a week afterward, when he had come back he'd seemed more withdrawn.
He was a cute kid, six years old, shaggy blond hair and bright inquisitive blue eyes. He loved to solve puzzles, to figure things out, he stood up for the smaller kids against the bigger ones who tended to bully in the playground.
She knew he hung about with some of the poorer kids in school, she knew his family wasn't as well off as most, hence the idea that they could make their costumes, it should save some money and things easier for those whose parents couldn't afford to buy ready to wear costumes.
She walked over to him and lent over him, "You need to put all four feet of the chair on the floor to make it work Martin." She smiled.
"Yes ma'am sorry ma'am." He replied, not meeting her eyes.
"Do you need any help in designing your costume?" she asked.
Martin shook his head, "No Ma'am….I'm coming as the scariest thing I know." He said he took the paper and wrote his name on the top in a child type scrawl, MARTIN. A. BRANDEL.
He drew a head and two arms.
Mrs. Foster sighed at least he was engaging.
She knew enough not to send the class letter home which asked for his parents to donate some food or drink or a contribution to the class party, these were always left by his peg on the wall. He never took them home.
The bell rang for the end of the day and Martin shot out of his chair, as usual he was the first one out of class. By the time the last child was leaving she looked over to the end of the field to see him as usual scaling the wall at the end to take the shortcut back to his trailer park home. She shook her head reminding herself to try yet again to get him to stop that.
Marty landed with a thump on the old mattress he'd stashed his side of the wall and scrambled past the huge dog kennel belonging to his neighbor. Brutus the old guard dog, too old nowadays to really be a guard dog barked at him and he ran the five feet to the edge of his yard and stopped.
It was quiet and his father's car wasn't outside their meager home. He sighed in relief and ran to the door of his trailer.
He opened the latch and walked in, "Momma?" he called.
"I'll be out in a minute baby!" his mother called from the bathroom.
Deeks ran to his room and placed his bag carefully next to the bed. He got his spellings out and sat cross legged on the floor working on them.
Laura opened the curtain that served as a door on his room, "Hey baby." She smiled, a new large purple bruise forming over her eye. She sat on the mattress that served as a bed. "Hug?" she asked hopefully.
Marty climbed into her arms. "We did pictures at school today, they are having a party Wednesday…Can I go? Mrs. Foster says they'll have cake and chips and soda and…."
"We can't afford to give anything to the party baby, maybe you could stay home and have a party with me instead." She offered.
Marty sighed, "We don't hafta give anythin' momma, they got stuff already, I just gotta be the scariest thing I can think of."
Laura Brandel looked at her son and his happy smile and smiled back, "Ok baby, what you gonna be, a pumpkin? A ghost? A vampire?" she asked.
Marty smiled and shook his head, "I got all the stuff already momma, I'm gonna make my own costume…I won't make any mess." He added.
"OK then, you finish your homework and you can watch cartoons before dinner, daddy's out with his friends tonight, so after dinner you have to go straight to your room."
Marty's face dropped, he hated it when Daddy went out with his friends, but he worked hard on his spellings and watched happily until dinner time.
After dinner he grabbed his blanket and wrapped it round his head to drown out his momma's screams after daddy got home.
Finally the day of the party had arrived; all the children carried their costumes in bags to change into after school. Mrs. Foster was pleased to see Martin with a bag in his hand like the other children, this meant he was allowed to participate; normally she had to mark him absent on days like this.
As the children went to get into costume she set out the food. Her classroom assistant and the principal were helping out.
They made a list of what each child was dressed as so as to be able to decided who was the scariest, when they heard a scuffle in the boys changing room.
"It's not you're cheating!" on boys voice called out.
The principal and Mrs. Foster looked at each other. "Trouble." She mouthed to him.
He opened the door and went in, "What's going on?" he asked in an authoritarian voice.
"Martin's cheated; he's not got a costume!" Sam Bradley shouted pointing to little Marty sitting on the floor with his knees drawn up to his chest, hugging them with tears streaming down his face. Sam picked up his 'store' bought Frankenstein head to go with his outfit.
"I have…it is a costume." Marty sniffed wiping his eyes with his sleeve.
The principal looked at the other boys, "Get changed now and head off to your classroom." He said and the boys scattered. "Mr. Brandel come with me." He said and held out his hand.
Marty walked following the principal but not holding his hand to his office sobbing all the way.
"I….I didn't mean to…I'm sorry please don't call my mom." He begged.
Jack Hamilton turned around and sat in his seat looking at the terrified shaking little boy. "It's ok, I just wanted to talk in private, you're not in trouble."
"I…I'm not?" he asked amazed.
"No, I just wanted to ask you about your costume."
I was a dark blue t-shirt with a blue hoodie and a black leather jacket over the top, not in itself particularly menacing or threatening.
"Scary isn't it." Marty replied with a brave smile.
Jack thought no, but his mouth replied with the affirmative. "So, what is it?"
Marty looked at him like he'd just lost his mind, the way children often did when they didn't understand why the adults didn't have all the answers.
"It's my daddy? I did do right? The teacher said to pick the scariest thing you could think of and I thought of my daddy."
Jack smiled at the boy, "Your costume is certainly a very scary one, come on I'll walk you back to class and you can get some cake and soda."
"Yay!" Marty smiled and held his hand.
"So….?S" Sam asked again as Deeks was jolted out of his reverie, "Kensi went as a Barbie doll, Callen was an acrobat, and I was a ghost, you never answered my question, what was your scariest costume as a child for Halloween."
"Hetty." He answered quickly causing them all to look up.
"Sorry?" Sam said confused.
"I gotta take this to Hetty," Deeks said and walked out leaving the others sitting there, "I don't do Halloween, real life was always more scarier," he threw back as he left.