by J.P.J. Fox
“What were you thinking?” Connor Nixon scolded his son Brad, who sat on the cot, looking down at the cell floor. “You thought you were being funny?” He paused for Brad’s response, but there was none. “Well, the joke’s on you.”
“I’m sorry,” Brad muttered. He looked at his father and explained, “It was an idea I saw on Instagram.”
“You left the house in the Spider Man costume we bought you. . . . And then you did this behind my back and your mother’s.”
Brad hung his head low. “. . . Yeah.”
“Was Justin involved in this?”
Brad looked again at his father, this time with eyes that said, You know I’m not going to answer that, unsure if his father would accept his signal.
Connor Nixon moved on. “Was that my fishing vest you were wearing?”
“. . . Yeah.”
“Trick or treat!” Connor sneered, and he walked away. Brad looked scared, but he was holding together alone in the cell. Connor Nixon decided to leave his son there to stew a while.
* * *
Three weeks before Halloween, Brad began planning his costumes. Sure, he was still into Spider Man, but a superhero costume is kid’s stuff. He was a bit surprised his parents bought it for him when he asked, not even thinking it was odd for a boy almost fourteen years old. With that part of the plan easily settled, Brad focused on his terrorist ensemble. Justin dared him to do it and was a firm ally in executing the plan.
“My mom’s taking me to Costume Warehouse tomorrow,” Justin said on the school bus. “Are you in?”
Brad went along. He bought a dark beard and some bronze makeup with his own money, while Justin’s mom was distracted helping her son assemble a 1940s gangster look.
Another day, while his mom stopped at the butcher, Brad slipped into a drugstore and bought ten slim freezer packs. When Halloween drew near, he snagged his father’s fishing vest and mom’s pressure cooker, hoping neither would be discovered missing while he borrowed them. He stashed his costume supplies in the garage at Justin’s house.
“There’s paint and duct tape there on the workbench,” Justin said. “Come over tomorrow and we’ll finish it.”
After school the next day, Brad and Justin spray-painted the freezer packs and taped them to the vest, stringing wires between. The pressure cooker barely fit into Brad’s backpack.
“It won’t zip all the way closed,” Brad said.
“That’s perfect,” Justin assured, grinning. “A good peek at what’s inside.”
Brad recognized Justin’s point and smiled back. They were ready.
Shortly after 6 pm on Halloween, Spider Man left the Nixon home, headed straight to Justin’s garage, and transformed into a terrorist.
Five doorbells and ten candy bars later, Justin turned to Brad, “This isn’t as good as I thought it would be.”
“Yeah,” Brad replied. “I was expecting a bigger reaction.”
They were walking along the unlit side of the street. Justin pulled Brad into a dark shadow before the next house and spoke softly, “What if we left the backpack at the door, rang the bell, and ran behind the bushes to watch?”
© 2021 Jason Paul Fox All rights reserved.