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Red sang, “A Mighty Fortress if our God,” with gusto as she approached the forest adjoining her family’s farmhouse. It was a classic Halloween night, the kind that makes a seven-year-old girl tremble. Evil witches lurked in the cloudy recesses partially concealing the moon. Cackling laughter echoed as ghostly pals whooshed through the swaying pine boughs. She edged into the ethereal woodland. Rusty would be on the other side waiting to go “trick or treating.” This wooded area was their playground on summer days and in the evening when shadows lurked. She was never afraid. But tonight was different. This is crazy. I’m dressed as a wolf. Why am I afraid? Witches and ghosts should fear me, she thought. She sang louder and moved further into the cluster of trees as the moon slipped behind the bank of clouds. The forest was black. She neared the rise. The clearing where Rusty and Sam would be waiting was just below it. Her body shivered with the haunting h-o-o-t of the owl. Only a few more steps and I will be there, she mused. Suddenly, a moist cool nudge bumped her palm. She screamed, ran, and tripped over a hollow log, screaming again. Another cool nudge tapped her cheek. Slowly, she opened her eyes. A cold nose pressed against hers, two piercing eyes stared. A soft whine begged for attention. Her fear waned, but her anger increased, “Sam, you stupid dog, look what you have done. You scared me to death. My costume is full of dirt and leaves. Did Rusty send you to scare me?”
The dog wagged his tail and licked her cheeks, as he nudged her to rise and move on. Slowly, she picked herself up, and brushed away the debris that collected in her fur costume. Despite Sam’s startling approach, she was thankful for the company of the husky mix with a fur suit not unlike hers. Soon the moon emerged from behind its velvety curtain, and the clearing became apparent. She called Rusty’s name. There was no reply. “Where is he, Sam? Take me to him.”
Sam continued to prod Red in the direction of Rusty’s dimly-lit farmhouse. As they neared the familiar dwelling, Sam moved more quickly. He barked out three staccato-like woofs, then, repeated the call once again. As they reached the door, a beady eye and pointed nose poked through. Red retreated a bit, but a bony, blue-veined hand beckoned her in. Soft orange lights illumined every corner of the room. A cauldron of steaming cider sat on the counter. A tub of bobbing apples rested nearby. Warm breath tickled her neck, and soft velvet brushed her elbow. “Sam, what are you doing,” she asked.
It wasn’t Sam. He sat calmly at the door where they entered. She turned her head the other way, as an ethereal white form sidled next to her and placed a spongy hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be afraid, my dear, Rusty told us you would be coming.”
“Where is Rusty? He was supposed to meet me. Who are you? Why are you in Rusty’s house? I need some answers,” Red replied.
“Rusty was called out. He told us to take care of you.”
“But, but, we had plans.”
“Now, now, dear. Come, have some cider,” the witch beckoned. “There are marshmallow ghosts, too.”
The cider warmed and soothed her parched mouth. The ghosts tasted squishy sweet. Red relaxed a bit. “Don’t you want to bob for apples? There is a prize for each one you capture. Here let me show you how.” The ghost placed his puffy lips over one of the shiny red balls, and lifted it from the water. His face barely got wet, “Now you try.”
“I’m not good at that, besides I’ve got to find Rusty. He would never go off without me. C’mon Sam, let’s find Rusty. You can pick up his scent.”
“Wait, wait, Red. You can’t leave without us taking a picture. Don’t you want Rusty to see your costume? Mr. Ghost and I will pose with you and Sam.”
“Oh, all right, make it fast.”
Red and Sam, wolf look-alikes, raced out the door to neighboring houses, inquiring about Rusty at each stop. No one had seen him. Reluctantly, they finally returned to Red’s house, Sam making sure she was safely home.
After a sleepless night, she gulped her breakfast, and raced toward the clearing. Rusty and Sam waited there. She was fuming, “Why didn’t you meet me last night? Where were you?”
“I was there, but had a job to do. Here, this picture was on the counter.”
Red gasped at the picture. Two wolves; Rusty’s Mom, the witch; and Rusty, the ghost, smiled broadly back at her.
“Trick or Treat, Red!”