A ghost was
caught on a barbwire fence, his sheet billowing. At his feet lay the scattered
contents of his trick-or-treat bag. He was thrashing about, grunting like a pig
in mud. We flew past him, hurdling the fence without looking back, each of us
driven on by the instinctive first rule of the chase: save your own hide.
As we bolted
through the stickers and blackberry bushes and past the suddenly looming maple
and oak trees, our ranks began to dwindle. A motorcycle gang member flying the
colors of the "Be-Bop Nation" went down with a sprained ankle. Wolfman
dived under a bush and began sobbing to the full moon. Another ghost simply
quit running, offering his spirit to the mercy of our invisible pursuer. A
10-year-old transvestite skidded to a halt behind a tree, smoothing his dress
and straightening his dime-store wig, prepared to plead feminine noninvolvement
if it came to that. The rest of us continued our wild dash across the lumpy,
pitch-black terrain, yipping like beagles.
For some reason
the man chasing us did not fall for the hobgoblin bait left strewn behind in
the field. We heard an occasional screech as he dealt out perfunctory
thrashings, but almost immediately there was the sound of crashing footsteps on
our trail again.
We split up.
Everybody ditched added luggage—taffy apples, candy bars, masks—and then
rocketed off, Greggie Dewey, myself and the cowboy to the right, everyone else
to the left. Our group headed down the length of the brush-covered field at an
angle away from the road while the others plunged into the dark recesses of the
surrounding forest. From the sound of our cursing pursuer we knew he had
elected to follow us, the guilty triumvirate—firecracker owner, lighter and
We were a swift
trio, the best runners in the bunch, but together we were losing ground to the
faceless man. As we darted, dodged, piled up and stumbled, he plowed straight
ahead, ignoring our detours and mistakes.
We split up
again, fanning out like a tree branch. Once more I broke to the right, running
parallel to the road, panting, my Dracula outfit in shambles. With a new burst
of terror and adrenaline I realized the man was after me and me alone; he had
also veered to the right, perhaps because my route was nearer the road, perhaps
because he somehow recognized me as the perpetrator, the one responsible for
the perfect timing of that tiny bomb.
I picked up
speed, my sneakered feet barely touching the rutted ground. Suddenly I came to
a dirt lane that intersected the road at right angles. Ahead was a hedge of
trimmed bushes that obscured the area in back of it. Behind I heard the man
approaching rapidly. I had no choice. I gathered all my strength and shot
across the lane. Coiling my legs and stretching my arms like a high-board
diver, I flew up and over the four-foot barrier in a soaring wave of ecstasy,
landing gently as a flying squirrel in a brier patch.
From my bed of
thorns I could hear my pursuer emerge into the clearing. Bleeding tiny drops
from 1,000 needle pricks, I turned painfully to look through a narrow gap in
the hedge. The man was confused, defeated. He was in a cul-de-sac. He roared
into the night as if to frighten his vanished prey into submission: "I'll
catch you! I'll catch you, you little bugger, and I'll wring your
On my sofa of
nails I began to feel merry, almost joyous. "No you won't, you'll never
catch me in a million years," I laughed to myself. The man looked right and
left, and then stared at the hedge. I lay still as a plant, a silent Brer
The man turned in
directionless rage and trudged off toward his car. When he was gone I lay still
for another moment listening to the silence of the night, and then let fly with
a tremendous, echoing guffaw.