Friday, October 26, 2007


Free Fiction Friday: "Trick or Treat"

Back in the Clockwork Storybook days, when we were producing regular material for our webzine, we'd occasionally do round-robin stories with a character called Timmy Gromp. He was a hapless kid, unloved by his parents (or anyone else, for that matter), and we seemed to delight in heaping abuse on him. Sort of like Kevin Shapiro in Daniel Pinkwater's Young Adult Novel, nothing but misery ever came poor Timmy Gromp's way.

Last year I posted Timmy Gromp's Christmas adventure, in observance of the season. Seeing as next week is Halloween, by which time I'll be in Saratoga Springs for the World Fantasy Convention, now seems as good a time as any to break out Timmy's Halloween tale.

In this bit of silliness, as in "Timmy Gromp Saves Christmas," Timmy collides with J.B. Carmody, the hero of Cybermancy Incorporated, about whom I was writing quite a lot at the time. (It may help to know that Timmy's favorite curse-word is "assbug," for reasons explored in another story. Or perhaps it doesn't help, at that...)

Trick or Treat:
A Public Service Announcement
by Chris Roberson

“What did you get?” asked Bobby MacAllister, peering into his paper sack of booty.

“I got a moldy old apple,” Joey Cuellar.

“I got a rock,” Timmy Gromp said, and quickly added, “Assbug.”

The three boys, trawling the twilight suburban streets of Ashland, Oregon, were forced to admit that this Halloween was shaping up to be the slimmest in a long line of slim Halloweens. Their parents, discussing the matter over backyard fences, at mailboxes, or while lingering near the office watercooler, had decided that crass commercialism had threatened the pristine spirit of the holiday for far too long, and that the traditions of their own childhoods had to be defended against all comers.

In that spirit, the parents of Timmy, Bobby, Joey, and any number of other neighborhood children had decided that this year, if the kids wanted Halloween costumes, they would have to make them by hand. Which explained why Timmy, Bobby, and Joey, of all their contemporaries, were wandering the streets in ratty old bedsheets, ragged holes cut in place of eyes. (Timmy, of course, had cut far too many holes in his sheet, leading the other two to express their long-held belief that Timmy was, in fact, an assbug).

“These treats suck,” Bobby concluded, to which Timmy and Joey responded with hearty movements of their sheet-wrapped heads.

“We should try some tricks, instead,” Joey answered, poking the browned skin of his moldy apple with an outstretched fingertip.

“I got a rock,” Timmy said.

“I know,” Bobby said. “Let’s go get some rotten old eggs from the dumpster behind the market, and throw them at houses.”

“Yeah,” Joey answered. “Let’s start with Rangi’s house. His parents talk all weird, and their house always smells like a spicy dog exploded in it.”

“A spicy dog?” Timmy asked.

“Whatever, assbug,” Bobby said. “Okay, we’ll start with Rangi’s house, and then we’ll do Ackbar’s. His parents dress funny.”

“And if there’s any eggs left, we’ll do Timmy’s house last.”

“Hey!” Timmy said.

“Not so fast kids,” said a voice from somewhere above and behind them.

The three ghosts turned, bags of bounty clutched against their sheet wrapped chests, and looked up into the eyes of the man towering over them.

“Hey, guys!” Bobby said. “It’s J.B. Carmody, the Cybermancer.”

“And A.J. Jabbar, his faithful companion,” Joey added, pointing out the giant man at Carmody’s side.

“Hey!” Timmy said.

Carmody knelt down on one knee, bringing his head nearer the boy’s level.

“Now, we couldn’t help over hearing you boys, and I have to say that I’m surprised to hear good Americans talk that way.”

“That’s right,” the giant A.J. added forcefully, his head nodding somewhere up in the darkness.

“What do you mean?” Bobby said.

“Why,” Carmody answered, “to single someone out, just because they look different, or talk different, or have different customs, is about the worst thing I can think of.”

“Yeah, it’s a good thing you’re already wearing white sheets, kids,” A.J. said, smacking one giant fist into the palm of his other hand, “because all you lack now is a burning cross or two.”

“Simmer down, Jabbar,” Carmody said. “But A.J. is right, kids, when you get right down to it. It makes no sense to judge someone on the basis of their race, religion, or culture, and to direct irrational hatred and cruel punishments against them for expressing their god given freedoms.”

”Right, boss,” A.J. said. “Better to direct irrational hatred and cruel punishments against people for the stupid things they say and do.”

“Exactly, Jabbar,” Carmody said. “Now, kids, do you know anyone in your neighborhood who says or does stupid things?”

“Well,” Bobby answered, “I saw mean old Mr. Wilson kick a puppy the other day.”

“Mrs. Grant steals her neighbor’s paper every Sunday,” Joey said.

“And my parents won’t let me read Clockwork Storybook,” Timmy said.

“Okay, kids, that’s great, now you’ve got a list to work with,” Carmody said. “Next time you round up rotten eggs to throw, or soggy toilet paper to wrap around trees, or a paper bag of dog droppings to light on fire, remember that you shouldn’t hate someone for what’s on the outside. Hate them for what’s on the inside.”

“Thanks, Mr. Carmody,” Bobby said.

“Yeah, you’re the greatest,” Joey said.

“I got a rock,” Timmy said.

“Good luck, boys,” Carmody answered, waving them on their way to gather up ammunition.

“Cracker white devils,” A.J. said.

“Jabbar,” Carmody scolded in mock-menacing tones. “Have you forgotten the true meaning of Halloween so soon?”

The giant blushed, and shook his head.

“I’m sorry, boss,” he answered. He joined Carmody in waving at the boys, already loping their way down the street to the market. “Ignorant, small-minded creeps.”

“Much better,” Carmody said with a wink.


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