Costume Time, a short story by Tim Law at

Costume Time

Costume Time

written by: Tim Law


I sigh as I take down the big cardboard box from the top of my wardrobe. I almost drop it, but I am getting taller and stronger, and I ease it onto my bed. The box is dusty, plain, old. Originally it held cans of dog food but now it is where I keep my camouflage, the shirt and pants with the green and brown pattern, the medal and the black boots that have both lost their shine.
My two younger siblings, my brother Matt and my sister Sally, they dress as a footballer and a fairy.
“Why do you dress like that?” Matt asks. “Wouldn’t you rather be a ghost or maybe a movie star?”
“I am a ghost,” I tell Matt and I smile.
He shakes his head and runs off to tell our Mom. He doesn’t understand me, and he doesn’t like things that he doesn’t understand.
“You could be a fairy like me,” Sally says. “Maybe even the Fairy Queen.”
“Can the Fairy Queen grant wishes?” I ask.
Sally nods and her little plastic tiara almost falls off.
I smile as I help her with the prop, she looks so cute all dressed up that I almost cry.
“I don’t think anyone can grant the wish that I want to make,” I say, sadly.
“Just try me,” says Sally with confidence. She has her wand poised, ready to frantically wave it.
I consider what to say next. Sally is only six and I am ten. There is so much that our Mom has let me know and so much that I have seen for myself that both Matt and Sally have yet to find out. I close my eyes. Sally thinks that I am wishing, not thinking.
“You need to say the words out loud,” my little sister says with a huff.
“Oh, sorry,” I laugh, I cannot help it, the noise just bubbles out unexpectedly.
I keep my eyes shut then, as I lie and make up a wish that has nothing to do with what I’m thinking.
“I wish… I wish… I hope with all my heart that we get three full bags of candy tonight,” I say.
With my eyes still shut I feel Sally’s plastic wand brush close to my nose.
“Bling!” she shouts. “Your wish is granted, you’ll see…”
“Thank you, Sally,” I say, truly grateful for her innocence. “Now go find your brother so that I can get dressed.”

Our neighborhood is great for trick or treating. There are so many old couples, friendly, sweet. They are happy to dish out candies wrapped in paper, mostly new, mostly types that we all know and love, mostly. Mixed in with the elderly are the houses of young families like ours, kind of like ours, but not totally the same.
I see Howard, and George, and Tony, the three boys from next door.
“Showing off your Dad’s medal again?” asks George. “You do that every year.”
George’s brothers try to catch a glimpse of the medal that dangles across my chest, but George doesn’t seem to care.
“Hey George, have you forgotten it was around this time that my Mom and I got the news?” I say.
“Yeah, yeah…” says George. “That was ages ago though.”
“It doesn’t matter how long ago,” I argue back. “It still hurts.”
“Come on,” grumbles George as he pulls his two brothers past me, and they go the other way. “Ain’t going to get any sense out of that one, no sense and no candy…”
I watch them go and brush away a tear. I’m wearing my costume proudly.

Aside from my run-in with the boys the night goes well. My wish I made in front of Sally comes true. Mom tuts as she sees the three of us come home triumphantly, bearing three overflowing sacks so full of sugary treats.
“Nothing before bed,” she warns.
We’ve already had our fill, we don’t really need to be told again. It makes Mom feel good to tell us though.
“Come on, let’s brush our teeth,” I tell Sally and Matt and we rush off for the bathroom.

Sally is soon under the covers, still in her costume.
“I told you I could make your wish come true,” she whispers in my ear as I kiss her good night.
“You truly are an amazing fairy,” I whisper back and then I squeeze her tight.
One day I will tell her what I really wish for, but tonight is not that night.
Eventually, we get Matt into his pajamas and settle him for sleep. He won’t admit it, but he still enjoys a kiss and a hug from his big sister.
“Why do you dress up like that every year?” Matt asks me, still curious.
“To remember our Dad,” I say, truthfully.
“Where is Dad?” Matt asks, and I consider whether or not I should tell him.
It is not my story to tell though, so I leave it for our Mom.
“He’s overseas,” I tell Matt and then kiss him lightly on the forehead.
“One day I want to go overseas,” Matt whispers before he is out for the count.
He doesn’t see the tears that appear at the corners of my eyes.

“I’m so proud of you,” Mom tells me. “Your Dad would have been too.”
“I know,” I tell Mom. “I miss Dad.”
“Me too,” she replies, and we both shed a tear.
“I love that you wear his uniform each year,” Mom then says after she has taken a sip from her wine glass.
“Nothing scares me like war does,” I tell Mom truthfully. “It’s the thing that has taken my Dad away.”
Every year I relive the horror. Every Halloween I remember.

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