It’s Thanksgiving. I’m still unemployed, so I’m a little more broke today than I was yesterday. I’m sick, my wife is sick, and our kid is at his dad’s for the holiday. When he gets home, I’ll go buy a Christmas tree with money I don’t have that I can’t afford to put any presents under, and that’s probably how he’ll find out the truth about Santa Claus.
I wrote this slightly creepy, family-appropriate story around 15 to 20 years ago, and dug it out of mothballs to read to my kid tonight after trick-or-treating.
I thought it might be fun to share it here too, for All Hallow’s Read. You know, just in case any of you might want to read it to your own kids tonight. Get them in the spooky spirit. (If you’d prefer a much scarier story for grown-ups, try this.)
A few weeks after my thirteenth birthday, three friends and myself began to concoct one of our usual mythic dreams of adventure. I grew up in either a large town or a small city, depending on your economic point of view. Almost the entire city-town was a suburb. We had a downtown, but there was hardly anything there other than city hall and the jailhouse. We had an indoor shopping mall, which was rather small but still the central vein of commerce for the area. Although such things never bothered me much as a child, I now sometimes wonder where anyone made any of the money they spent at the mall. The rest of the city-town was houses. Houses and woods. There were lots of woods.
My house sat in a neat suburb in the west end of town. The west end was, apparently, where the rich people lived. I never thought of my family as rich, though…which I suppose was more or less accurate, and became evident not even a year after the event I’m about to describe, when our landlord politely evicted us from our home a few days before Christmas. A few months prior, in the prime of autumn, is when my birthday occurred and the scheming began.
Guys. IT’S ONLY A STORY. You know, for Halloween. Please don’t call the cops on me. Again.
If you’ve been following the little horror series I’ve been writing all month for Halloween, then you might’ve noticed a new update I posted to it last night, wherein I was forced to explain that it was only a story because this is Texas, where people can apparently convince the police that shadow ghost demons are real and need to be investigated.
Which is why three officers showed up at my house last night and interrogated me in my own living room. After they saw that my wife and child were fine, that I was fine, that everyone was fine, they eventually left laughing about the whole thing and clearly annoyed that they were ever called out to begin with. But the point is that I had the cops called on me OVER A GHOST STORY.
I was a very trusting child. If someone in a position of authority told me something was true, I usually believed them. Which, now that I think about it, is probably why I grew up to distrust all authority as an adult. Because authority is full of shit.
My parents were my first authority figures, which probably isn’t all that much of a surprise, since parents are pretty much everyone’s first authority figures. And I believed everything they ever told me, which is a fact they routinely exploited with the kind of sadistic relish only parents delivering a little payback to their weirdo kid can.
For example, a favorite pastime of my folks was alternating between telling me that they were either going to ship me off to the orphanage, or some supernatural force was going to murder me. ALL THE TIME.
As I’ve started opening up a little about my various absurd struggles with depression and all my weird little quirks – thanks, in large part, to Jenny Lawson making me feel like it’s okay to be broken – I’ve noticed something not good: there aren’t many dudes talking about their feelings.
Not in the way that the women are, with jagged bone honesty and brutal humor to highlight how ridiculous everything is. The few men who are writing about mental health tend to write like, well, men writing about mental health. It’s usually very cold and antiseptic, as if depression can be conquered through spreadsheets and actuarial tables.
This is going into my Questionable Decisions section because…well, you’ll see. Spoiler alert: I chose wisely.
I met Jenny Lawson tonight. She was super sweet and gave me a bunch of compliments. It felt great and awkward, and everyone was looking at me, so I wanted to run for the exit as soon as it was over. Only that would’ve probably drawn even more attention, so I just decided to walk normally. But then I felt like I was overcompensating and walking too slowly just so I’d look like I was walking at a normal pace, so I sped up a little until I started to feel like I was walking too fast, then I just gave up and looked at the watch I wasn’t wearing so I could pretend I was late for something. By the time I had it all sorted out, I was already back at my car.