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Story Notes:
This month we’re setting a Halloween challenge. We’ve got two choices for you. We have 20 words for you and you’ll need to use at least TEN of them, OR we have a line for you to use. The words are: MIST, RAIN, SOFT, SPIDER, BAT/BATS (the animal), NIGHT, MOON, BROOM, SPOOKY, HAUNTED, VAMPIRE, GHOST, CANDLE, CAT, PUMPKIN, BLACK, ORANGE, CANDY, WITCH, COSTUME. The line is: A SCREAM PIERCED THE NIGHT.

You can use the words, or line, as many times as you want but you must use them at least once in your story.

Please CAPITALIZE the words/line in order to make them stand out.

The words/line must be EXACTLY as noted in the challenge.

Your submission can be of any length, from a line to a full-length story - and it can be SMK, B5 or anything else.
Little Scarecrow

4247 Maplewood Dr.

Sunday, October 24, 1995

6:15 PM


Startled, Lee glanced up from his report. The scream hadn’t pierced the night after all—it had come from the television screen. An old black and white movie was playing—a woman being chased through the woods by Dracula. They showed movies like this during this time of the year. He glanced at his six- year old daughter, who knelt by the coffee table, head down, immersed in her homework. Jenna didn’t seem to be paying attention. Still, Lee still didn’t want to take a chance; after all, it was only a year ago that she couldn’t sleep at night for fear of monsters hiding under her bed.

“Munchkin, do you mind if I turn this off?” he asked her.

“I don’t mind,” came the reply. Jenna didn’t even look up from her paper. Lee grabbed the remote, turning the set off and throwing the room into silence. He glanced back down at the report, taking a sip of his now-lukewarm coffee. The numbers blurred and ran together—he rubbed at the center of his forehead. Hopefully Amanda would be home soon. Then they could go over the report together when Jenna was asleep—and afterwards, if he played his cards right, maybe they could go over some other things as well. He smiled at the thought.

“Daddy, can I be the Scarecrow?”

The scream on the television had been nothing compared to this. Luckily Lee managed to put his coffee cup down beside him before the contents spilled all over the table and the carpet—not to mention the report.

She couldn’t know, he thought, looking down at that innocent face—her big brown eyes staring up at him. They’d been so careful to hide all this from Jenna— to shelter her—it wasn’t possible for her to know anything.

Or was it?

“What was that, munchkin?” Lee asked, trying to keep his expression neutral; his voice very calm.

“Can I dress up as the Scarecrow?”

Dress up. That’s when it hit him. “Oh, you mean for Halloween? A scarecrow costume?”

A small frown furrowed between Jenna’s eyebrows. “When else would I be the Scarecrow?”

When else, indeed. “Ah—what made you think of that?”

“Well he’s my favorite character in Oz,” Jenna replied. “And I have this,” she patted the Scarecrow doll sitting on the coffee table. “I just think it would be fun.”

“Yeah, it would be.” Lee ruffled Jenna’s hair. “We’ll ask your Mommy when she comes home, okay? Finish your homework—Grandma will have dinner ready in a moment. ”

“All right,” Jenna picked up her pencil and turned back to the paper. “I’m almost finished except for this last problem—I can’t do it.”

“Let me take a look at it.” Lee knelt beside his daughter, looking over her shoulder.

“See?” Jenna pointed. “It’s supposed to be a number pattern but it’s too hard.”

Number pattern—Lee looked at the row of numbers. One, Four, Seven, Ten—he hesitated. He could just give her the answer but she was supposed to learn it herself.

“Jenna, if you have four and you take away one, what do you have?” He asked her.

“Four minus—” Jenna held up her fingers as she counted to herself. “That’s three.”

“Very good. And seven minus four?”

“That’s um— three too.”

“That’s right. Now look at those numbers one more time.”

“One, Four Seven—ten—oh, I see.” She carefully wrote the number 13 in the box. “Is that right?”

“That’s perfect.”

“Good—I’m finished now. Can you sign it?”

“Sure.” Taking a pen from his pocket Lee signed his name across the top of the page. Jenna folded the paper and placed it in her backpack, zipping it up.

“Hey Daddy, you know what?”


“You could dress up too,” she said. “When you and Mommy take me trick or treating? Then we could all be dressed up.”

Dressed up? “I don’t know about that,” Lee noticed Dotty standing near the kitchen entranceway, arms crossed, watching him. “I don’t really dress up in costumes,” he tried to explain. “It’s not something I do.”

“But why not? You dressed up as the Easter Bunny that one year, remember?”

“Yeah, I remember.” As if he could ever forget. And after Francine had found that photo she’d never let him forget it either. “But, you see, munchkin—that was only because Mommy was sick. That’s not something that I usually—” his voice broke off as he saw the growing disappointment in Jenna’s eyes—her mother’s eyes. He could never say no to those eyes.

“Okay,” he sighed, running a hand back through his hair. “What do you think I should dress up as?”

“Hmm…let’s see.” Jenna walked over to the bookcase and took out the Wizard of Oz book, bringing it back over to the coffee table—she carefully turned the pages as she spoke.

“Well, there’s Dorothy—” she began.

“Dorothy?” Lee heard Dotty chuckle softly. “I couldn’t be Dorothy—trust me—my legs are way too hairy,” he explained hastily as Jenna looked at him.

“There’s the Wicked Witch—she doesn’t have to show her legs,” Jenna replied.

“Yeah, but I would have to do green makeup.”

Jenna made a face. “Yuck. You’re right. There’s Glinda. She doesn’t show her legs either but I think Mommy might be better.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more,” Lee said fervently. If he was ever spotted dressing like Glinda and Francine got a hold of it—he shuddered.

“But you have to be somebody,” Jenna insisted. “Somebody in the book. “

An idea struck him. “Hey, how about I be the Scarecrow? You could be a munchkin. That could work.”

“No,” Jenna shook her head, her expression stubborn. “I was a munchkin when I was three—I saw a picture. I want to be the Scarecrow now.”

“We could both be scarecrows, you know. Big Scarecrow and little Scarecrow. No?” he said as he saw the look on her face. “Why not?”

“There’s only one Scarecrow,” Jenna replied. “Two would be silly.”

Two would be silly—Lee drew in a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. “Okay—what do you think I should be?”

“You have—” again Jenna counted on her fingers. “Three characters left. There’s the Wizard—but you don’t look much like him.”

“No,” Lee thought of Paul Barnes. “I don’t think I could be the Wizard.”

“You could be the Tin Man.”

God forbid. The name alone was still enough to bring back memories of Serdeych; but those were things he could never tell his daughter. He hesitated, wracking his brain for an answer that would satisfy her.

Think, Stetson, think.

“I would rather be the Cowardly Lion,” he told her.

“But why the Lion?”

“Why? Because then I can go—ROAR!” With that he grabbed Jenna and swept her off the floor, swinging her around in his arms—Jenna let out a shriek as he did, giggling and kicking her feet in the air.

“Okay, Daddy, okay,” she gasped. “You can be the Cowardly Lion.”

“Good.” Lee kissed her forehead and put her down. “Go and get your dinner, munchkin—you don’t want it to get cold.”

“I will.” Jenna wrapped her arms around him. “I love you.”

“Love you too, munchkin.”

Jenna ran into the kitchen. Dotty just looked at him, smiling and shaking her head.


“Nothing,” Dotty said. “Just marveling at how completely she’s got you wrapped around her little finger—Scarecrow.”

4247 Maplewood Dr.

Sunday, October 31, 1995

5:30 PM

“Daddy, are you coming down?” Jenna’s voice floated up the stairs.

“In a minute, munchkin.” Staring at himself in the full-length mirror Lee adjusted the fake fur headpiece so that the mane framed his face. The same fake fur also lined his wrists and where the material gathered at his ankles. He didn’t actually look like a lion, he thought; more like he was wearing a pair of brown flannel pajamas with a hood. As he turned away from the mirror something swung behind him—with a sigh Lee caught the swinging object in his hand.

Correction. A pair of brown flannel pajamas with a tail.

“Daddy!” Jenna’s voice called out again, reminding Lee of why he was doing this. Drawing in a deep breath, he ran his hand back through the SOFT mane. “Coming!”

“Mommy, this straw won’t stay out of my eyes,” Jenna was complaining as Lee came down the stairs into the family room. “It itches my face.”

“I know, sweetheart,” Amanda said. “Let’s try something.” Taking a pair of scissors from a nearby drawer she knelt beside Jenna, carefully cutting the straw around her face. “There, is that better?”

“Yes—that helps a lot.” Jenna replied.

“Well I’m glad.” Amanda straightened, returning the scissors to the drawer as she turned to face Lee.

“Amanda—” Lee’s own breath caught in his throat as he looked at his wife—even in a pink Glinda costume she looked absolutely amazing. Amanda’s smile widened—she knew just what he was thinking. .

“Hey, Dad, you look great,” Jenna smiled up at him from beneath the brim of her floppy hat.

“Well so do you,” Lee told her. She really did look cute—Amanda had painted Jenna’s nose red and put a smattering of freckles on each cheek. “You make a great Scarecrow, munchkin.”

“I’m sorry to leave you in the lurch like this, Amanda,” Dotty came downstairs, hurriedly putting on her earrings. “But Captain Curt said he’s already booked the restaurant—he thought he’d told me but he forgot.”

“Grandma, you have a date?” Jenna asked.

“Yes, darling.” Dotty looked in the mirror, fixing her hair.

“A real date?” Jenna continued. “Like with kissing and stuff?”

“Jenna—” Lee felt a twinge of unease—she was only six—what could she possibly know about ‘kissing and stuff’?

“People kiss on TV, Daddy,” Jenna said. “And you and Mommy kiss too.”

“She’s right, Lee.” Dotty commented. “Jenna—what I might do depends on how the evening goes—all right?”

Jenna grinned. “All right—have a good time.”

“You too, darling,” Bending down, Dotty gave Jenna a hug. “You have fun trick or treating with Mr. Lion here.”

“We will, Grandma.”

The doorbell rang.

“That will be him,” Dotty said. “Amanda, are you sure you don’t mind—”

“It’s no problem Mother,” Amanda said. “I’ll just stay here and hand out the treats—you and Captain Curt have a good time.”

“Bless you,” Dotty said. “Don’t wait up.”

“You’re not going, trick or treating, Mommy?” Jenna asked once Dotty had left. .

“Sweetheart, if I go there won’t be anyone to hand out the candy we bought.” Amanda said. “You and your Daddy will have a lot of fun together—I promise.”

“Well—” Jenna hesitated. “Okay. Save me some CANDY?”

Amanda laughed. “You’ll have more than enough candy when you come home. Go put your sneakers, okay? They’re right by the back door.”

“But real scarecrows don’t wear sneakers.” Jenna said.

“Well real scarecrows aren’t going to be walking on the damp ground either,” Amanda kissed her forehead. “And real scarecrows don’t have to worry about catching cold. Now go on.” Jenna ran out of the room.

“Wait till I have to tell her that real scarecrows wear coats too,” Amanda said. “Make sure she doesn’t eat all of her candy before she gets back home, okay? Last Halloween she did that and had the world’s worst tummy ache.”

“Believe me, I haven’t forgotten,” Lee pulled his wife close, her body molding to his. “And later on when I get home—maybe we can have our own celebration. What do you say?”

“It’s a deal, Stetson,” Amanda murmured as their lips met.


“No more sweet tarts, Jenna,” Lee said. “Or I’m carrying the candy. You’ll make yourself sick again.”

“But I love sweet tarts.”

“Well you can love them just as much at home. Agreed?”

Jenna sighed. “Agreed. Oh Daddy, yuck—look what Mrs. Doss gave me.” Reaching into the plastic PUMPKIN Amanda had given her, Jenna held up the tiny tube of toothpaste. “Why would somebody do that? I already have toothpaste at home.”

“I really don’t know,” Lee said as they walked down the sidewalk. Despite the cool night air “Maybe she just thought you needed some more.”

“Well it’s just mean, that’s all.” Jenna said. “You’re supposed to give candy.”

“I know munchkin—don’t worry. I’m sure the next house will be better.”

The streets were certainly full tonight, Lee noted—children and their parents—older kids in groups, toting bags and pillowcases. Ed Baum from down the street walked by, dressed as a red M & M and toting his four year old son Jason by the hand. Jason, who was dressed as a power ranger complete with mask, was vainly trying to deliver a karate kick to Edna Gilstrap’s rose bushes.

“Leave those alone, Jason,” Ed said. He and Lee nodded as they passed one another—secretly Lee was glad that he wasn’t the only man in costume tonight—and even more glad he wasn’t a red M & M. Not that what he was wearing was exactly comfortable; despite the cool night air Lee was starting to sweat in his costume, little trickles of moisture trickling down his neck to pool at the small of his back.

“What was trick or treating like when you were a kid?” Jenna’s voice broke Lee out of his reverie. “Did you go out with your parents?”

“Well, I probably did,” he told her. “But I was little—I don’t really remember. And after my parents passed away—well, no one really took me.” His grandmother had been too old—and his Uncle said he was too busy to mess around with that kind of foolishness. There had been trick or treating on base, Lee recalled—but he had never participated.
Jenna tugged on his hand—he looked down at her. “But you get to trick or treat now, right?”

Lee smiled down at his daughter. “Yeah, I get to trick or treat now.”


Jenna shrieked, clutching Lee tightly as the figure leapt out of the bushes to land in front of them. A white hockey mask covered the face completely; the figure wielded a chainsaw. He or she waved it menacingly back and forth as they approached.

“Daddy,” Jenna whimpered.

Instinctively Lee reached for his weapon, only to realize that he wasn’t carrying.

Of all the times—

“Oh, man—I’m sorry.”

The voice was familiar, Lee realized. And definitely not a man’s voice. In the dim glow of the streetlight he could see that the ‘chainsaw’ was nothing but a plastic toy. A hand reached up to remove the mask—

“Tony Lambkin—what the hell kind of a stunt was that?” Lee exclaimed—anger and relief washing over him in equal measure as he recognized the fourteen year old who occasionally mowed their lawn.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Stetson,” the boy replied sheepishly. “It was just a little Halloween prank—but I didn’t mean to scare any little kids—I just wasn’t looking. I’m really sorry.”

“I don’t think I’m the one to apologize to,” Lee said. Jenna was holding onto his leg—clutching so tightly now that the limb was growing numb.

“Sorry Jenna.” Tony knelt in front of her, pulling something out of his pocket. “That’s a cute costume, and here look—you can have a chocolate bar.”

After a minute Jenna let go of Lee’s leg and took the chocolate bar. “It’s okay—I wasn’t really that scared.” The boy took off down the street.

“I really wasn’t scared,” Jenna told him. “Really.”

“I know you weren’t, munchkin.” They came to the next house with a porch light on. BLACK and ORANGE streamers festooned the door frame —the door itself was decorated with cut-outs of a SPIDER, a BAT, a WITCH, a VAMPIRE and a GHOST. Despite her claims of not being scared Lee noticed the way that Jenna clutched his hand—and when he rang the doorbell she pressed tightly against his side. From inside came the sound of SPOOKY music, growing louder as the door slowly creaked open, tendrils of MIST creeping out—

“Why Jenna Stetson—what a lovely surprise!”

“Hi, Mrs. James,” Jenna loosened her grip on Lee’s side, smiling up at her second grade teacher. “I like your costume. Are you a princess?”

“That’s exactly right, Jenna.” The teacher spoke as she adjusted the veils on the pointed hat she wore. “And lavender is my favorite color.”

“It’s mine too.” Jenna replied.

“And let’s see,” Mrs. James picked up a bowl. “You’re the Scarecrow, right?”

“Right—and Daddy’s the Lion.”

“And he makes a wonderful lion—both wonderful costumes,” Mrs. James reached into the bowl she held, putting treats into Jenna’s pumpkin. “There you go—I hope you like sweet tarts.”

“You have no idea how much she likes sweet tarts,” Lee told the teacher, who smiled at him.

“Thank you, Mrs. James.” Jenna said.

“Have a good night—see you tomorrow morning,” Mrs. James said.

“Wasn’t that funny?” Jenna said as they went back down the walk.

“Wasn’t what funny?”

“Well, it’s just that I didn’t know that Mrs. James lived in a house.”

“Jenna—where exactly did you think she lived?”

“Daddy—she’s a teacher,” Jenna’s tone suggested she was stating the rather obvious. “I thought all teachers lived in the school.”

Lee chuckled softly. “Come on, munchkin. We have a few more houses and we can get you home, huh?”

“Can I have hot chocolate before I go to bed?”

“Sure—I don’t see why not.”

“With marshmallows?” Jenna asked. “I love marshmallows.”

“Lions and scarecrows—oh my.”

The voice stopped Lee dead in his tracks. A familiar voice—one he’d never expected to hear in the context of a suburban Arlington neighborhood. Now he understood Jenna’s surprise at seeing her teacher outside of the school—someone outside of their natural element.

Slowly he turned around.

“Hello there, Scarecrow,” Dr. Smyth said.

“Hello, sir,” Lee replied.

The Agency head smiled thinly. He stood beside his customary black limousine, parked right outside Rose Cioffi’s house. Lee had met Rose once or twice—she was a member of the local gardening club and a close friend of Dotty’s.

What on earth would Smyth be doing here?

“I’m just visiting an aunt of mine, Scarecrow,” the man said. “I do from time to time.”

“I understand.” Lee replied tightly. If Dr. Smyth didn’t cut it with the Scarecrow stuff Lee was going to have some serious explaining to do. And all hopes that maybe Jenna hadn’t noticed were dashed when she tugged on his hand.

“I’m the Scarecrow, Daddy.” she reminded him.

“Of course you are,” Lee said. “Jenna, this is Dr. Smyth—he’s the head of IFF. Dr. Smyth, this is my daughter, Jenna.”

“Little Scarecrow, eh? ” Dr. Smyth said. “And the Cowardly Lion—this certainly is a surprise. Out trick or treating? Here—” he dug into his pocket and produced a Butterfinger, dropping it into Jenna’s pumpkin. “Have a little candy on me, ‘kay? Good night— Scarecrow.”

With that he climbed into the back of his limo, which pulled slowly away from the curb.

“He’s strange,” Jenna said. “Did I ever meet him before?”

“Once,” Lee told her, shuddering as he remembered that particular Halloween—one he’d rather forget. “But you were probably too little to remember. Come on—let’s get you home, huh? You can get that hot chocolate with marshmallows.”

“Okay—but I have just one question.”

Time seemed to stop for a moment. Lee kept his face and voice carefully expressionless as he looked down at Jenna’s upturned face. .

“What question?” he asked.

“What was Dr. Smyth supposed to be dressed up as?”

This time Lee laughed out loud.

The End
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