Illustration courtesy of Chris Piascik

The evening before Election Day, the house was full of welcomed quiet. The TVs were off. And after a glass of wine, Steph was on her way to bed.

But as she walked past Ben’s room, she heard sniffling. She cracked the door and understood he was still awake.

“What’s wrong, honey?” she whispered.

He rolled over to look at her, and Steph saw he’d been crying.

“Everyone is so angry,” he said. “I’m afraid what might happen tomorrow. I’m scared, and I don’t understand why this is happening.”

The presidential election, she thought. If it was a scary time for adults, it could be a terrifying time for children. She’d never thought how it might be for a 9-year-old who’d never really paid attention to a national election until this year.

She entered the room and sat on Ben’s bed.

“I think you’re old enough to hear the tale of the Trumpusnacht,” she said, caressing his forehead.

“The what?” he answered.

“More commonly called Trumpus,” she began. “It all started with Uncle Sam …”

More »

The Grim Reaper was ringing a bell. That’s what Jill saw as she was leaving the grocery store. Why hadn’t she noticed when she was walking in? Was he there?

He wore a skeleton mask and skeleton gloves, as well as a long, ragged, black cloak. A hood frayed around the mask. His right hand grasped an entirely wooden sickle, the blade painted silver with blotches to convey a worn, rustic look. The small bell, its handle black and body gold, was in his left. The reaper stood near a red Salvation Army collection kettle, which hung within a tripod. The sign atop the tripod was similar to the Christmas version, except it had an orange border and bats instead of holly leaves.

Jill, who had a shopping bag in each hand, was going to keep walking, but a thought stopped her.

“Excuse me?” she said to the Reaper. “Is this really a Salvation Army thing? Is it … sanctioned?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The reaper’s voice was baritone.

“Because … and I don’t want to offend you, but this seems like a scam,” she said, a little apologetically.

“No offense,” the Grim Reaper said. “We’re looking to capitalize on the Santa thing. Christmas isn’t bringing in as much in donations as it once did, so we’re expanding to other holidays.”

Jill nodded. “Sure.”

“Halloween is the test run,” the Reaper explained. “If it goes well, we’ll have a pilgrim at Thanksgiving. Maybe a big turkey. Then Santa, of course, for Christmas. Then a bunny for Easter, midgets for St. Patrick’s Day, Uncle Sam in July, so on, so forth.” More »

Scott almost picked a wineglass but instead chose a red, plastic cup. He filled it with Marietta cabernet, 2008.

“Don’t you think that’s a little nice for a plastic cup?” Josie asked.

“Was 2008 a good year?” Scott asked, sipping.

“I’m presuming,” she said, sipping a white wine from a wide-rimmed glass. “All the others are 2010.”

Scott didn’t know much about wines, and besides, the plastic cup was a better match for a flannel button-up and old jeans. He was wearing boots, for God’s sake, so why would he care about drinking wine from plastic.

Josie, on the other hand. Sure, she was wearing jeans, too, but they appeared to be designer jeans. Her brown top was heavy with sequence. Her blonde hair was smooth and shiny, meticulous. She should be drinking from a glass, and honestly, should not be drinking something from 2010.

Jim was wired, pacing from room to room, placing dishes, juking and shuffling between and around people as they conversed and popped appetizers into their mouths. He was looking for bowls, had explored the cabinets for bowls, Scott noticed, and was scanning faces, looking for his wife, Deb.

“Have you guys seen Deb?” he asked Scott and Josie.

“Upstairs, maybe?” Josie said.

“Maybe.” Jim started to move away, toward the stairs, then stopped and turned back toward Scott and Josie.

“I think she’s 10 minutes away,” Jim said. “Just got a text from her.” More »