Halloween was always an exciting night. We would take turns trying to frighten one another. As we got older our scary pranks got more elaborate. Once, Jimmy had us spend hours sitting in a graveyard playing with a ouija board. You should've seen us scatter as the ghost he had on strings finally came barreling towards us when we thought we'd channeled the dead. Rick ran so far and so fast we didn't see him again until the next day in school. Boy did we rib him for that.
We didn't know at the time that'd we'd caused him so much embarrassment in front of Cindy Markham, the girl he was sweet on, that he would plan the ultimate prank. We didn't know that for another 2 years.
Billy's mom was having a Halloween party the next year so we didn't get to really pull any pranks. Just the little "spider in the punch bowl" type stuff. Jimmy put some itching powder he'd ordered from the back of a comic book into my gauze packs when I wasn't looking. Everyone got a hoot outta me running around trying to pull off all my wrapping. I ended up all red and itchy, standing there in the bathroom in just my underwear trying to hide until his dad made me come out.
I wanted to give him a walloping the next day but I couldn't help but laugh thinking back to how I had to take a shower then wear an old flowered sheet like a hippy ghost the rest of the night.
That next year, though, that was the year Rick pulled the last Halloween prank ever. He was still sore that Cindy laughed at him too when we told how fast he ran from that old sheet ghost.
Me, Jimmy, Bill Owens and Steve were walking through the woods towards Rick's house that night. There was a noise like someone coming up behind us and we were expecting Rick to try to scare us. He came running at us screaming, "I'm the headless horseman!" but we could see he'd just painted his face black and tied the cape around the top of his head. I was getting ready to tell him I could see his trick when he started throwing little pumpkins at us that were on fire. At first we thought it was funny but when they hit the ground real fire was coming out and starting to burn the woods. So we scattered. We didn't want to get our hides tanned for him playing with fire.
I turned to run and tripped. I could feel my arm break as I hit the ground but then one of his pumpkins hit me in the back of the head. The kerosene he'd put in them must've made the insides of the pumpkin like jelly because it stuck to my head, shoulders and face as it burned.
The pain was horrible and I screamed right away. I could feel my face burn as my mask started melting. Then it started sticking to my face. I'd just got one of those new rubber masks that covered your whole head. A wolf man mask. Only now it was making black smoke and choking me as it melted.
I clawed at it trying to get it off, trying to get the pain to stop. The fire was in my hair, my eyes and even my ears. The more I screamed the more smoke I got and the more I started coughing.
Jimmy came running over first, crying and telling me to stay still. Bill Owens started throwing sand on me because that's all we had. Jimmy yelled at Steve to go get help. And Rick, he just stood there.
I remember crying and screaming from the pain then everything went black. When I woke up I was in the hospital. My whole head was wrapped in gauze and so were my hands.
I spent the rest of the school year in the hospital. They did 6 surgeries. The gang came and visited me all the time. They kept trying to joke like I was going to be ok but I could see that they just felt sorry for me.
Sometimes Rick would come with them but he always just stood there. He never spoke again after that night and by the end of the school year his parents had sent him off to some hospital for kids with head problems. We never saw him again.
Now, almost 20 years later, I still look forward to Halloween only for a different reason. Now it's the one night where I look like a fit in. Even after all the surgeries I'd had over the next 5 years they could only do so much. Third degree burns over my entire head had cost me my nose and one eyelid. From clawing at the mask that night, trying to get the fire away from my face, I'd lost 3 fingers that were burned to the bone. All that smoke had destroyed my lungs so breathing is still difficult. That one Halloween left me with a permanent mask that still scares everyone who sees me.