Disclaimer: JE owns them. I do not.
Eyeballs, Intestines, and Noses, Oh My!
As it had been the last eleven years, Stephanie was in charge of the RangeMan haunted house for Halloween. This was the first year our three girls would really be old enough to enjoy it. Maria, Manuela, and Michelle were nine years old now, and just like their mom, their favorite holiday was, without a doubt, Halloween. They'd helped Steph plan every detail of the haunted house this year—cold damp spaghetti for intestines, frozen peeled grapes for eyeballs, a peeled squishy tomato for the heart, and a dried apricot for the nose. The girls were especially excited about those things.
Steph had also recruited Lester, Junior, and Binkie to be dressed up as creatures inside. Lester was a vampire, Junior was the Mad Scientist behind the food body parts, and Binkie was a mummy.
We were meeting the night before to turn our "play house"—the big building we used as a training facility—into the haunted house. By the time we were finished decorating on Thursday, it would look nothing like it did right now—plain, gray, and cold. Steph had bought enough decorations to fill the place twice over.
Friday night at seven o'clock found Steph, myself, our three girls, Tank, Lula, and their two boys, as well as some of the kids' friends from school all in a line outside the haunted house. The kids were all shaking with anticipation. We hadn't let any of them see inside after we got it decorated, wanting it to be a surprise.
Finally, the guys indicated they were ready. Bobby, who was manning the door, blew a whistle to let everyone inside know it was a group of young children so they should tone it down a bit. He opened the doors and ushered us inside, and for the next fifteen minutes, I was afraid my eardrums would burst from the screaming and laughing the kids were doing. By the time we encountered Binkie the Mummy, I had a girl by each hand and another perched on my shoulders, hanging onto my hair for dear life. Up ahead, I could see Steph and Lula with two girls clinging to them each, and behind me, Tank was herding the stragglers.
We made our way out the back door, the sounds of howling, growling, and screams echoing behind us. As soon as we got outside, all twelve kids began jumping up and down screaming.
"Whoa, there. What's the deal?"
Twelve voices screamed in almost perfect synchronization. "Can we please go again?"
Steph laughed and looked at me with a gaze full of love. I nodded to the kids, who raced ahead of us to the front of the building to get back in line. My princess, bond enforcement agent, and Army Ranger daughters raced ahead of the pack.
I reached over and took Steph's hand in mine. When she smiled up at me, I knew I'd go through the silly haunted house a hundred more times and wear this football uniform costume every other day if it made her this happy every time.
"I love you, Carlos. Thank you for all your help," she told me as we rounded the corner.
I looked down at her in her cheerleader costume and grinned my wolf-grin. "My pleasure, Babe. Happy Halloween!"