A/N: This is in response to the 10 word Halloween Challenge.

Post Halloween Blues

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

Johnny Gage leaned on the broom handle, listening to the horror movie blaring from the dayroom's television. Halloween was Chet Kelly's favorite holiday after April Fool's Day, beating out even St. Patrick's Day, mostly due to the prevalence of spooky horror films on television and at the local movie theaters. In fact, the paramedic knew his crewmate would wear costumes on duty if the County allowed it.

He pushed the broom around the apparatus bay, cleaning up the fake spider webs that had fallen onto the floor. After Captain Stanley had almost broken his bones sliding on the feathery tendrils, issuing a howl that could be heard all over the station, Johnny had been ordered to clean it up.

He shoved the Halloween debris into a trash bag, adding the contents of the dorm's garbage can. Someone, probably his partner, had been sneaking candy. The pail was filled with empty candy wrappers. Johnny tied the bag securely, heading for the dumpster behind the station.

The dumpster's lid opened with a screech, as creepy as anything in Chet's cheesy movies. Johnny tossed the black plastic bag in, slamming the lid shut. He glanced up, pleased that the moon wasn't full. At least they would be spared the stranger calls that always seemed to come on the night of the full moon.

Johnny sighed as he strolled back to the station. He knew his depression was from missing the annual DeSoto Halloween Carnival, held in the back yard of Roy's house for the neighborhood children. As trick or treating house to house had gotten more dangerous, many neighbors had searched for a fun way for their children to enjoy the holiday without going door to door and taking candy from strangers. Roy's solution involved cleaning out the garage and turning it into a haunted house. It grew from there to small carnival type games and a party atmosphere. Johnny helped with the setup every year since becoming Roy's partner, enjoying the family feeling. This year, however, he had agreed to work a double shift, covering for an injured Dwyer, missing out on the preparation as well as the party.

He tried to be enthusiastic as Roy described this year's booths, but his heart wasn't in it. Johnny hated feeling this way. He was a lucky man just to be included in the DeSoto activities. Grabbing the broom, Johnny placed it in the storage closet. Turning, he was puzzled to hear the sound of a child's feet running on the concrete floor. It was very late for any children to be trick or treating in the mostly industrial area.

A little girl dressed in a cat costume came flying around the engine, throwing herself into Johnny's hurriedly opened arms.

"Uncle Johnny, Uncle Johnny!" The six year old hugged him tightly around the neck.

"Well, hello, Angel."

"I'm not an angel, Uncle Johnny, I'm a kitty cat," Jennifer DeSoto explained patiently. "See, I've gotta tail!" She reached behind, confident that she wouldn't be dropped, and pulled her black tail up for perusal.

"Ohhh, that explains the lack of wings, too," Johnny said, tweaking the little girl's black-painted nose.

As Jennifer chattered away to her adopted uncle, telling him all about the homemade carnival and providing a detailed inventory of candy received at the few houses visited, Roy wrapped his arms around his wife.

"Thanks for bringing her, Joanne. Poor Johnny really missed helping out this year."

"I only agreed to bring her here this late, mister, because it's a Friday. Well, that and that fact that the kids really missed him as well. Even our super cool son said it wasn't the same without Johnny there to gross out."

Roy chuckled. "Where is Chris?"

"He decided to stay the night with Billy."

As Roy gazed at his partner, he was pleased to see a wide grin on the younger man's face, the first genuine one of the evening. It appeared that his call to Joanne had been the right one after all.

November 2005