So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
- Thomas Hardy, The Darkling Thrush
Several days after he was sent to the chapel, Jonathan Crane had more-or-less given up on Halloween. He knew what he would be doing when the day came and everyone else in his school was wandering the streets of Arlen, collecting candy and playing games - sitting alone in the Keeny manor, alone with the scabs from Jackie's matches and the crows' claws. After what had happened, he would be lucky if Gran even let him out of the house. This was just as well, since he needed time to recover.
He wasn't looking forward to missing out on the candy. If there was one reason he wanted to participate in Halloween, outside of a chance to prove that he was like the other boys and possibly get Sherry's respect, it was because the holiday offered a rare opportunity for him to fill his stomach with something other than Gran's vegetable dishes. Just seeing the cookies, candies, and other treats on display in the windows of local shops made him lick his lips. He would have loved to visit a local store and buy some for a snack, but Gran only gave him money for school lunches. As she said, she couldn't afford to lend out any more.
He wasn't the only one staying behind this year, although that was only a small relief. George Dunstan's parents, as punishment for his toilet paper prank the previous year, were keeping him indoors and under their watch. Jonathan had a difficult time feeling sorry for him, especially when he looked at the burn marks on his hands.
The rest of the Chickenhawks would go as a group: Jackie Grey, Bo Griggs, Brad Simmons, and Jason Bludhorn. Their cheerleader hangers-on would accompany them, of course. Bo had Sherry Squires, while Brad Simmons was still going out with Charlene Connors.
Jonathan honestly had no idea how long Brad and Charlene would stay together. His suspicion was that Brad's only reason for having a girlfriend was to imitate Bo, his closest friend. He had very little in common with Charlene. They bickered constantly, and over the most petty of things. Brad would skip dates in favor of football practice. Charlene would deliberately get "sick" before Chickenhawk games if they were on bad terms. Then, after a week or two of arguments and threats, the lovebirds would make up, only for the cycle to repeat itself. Their fights were a popular source of amusement at Arlen High, for both Jonathan and the rest of the football team alike.
If only Sherry and Bo were like that. If they were, it would have been easy for Jonathan to drive a wedge between the couple, win Sherry's attentions, and get a girlfriend for himself while ruining Bo's social life. Unfortunately, Sherry seemed to genuinely like Bo, and vice versa. Superficial as it was, there must have been a degree of real affection in their relationship. Jonathan didn't know if he could break them up, even if he had a plan to, which he didn't. First he would have to think about what he had to offer that Bo didn't, and then gain her trust and friendship. They wouldn't split on their own, that much was clear enough. Jonathan would have to help them apart.
He watched them in the hallway as they talked to Brad and Jason Bludhorn over a can of soda. Bo gave a braying laugh over something Sherry said, Jason joining in. Crane's eyes narrowed in resentment and hate. Although Jackie was arguably the most outright cruel of the bullies, Bo had antagonized Jonathan Crane since both of them were children, and Jonathan hadn't forgiven or forgotten Bo's betrayal during the game of tag seven years ago. With some thinking, he could understand the larger boy's popularity. While Bo could be vicious toward Jonathan, he was quite the opposite towards Sherry and the other Chickenhawks. He was well known for buying cans of soda for the team to cool themselves off after a big game.
This did nothing to change Crane's opinion of Bo. Assuming that Bo was nothing but a big stupid jock with a football instead of a brain would be a mistake, though. He may not have had Crane's intelligence and test scores, but he could win people over. Getting the other kids to dislike the class hero would be next to impossible. Jonathan, though, was willing to satisfy himself with Sherry. That would be humiliation enough for Bo. Turning the school against his old enemy was a pleasant fantasy, on the other side of things. Jonathan always kept an ear pricked for a bit of unsavory gossip that he could take advantage of.
Both of them would be going out for Halloween. That was reason enough for Jonathan Crane to come along, if just to spy. However, he didn't have a costume, and without one he was trapped in the house even if Gran gave him permission in a fit of generosity. He loitered inside the building, staying away from the tree in case Jackie came back there looking for him. His hands still felt sore, and he was furious with the Chickenhawks.
If it hadn't been for Jackie and the bullies, he wouldn't have been taken to the chapel. He never had finished Ulysses, either. Gran hadn't destroyed it, as far as he knew, but must have taken it to the forbidden room. Once there, it was as good as burned. He sighed. All in all, it hadn't been a good week.
He stood up, trying to ignore the dull pain in his hands. The school nurse had been much more helpful than Gran when it came to treating his burns. They would heal in the next few weeks, with any luck. He hadn't found the courage to tell her how he had really gotten hurt. If he got Jackie Grey, football hero, suspended, there would be an outrage. Although he wouldn't have minded seeing Jackie kicked out of school, the bullying would only get worse if the team captain went.
All the same, he wanted his revenge. He was fed up with running and hiding and covering up for what other people did to him. The only catch in his scheme was that he needed to make sure that no one knew who was really responsible. He cringed as he remembered what he had told the nurse earlier in the day.
"It was an accident," he had said as she applied ointment to the burnt skin between his fingers. "I was using a match, and it must have slipped." Thankfully, the wounds weren't as gruesome as Crane had feared, and she believed him. The scratches from the crows were hidden underneath his shirt and sleeves, slowly healing. No one ever saw, let alone asked, about those. He wasn't sure what he'd say if anyone did.
To avoid trouble from the Chickenhawks, he decided to stay inside and wait them out. Tired after a long day at school, he lounged on the bleachers in the empty gymnasium. Usually he avoided it, but the football players were outside for practice and it was quiet enough at the moment to suit his purposes. He opened his satchel and returned to his school copy of Lord of the Flies. He would have rather read Ulysses, but getting it back would mean entering the forbidden room and risking the chapel. Crane wasn't so keen to gamble after his last experience with the crows. He had three chapters of the book to read before class on Monday, anyway.
It was an interesting enough read, but with one glaring flaw. In Jonathan's opinion, children did not need to be stranded on a deserted island and dress in war paint to act like complete barbarians.
When he heard the door to the gymnasium rattle, he instinctively shoved his book into his satchel and tried his best to be inconspicuous. It didn't work.
"Hello there, Scarecrow! How ya doin'?"
"I've been better. Before I saw you, for instance." Jonathan couldn't stop himself from smiling slightly when he saw Sherry beside Bo, wearing her cheerleading uniform. He relaxed on the bleachers, hiding his fear behind bravado.
"Talking smart, huh?" There was a note of irritated malice behind Bo's faked good mood. He folded his arms and glowered at Jonathan, who scuttled up a few steps higher, just in case.
"Better than talking stupid," replied Jonathan with a forced, calm smile, "but that's beside the point. How are you and Sherry?"
"What's it matter to you?" Bo asked, suspicious. "Remember what I said. Sherry's my girl..."
Trying not to seem nervous, Jonathan leaned back and yawned. "And not mine. I know, I know. I was just curious. Heard somewhere that Brad and Charlene are breaking up, and I was just making sure I'd heard correctly."
"Really?" Sherry faced Bo, genuinely surprised from the looks of her. "I was just talking to Charlene an hour ago, and she didn't say that. I know they fight, but..."
"Scarecrow's just mouthing off," Bo told her, shooting a look at Crane on the bleachers. "He made it up. Brad and Charlene are still together, as far as I know. What're you up to? If you're tryin' to make moves on Sherry, I can tell you here and now that it ain't gonna work. Sherry's been with me for all of high school."
"What's that been, two months?" Jonathan threw back his head and cackled. He knew that mocking Bo was a dangerous move, especially after his recent encounter with Jackie, but he couldn't resist, and he was a safe distance away. "You're a freshman like me. Remember?"
Bo started forward, clearly fed up with Crane's taunts. "Now, see here, Scarecrow, you'd better shut that smart mouth of yours before you get a fist to the face." Jonathan, knowing from harsh experience that Bo probably meant his threat, obeyed. His burned hands reminded him not to push the bullies too far. He would have his victory, but he had to be patient.
"What happened to your hands?" Sherry asked, more curious than concerned. "Where did those gross marks come from?"
Jonathan held them up to expose the injured area. Playing for sympathy wouldn't be a bad idea. "See the spaces between my fingers? Jackie Grey did that. Burned me with a match while two of his friends held me down. The skin underneath my fingernails is burned, too. It still hurts."
Bo brushed it off, trying to keep up his tough demeanor, although he did seem a little unsettled by Jonathan's burns. Sherry looked either horrified or disgusted. Jonathan was hoping for the former. "Jackie did that?" Sherry, for a moment, looked shocked. "He said that he doesn't like it when people skip pep rallies, and I didn't see you at the last one."
"It was. Ask him yourself. I'm surprised that he hasn't been boasting about it." Jonathan edged himself a little closer to the open gym door. "To change the subject, Bo, are you and Sherry going out for candy tonight? I'll be joining you two with any luck." He gave a jerky nod, fastening his satchel shut.
Bo burst out laughing while Sherry smirked again, Jonathan's self-confidence plummeting as they did. "Of course we are. My gang's going round the town together. Except for George, 'cause the idiot got himself grounded."
Jonathan shrugged. Frankly, he couldn't have cared less. "Good for him. Can't say I'm sorry."
"Have to admit, though, that thing he did with the toilet paper was pretty funny. Shame ya didn't see it, Scarecrow. 'Course, the boys and I are going to behave ourselves this year. We want some candy, after all. And how about you? Are you going out, or does Crazy Keeny want you to stay in again?" Bo winked - he, and some others, had figured out why Jonathan didn't participate in trick-or-treating.
"I'm hoping to. If I do, I'm going to get plenty of candy. I've got a lot of missed Halloweens to make up for." Jonathan quietly moved even closer to the door leading out of the gym. The conversation was beginning to bore him, and he wanted a safe way out when he decided to go. "Besides, I can't let you and your idiot friends have all the fun, can I?"
Bo snarled, Crane grinning as he realized how much he was getting on his enemy's nerves. Sherry said nothing, instead letting Bo speak for her. "Whatever. Trouble is, we're going out pretty early tonight, so you'd better hurry so you can actually get something. I bet we'll have all the fun anyway."
Trying to hold his anger inside, Jonathan shot Bo a venomous look. "Don't be so sure, Bo Griggs. You know what they say about pride. Who knows? Maybe this year I will get more candy than you. You have everything else, so it's only fair."
"Keep telling yourself that. I'll be gettin' ready as soon as we're done with practice for the big game."
Jonathan jumped down from the lowermost bleacher, glowering at Bo. "Well, I'll leave you and your gang of idiots to have fun at your stupid football practice. Tell your friend Jackie Grey that I'm not forgetting what he did to me, either." He turned around just before leaving the gym, knowing just what would hit Bo the hardest. "Oh, and one more thing. I hope the Grizzlies destroy you this season."
He sped out the door and down the hallway before he could see the look on Bo's face, which was probably just as well. His pace slowed just a little on his way to the front office. He felt very proud of himself, as he always liked scoring one over Bo, although he probably hadn't come any closer to gaining Sherry's attention.
His excitement soured when he realized that rooting for the Grizzlies in front of her probably hadn't been one of his better ideas. She was a Chickenhawk cheerleader, after all. Next time he would stick to insulting Bo and the other players, not the Chickenhawks as a group. Wishing that the Latham Grizzlies would win the big match, even though it was sincere, would make him a whole host of enemies, even outside the football team. He wasn't just a nerd now, but a traitor to Arlen High, and no one in Arlen liked a traitor.
Jonathan scowled on realizing his mistake. Knowing Bo, he would tell all of his friends about what the "scarecrow" had said. For all his intelligence, Jonathan had a way of making things worse for himself, especially in the past few weeks. Seeing a bowl of peppermints outside the office, he grabbed one, unwrapped it, and started to suck on it as he set off. It wasn't too late to fix things. His best chance was that the big game would draw the football players' attention away from him, allowing him to make a proper plan for getting Sherry's attention. The trick was not cluing Bo in on the fact that Crane had designs on his social position and girlfriend. Sherry didn't say much when her boyfriend was with her, so Jonathan would have to approach her alone. Maybe their relationship wasn't as solid as they made it look.
If he could go trick-or-treating with them, that would be a good chance to get her attention at the least. That wasn't going to happen, unfortunately. After what had happened with Ulysses and the chapel, he would be lucky if Gran even let him go outside with the other kids, let alone get him a costume. His boasting in front of Bo and Sherry had been just that: empty, meaningless boasting. It would be another year of sitting hunched and hungry at the window of the Keeny manor, listening to the groans of his own stomach and watching the others go around with flashlights and bags stuffed with candy. He was used to that, so it wouldn't be unbearable this year.
He could satisfy himself by planning to get revenge on Jackie. While Jonathan was furious and eagerly wanted the boy to suffer for burning his hands, he didn't know how he would do so. Still, the thought in and of itself comforted him. It was a way to express his anger, like chasing little birds. If there was one thing he was coming to hate more than the bullies, it was feeling powerless against them.
As for the birds, he wasn't sure why he found pleasure in frightening them. Maybe it was the fact that they sat chirping and happily eating worms while he was miserable, or it was an act of small revenge against their larger, darker cousins perched in Gran's chapel. Either way, whenever he felt bored or unhappy, Crane would find a group of finches or sparrows, sneak up on them like a hungry cat, and with a yell startle them into flight. This was only a temporary catharsis, however. He wanted a more permanent way to both fix his problems and earn his peers' respect.
There had to be some way he could fight back. His luck would change. It was just a question of when and how.
Picking himself up and trying to hold himself high, Jonathan set off down the dirt path that led home, his satchel slung over one bony shoulder.
When night came to Arlen, Jonathan was called down from his room by Gran. He was confused as to why, because he had already eaten dinner and she usually spent her nights either in her rocking chair or outside, looking over the manor and the chapel. He was too frightened to disobey or question her, however, and came downstairs muttering under his breath. He hoped to God that he would not be sent to the chapel again, not so soon after the last time. The claw marks on his chest were still healing. As far as he knew, he hadn't done anything to deserve punishment, even by Gran's harsh standards.
Mouth dry, he slunk into the dining room to face her mercy. She was at the table, an arm laid beside a small statuette that held a marble bowl. While Gran's face was harsh and cold as usual, he saw a ragged lump of cloth and burlap beside her, crudely stitched together. A familiar black witch's hat sat on top of the pile. He would have taken a closer look, but he didn't want to make any mistakes. His eyes widened as he realized what the lump was.
"Go on, boy," she said, not even looking at him. "Weren't you pestering me about a Halloween costume all week? I spent the better part of yesterday sewing this wretched thing together for you and this is the thanks I get. Worthless child."
Jonathan's heart leapt, and he immediately rushed to the table and grabbed the folded costume. "Thank you, Gran!" he told her, completely sincere as he hugged it and gave a broad grin. Maybe Gran had softened a little in her old age. In any case, he wasn't about to question her. "Thank you so much!" His mind swam with images of delicious candy, carved pumpkins, and traveling around the neighborhoods of Arlen with the other boys. Maybe he was wrong, and this autumn would turn out to be decent after all.
Then he actually saw what the costume Gran had made him was. He should have guessed, but he was so caught up in the moment that he didn't notice the hollow eye holes, the bunched pieces of straw, the rough light brown burlap designed to cover his head and face like a mask. As he realized the truth, he slipped it over his head as a test. It was, unsurprisingly, a perfect fit. Gran had made him a scarecrow costume for Halloween.
Of course it wouldn't be that easy.
He didn't dare complain to Gran, especially since he didn't want to provoke her so soon after a chapel visit. What could he say? If he went out in that costume, he would be making himself a walking bully magnet. No one, least of all Sherry, would take him seriously, even if it wasn't for the teasing. On the other hand, Gran had made it for him, and he didn't want to make her angry.
"You wanted a costume, boy, am I right?" Gran's watery eyes turned to Jonathan, who still held the rest of the scarecrow costume under one arm. "Be grateful for what you have, you ungrateful brat, because you won't be getting anything else. Either you take the costume I gave you or you stay indoors tonight."
Jonathan, already and increasingly suspicious-minded by nature, began to imagine that she already knew about the "scarecrow" nickname and the bullying. She had sewn a scarecrow costume to deliberately taunt him and make him stand out. He could stay indoors with her or go outside and be humiliated. She was probably hoping that he would choose the first option, or give her an excuse to punish him by rejecting the costume. He couldn't see any emotion, let alone sympathy, in her face. However, he decided that he would rather endure the worst Bo and the other bullies had to offer than spend any more Halloweens trapped inside the Keeny manor.
"All right. I'll take it, then." Jonathan gave a slight bow, trying not to show off that he had won. "As I promised, I'll give you half of the candy I get. It's the least I can do for your generosity, Gran."
Gran didn't reply to Jonathan's offer and seemed very bored, looking away from him. "Be back before midnight. I'll know if you get up to any mischief, like giving neighbors heart attacks for your own amusement. Don't think I don't know your kind."
"Got it." Jonathan had every intention of keeping his word, mostly out of fear of the chapel. He went upstairs to change into his costume, slipping on his scarecrow mask last. It fit over his head fairly nicely - all that was clearly visible of Jonathan Crane was the scarecrow's blue eyes. The rest of the costume was itchy and rubbed against his exposed skin, and he had no doubt that there would be red marks in the morning from irritation. Gran was cruel even when she pretended to be generous. Still, Jonathan managed a slight if not completely genuine smile.
At least his belly wouldn't go empty this Halloween night. It could be worse.
Stumbling out the door and making his way to the bathroom, Jonathan found a mirror to give himself a closer look. The scarecrow wasn't exactly an elegant costume, was more cheap than actually frightening, and wouldn't win any awards, but it would have to do. Maybe, if he kept quiet, none of the other students would figure out that it was him.
That was wishful thinking. Bo and the Chickenhawks, unfortunately, were not stupid kids. They weren't as intellectual as Jonathan, but they were sneaky and knew just how to get under the other boy's skin. Jonathan could outwit them, if he was lucky, but that was all. They were athletic, strong children, easily able to out-fight and outrun him. He was sick of being hurt and ostracized, constantly on the outside looking in, envying Bo for his parents, his girlfriend, and, above all, his life.
Halloween was the beginning of his plan to change all that.
Jonathan Crane came down the steps in the costume, trying not to slip and adjusting to the limited vision provided by the mask. It took some getting used to, but he wore his glasses underneath the costume, and he felt confident that he could find his way. He grabbed a bag to serve as a container for the candy and a flashlight to help him avoid getting lost in the dark. He grabbed the hat from the table and put it on, lowering it to give an effect of hiding his eyes. It wasn't what he would have liked as a Halloween costume, but it would have to do.
With a quick, only partly sincere goodbye to Gran, he slipped outside and into the darkness. Jonathan had a fondness for autumn nights, since he always found them rejuvenating. There was total silence apart from the hoot of an owl somewhere in the garden. Ignoring it, Jonathan turned on the flashlight and set off toward the town. It was a short walk, as Arlen was only a small community, but he had to watch the ground for branches and rocks. It was difficult to see both because of the darkness and the costume. His flashlight saved him from stumbling into ditches or tripping over steps several times.
As he had suspected, he was far from the only boy out that night. Bo was with a pack of his friends beside the Dunstan house, dressed as a pirate, complete with a fake eye patch and a wooden cutlass. Sherry, with him as usual, came as a very convincing witch, wearing dark robes, a mask, and a hat that was even more ragged than the old Keeny scarecrow's. Her parents were well-off, so of course she could afford the best costumes. Jonathan's first plan was just to sneak past them, but Bo noticed him first and waved.
"Why, if it ain't Scarecrow Crane! What brings you out here tonight, Scaredy-crow? Nice costume you've got there." He smirked, nudging Jonathan in the ribs.
Jonathan looked up at him and straightened, hoping that his costume made him look even slightly intimidating. "Same thing as you, Bo. I'm out here to get some candy. See my bag?" He was becoming increasingly frustrated by how small he was, as even the youngest bullies were much stronger than him and he felt that Bo was asking for a good sock in the gut.
"I've gotta say, crazy as old Keeny is, she's got good taste with costumes! Couldn't have picked a better one myself!" Bo chuckled, quickly joined by Sherry and his friends. Jonathan was grateful for the mask, since he knew that he was blushing underneath.
"Well," Jonathan replied, trying to hold his temper back, "I'd like some candy to eat, too. I don't care about anything you say. All I want is to have some fun and snacks for myself."
"You'd better hurry, then, Scarecrow." Brad Simmons, barely recognizable in his brown werewolf costume, joined Bo and Sherry. Charlene, dressed as a green fairy with transparent wings, stood beside him with a thin smile. "We'll be hitting all the good houses, and there won't be much left for you after that."
Beneath the scarecrow mask, Jonathan snarled. "I'll see about that."
"Sure you will. You've only got to make up for missing... how many Halloweens was it again? Isn't this the first one Crazy Keeny actually let you out for?" Bo shook his head, faking sympathy. "Scarecrow Crane, you poor, poor thing. I'd feel sorry for ya if you weren't so sad."
Jonathan, barely resisting an urge to shine the flashlight directly in Bo's smug face, simply turned around and headed in the opposite direction. He could hear Sherry laughing from behind him. He was increasingly uncertain whether his interest in her was out of genuine love or simply a desire to mess with Bo. His current guess was that it was both, although Sherry had given him very little reason to like her as a person as opposed to a social crutch.
He chose to visit the Griggs home first, ironically. Although Bo's parents disliked Mary Keeny, as did every adult in Arlen, Mr. Griggs had warned his son several times to stay away from Jonathan, had never treated the boy badly, and even fed him a few times. The adults were more inclined to ignore or pity him. Trying to stay calm, Jonathan knocked on the Griggs' door twice, trying his best to look friendly. The knob rattled, and the broad-shouldered figure of Mr. Griggs emerged, his wife close by.
"Trick or treat!" Jonathan held up his bag with a shy smile.
They clearly didn't recognize him at first, since Mrs. Griggs welcomed Jonathan warmly. "Hello, there! If it isn't our second visitor of the night. And who are you? Don't be shy."
"Jonathan Crane," Jonathan replied, once again very grateful for the costume. "Your son knows me."
"Crazy Keeny's kid," Mr. Griggs said to his wife, voice hushed as if to keep Jonathan from hearing. "We should give him something. It's only right. Look how thin he is. I wouldn't be surprised if that hag doesn't feed him."
Jonathan, mildly annoyed, was about to tell them that he had heard everything they said about him when a small packet of candy corn was dropped into his bag. He nodded, thanking Mr. and Mrs. Griggs, and jumped off their porch. Even the neighborhood parents had rumors about him! At least Mr. Griggs wasn't as cruel as his son.
His next stops were a few houses belonging to local families that he didn't know, as he hoped to avoid being recognized. It didn't work. Wherever he went, his scarecrow costume did nothing to cover up who he really was. Everyone he met, child or parent, gave him that look with a strange mix of pity and disgust. Sometimes, when the kids thought that he wasn't listening, he could hear them mutter the "scarecrow" nickname behind his back.
He ruefully looked inside his bag of candy. Although he only had a little bit so far - a chocolate bar, a packet of jelly beans, some candy corn, and an apple from the town dentist - it was a reasonable haul, with all things considered, and Jonathan deeply looked forward to eating them. He felt his mouth water at the sight of all the treats, and he had to stop himself from sampling a bean. He wouldn't have been able to stop if he ate even one.
Sadly, Bo had a point, since he was exploring the richer part of town, where the adults had more candy to offer. When he caught up with the Chickenhawks, Jonathan tagged along behind Bo and his friends, careful not to show himself but stopping at all of the houses that they visited. Bo had cleared some, but there were plenty of small pickings left for Crane. He gleefully watched his bag fill up with treats. He disliked being pitied, but he could use it in his favor. All he had to do was pull the "miserable waif" look and those rich, soft bleeding-hearts would give him plenty of candy. Jonathan Crane was coming to like Halloween.
After visiting a few more houses, Jonathan finally caved in to temptation. Taking off his mask, he pulled out a strand of red licorice, and had just stuck it in his mouth when he saw Sherry coming. She was by herself. He realized how awkward he looked with the licorice dangling in the way it was. He quickly slurped it up, gave it a couple of hasty chews, and swallowed.
"Scarecrow, you are so disgusting," Sherry said, making a face. Jonathan hadn't expected her to see him. If he had, he would have put the licorice back in the bag, or at least kept the mask on.
"Sorry," he replied, a little sheepish. "Are you doing well, Miss Squires? I hope so."
"I'm fine." She waved a hand dismissively, avoiding his eyes. "Look, go do your weird thing somewhere else. Bo is at a house not too far from here, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to be here when he comes back."
She was right. Jonathan waved a quick goodbye, apologized again, and wheeled to leave with his bag of candy. "Thank you for the warning, Miss Squires," he said, hoping to sound polite. "I hope to see you again, and the best of luck with your trick-or-treating."
"Honestly, Scarecrow," he heard her say, "have you ever tried not being weird and creepy?" His heart sank, but he merely stood to his full height and pretended to ignore her.
Jonathan had already been to most of the houses in the neighborhoods he knew, and there were fewer treats for him once the other kids had been through. Talking to Sherry, meanwhile, was a complete disaster. Despite his best efforts, he hadn't made a good impression, and now she thought that he was weird and creepy. Weird and creepy! He wondered again why he even bothered to talk to her, and whether his plans were really worth it. At least going out hadn't been a complete waste of time. While he hadn't lived up to his bragging at school, he had a respectable amount of candy. It was nearly time to go home.
Tired from his long night, Jonathan found a place beside a wooden fence to sit down, removing his mask again. He edged behind the fence when he heard the other boys rejoining Sherry, showing off the candy that they had gotten. Judging from the rattling of their bags, it was a lot. Jealous, he looked in his own. He had about twenty-five pieces and the apple. It wasn't as much as Bo and his crowd had, but it was enough. He grinned wickedly; he wouldn't split it with Gran as he had suggested. There was barely enough for him. After all he had been through, he wanted something to make it all worthwhile. Bo and his gang wouldn't be the only ones to be happy this Halloween night.
Jonathan doubted that Gran would particularly care, given her reaction to his offer before. It was his candy, after all. He reached into his bag, taking out a small yellow jelly bean and eating it without hesitation. It tasted very good, and he quickly gobbled down a couple more. Realizing that he would be better off hidden, Jonathan crouched next to a fencepost, mouth watering at the thought of his feast.
Fifteen minutes later, nothing was left of the treats except for a bundle of wrappers, sticks, and bags. Jonathan Crane lounged beside the old wooden fence with an empty bag at his side and a sly, satisfied smile playing on his face. There was an unfamiliar but strangely pleasurable tightness in his belly. He didn't feel well, of course. He was struggling not to be sick, and he could almost hear Gran condemning him for his gluttony. He was a greedy boy, gorging himself on candy like that, and he would have a very bad stomachache. God's punishment for greedy, gluttonous boys.
At the moment, however, Jonathan didn't especially mind. He was more pleased with why he did it rather than what he had done. For the first time he had lied to Gran for a reason other than protecting himself. He should have felt guilty, he knew, but he couldn't bring himself to. Besides, this was the first time in weeks that he had felt truly happy. Ever since the incident with Ulysses, he had slowly been becoming a little braver. Even last week he wouldn't have dared to confront Bo, let alone laugh at him, as he had at school.
She would punish him for lying, of course. Not that it mattered. The candy was already inside Jonathan, where it couldn't be taken away from him, and where it belonged.
I deserved to eat the candy myself, after what she did to me, he thought as he shakily got to his feet and set off on the long walk home. She didn't deserve a single piece. It was mine. All mine.
It was a small, petty act of rebellion, but nevertheless it was a start.