He comes in out of the rain, slides off his lion’s head, grabs a beer, and leans back against the living room wall, scouring the room. The crowd is huge, the music blasting. Everyone’s talking at once, dancing wildly.
Kaori comes in, soaking wet, leans her broom against the wall. Heading over to the tables with the food and drinks, she takes a glass of red wine punch from the cauldron-shaped bowl. Seeing her best friend, Lucy, sitting on the rattan couch outside by the hibachi, tending to the sizzling chicken wings, she heads out onto the lānai.
They kiss, and the tip of her black hat pokes Lucy in the forehead. They both laugh. The lion-man turns his attention toward them. He wonders if they look available, decides they do, and saunters outside, takes a seat across the hibachi from them.
It’s a big party; lots of people don’t know lots of other people. These Halloween shindigs of Sarah’s are grand events. She knows people from all phases of her adult life: her college days, her airline flight attendant days, and her current teaching position at Kaimukī High School
The lion-man listens to the witch and the cat talk to each other for a few minutes, seizes a moment where each is silent, and jumps into the conversation.
“Hey,” he says, across the sizzling chicken, “I’m Artie, I like your folks’ costumes.
“Well you make a great lion, except that your head is missing,” says the witch. “I’m Kaori.”
“Yeah, it got too heavy, from the rain, plus I couldn’t breathe.”
“Hi, I’m Lucy. I know the feeling,” says Lucy. “I’ve been in some pretty awful costumes over the years. I think the worst was when I was Elmo. Not only did I sweat off about ten pounds, but the dye they’d used for his fur ran all over my face. When I took off my Elmo head, it looked like someone had hit me over my head with a lead pipe.”
Kaori laughs, but Artie doesn’t, sips his beer, smiles.
Kaori says, “Mine wasn’t a head, but one time I wanted to be a fish, so I spent way too much time applying sequins all over my arms and face. Turns out I used the wrong kind of adhesive, and it took forever to get it all off.”
Artie says, “When I was a kid, there was an old woman in my neighborhood who used to go all out on being a witch every year. She’d dress up real crazy and turn her garage into something out of a scary story kinda witch’s cave. But the main thing was that in the center of the room, she’d have this plastic baby doll in a pot. It looked like it was boiling because she used dry ice, like in the wine punchbowl over there. And she’d offer you boiled baby meat on a plate. It scared me for years, until my dad told me it was only sliced up baloney. After that, I loved to eat that meat every year.”
“Oh, yikes,” says Lucy. “No worries, I’m a good witch. No boiled babies. Just my broom and my hat. I’m more Samantha Stevens.”
“So what? You like to fly or what?” asks Artie, sipping and smiling.
Both Kaori and Lucy laugh. “I’m a flight attendant,” says Kaori. “That’s about the only kind of flying I do.”
“So both you guys flight attendants?” asks Artie.
“Me?” says Lucy. “No. I knew Sarah back when we were both students at O‘ahu University. We met in a Shakespeare class.”
“And how do you know Sarah?” asks Lucy.
Artie holds his beer with both hands. “Well, we were good friends from a while back. I met her at a dance club in Waikīkī. We used to run into each other a lot. Drank a lotta beers. Mostly at Bobbie McGee’s.”
Lucy and Kaori glance at each other. “Oh,” says Lucy, “right.”
“So you heard of me then,” says Artie, laughing. “I can tell by the way you said that, Lucy.”
He laughs again. “No worries. I’m sure Sarah told you folks we’re still good friends, didn’t she?”
“Oh, right, ah, right,” says Lucy.
The women shift in their seats. Lucy scans the room searching for Sarah. Spotting her, she says, “Can you folks keep an eye on the wings. I gotta go get more punch.”
“Sure,” says Artie. He’s already zeroed in on the witch.
Kaori draws her legs up, crosses them under her. She doesn’t like being left there alone with Artie. She knows very well who he is.
“So,” says Artie, “do you like to fly?”
“Oh, yeah, well, it’s a living, you know?”
“Sarah liked to fly,” says Artie. “But I guess she likes teaching now, huh?”
“Yes, right, I guess she does.”
Artie glances at Kaori’s left hand, sees no ring. “So you attached to anyone?” he asks.
Kaori picks up the tongs and inspects the wings, trembling a bit. “Oh, yes, he’s coming soon. He should be here any minute.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” says Artie. “Me, I single right now.”
“Ah, I see.” Kaori glances over her shoulder, looking for Sarah or Lucy. She spots them in the corner of the living room. Sarah’s on her phone.
Lucy comes back out, sits down. “So, ah, how’s my chicken doing?”
Artie leans over and picks up the tongs Kaori has just put down. He lifts one to check the underside.
“What’s a matter,” he says, “are you all chicken?”
“What? Are you all yellow?” he says.
He leans over the fire, turns his head sideways to look up at the two women. Laughs.
“You know what?” he says. “There was not a peep from anyone.”
Kaori and Lucy try to smile, laugh nervously.
Just at that moment, two police officers come through the front door. Sarah escorts them out onto the lānai. The crowd doesn’t even notice them, probably think they’re both in costume.
“This is him, officers.” Sarah points to Artie.
“Sir,” says one officer. “I understand there’s a restraining order against you. You’re aware of that right?”
“Yeah yeah yeah,” says Artie, downing the rest of his beer. “I was just going.”
Sarah says, “Don’t ever come back here. Next time you’ll be so sorry. I swear I’ll press charges.”
Artie laughs. “Yeah right. Whatever, bitch. You know how I hate your shit parties anyway.”
“Oh really,” says Sarah, “so that’s why you show up then?”
Artie tosses his head, gives a nonchalant nod to Sarah.
“Let’s go, Sir. Right now,” says the officer.
“Hey,” says Artie, looking at Kaori. “This one wasn’t actually shitty though. It was real good to meet you, Samantha Stevens,” he says to Kaori, nodding.
“Let’s move!” commands the other officer.
Artie smiles at Kaori. “Maybe I’ll see you around.”
The first officer reaches for Artie’s elbow. Artie shrugs him off, pulls his arm away, and heads into the living room. Still the crowd dance and drink as if nothing is going on.
Lucy and Kaori watch the police escort Artie to the front door, followed by Sarah.
Artie picks up his lion head. He turns, and with a smile and a nod of his head in their direction, his eyes on Kaori, he turns, head under his arm, and slouches out the door.
“Fuck,” says Lucy, “that fucking creep. What kind of nerve is that to just come here?”
Kaori says nothing. She’s wondering about getting home tonight. If only she could actually fly. She looks at the broom leaning against the wall by the front door. Would that make a good weapon, she wonders.