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Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Leaf piles, Tootsie Rolls, & a steamy ghost story

I love this time of year. I left the city for the country more than thirty years ago but I have very fond memories of growing up in Chicago during the 1960’s. I lived in one of those post-WWII boom neighborhoods several miles from the heart of the city. Before Dutch elm disease took them all, my neighborhood had huge cathedral trees lining every street. These large old elms reached across the blacktop until their branches entwined…and the leaves, oh my, the leaves. If someone were to tell me the term Fall was coined right there on my block where the leaves were so thick, I’d believe it. For fall they did. Hours of manpower were needed to clear the lawns of this bounty.

My neighbors raked and raked until the curbs were piled high with crispy reds, yellows and oranges. Piles like that just begged for a leaf fight. If you listened closely, they whispered when they rustled, “Come on, jump in. We won’t be here long.” Most of the friendly neighbors wouldn’t mind if you shuffled through or fell into the mound as long as you raked it all into a neat pile again. I remember more than one dad leaning on his rake, smoking a pipe or cigarette and waiting for us to wear ourselves out so he could light the pile.

The leaves smoldered and smoked and planted within me an olfactory memory. To this day, the redolence of a burning leaf pile takes me back to my childhood as surely as the scent of calamine lotion reminds me of having chicken pox. The dozen or so burning piles changed the theme of our play. The hazy air stung our eyes and made us smell like bacon. Not only did we daringly jump over the slow consuming fires to show how brave we were, we became angels and ghosts coming out of the mist. A fan of the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies, I pretended I was on the moors with the hound.

To a child who disliked school like I did, autumn was the double-edged sword of the seasons. It meant back to school but it also meant Halloween was just around the corner.

Young families were the majority on my block. On both sides of the street, just about every house had an assortment of kids of all ages. When it came to Halloween and trick-or-treating, we went out en masse. We were farmers dressed like witches and mummies taking in the harvest. I remember heading out right after school, coming home for dinner, and then heading out again. The necessary second trip toured the streets that were missed the first time around. With pillowcases and brown paper bags we went door to door and it was rare to find no one at home. In the days before fun size, I lugged my plunder until I literally dragged the heavy bag on the ground. More than once, my brother offered to lighten my bag. Ha! I knew better. As hard as it was to haul the haul, we couldn’t go home. If we went home to empty our sacks, our dad would say we were done for the night. So we pressed on.

Not once in all my prime trick-or-treat years did I hear of an actual incident of fiends loading razor blades in apples, and pins and needles in candy bars. They must have been old urban legends, because we weren’t supposed to eat anything until we got it home and our dad could look it over. I remember kneeling on the dining room chair to get a good look as we sorted the loot into types. Baby Ruths and Butterfingers go here, Tootsie Rolls (my favorite) and bubblegum go there. The last resort pile had the suckers and those disappointing black and orange wrapped taffy things. When you’d finished gorging yourself on the good stuff, you might eat those. Ah the memories.

If you’re looking for a ghost story to give you more than one type of shiver, my erotic romance Dreamscape might fit the bill. Written in homage to Agatha Christie, Dreamscape is a reader's Easter egg hunt in the truest sense. Peppered throughout are hints suggesting a story behind the scenes.

Here's the blurb:
Unable to deny his own translucence, Dr. Jason Bowen determines his lack of physical substance could only mean one thing—he’s a ghost. Murdered more than a century before, Jason haunts his house and ponders the treachery that took his life. When Lanie O’Keefe arrives with plans to renovate her newly purchased Victorian mansion, Jason discovers, ghost or not, he’s still very much a man. Despite its derelict condition and haunted reputation, Lanie couldn’t be happier with her new home, but then she has no idea a spirit follows her every move throughout the day and shares her captivating warmth at night. Jason soon discovers he can travel through Lanie’s dreams and finds himself reliving the days before his murder with Lanie by his side. It took one hundred and twenty years for love to find them, but there’s that insurmountable little matter of Jason being dead.


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Debby said...

I have many of the same memories. We are no longer allowed to burn in our backyards. Times do indeed change.
debby236 at gmail dot com

VampedChik said...

Love the excerpt! Going on my wishlist. Thanks so much for sharing!