“Out of my way burger boy!” Hugh was jostled at the gate by a slender skeleton stomping by. Surprised he halted to watch her pass. Getting a Double Chicken Parlay wouldn’t be nearly as much trouble as what she was after.
“Get that key ring, Kameron!” Kameron’s skull pivoted on it’s synovial joint and she stared at Hugh as he displayed the letter K in American Sign Language with his right hand. He wanted to smile for her then, a huge, face splitting grin, perfectly gauged to extract the maximum anger response. Kameron’s lower mandible dropped open then closed multiple times as grass clippings and leaves rose to swirl angrily around her knobby feet.
“Hey, hey, Hugh Parlay. How many crows will you kill today?” The sing-song chant hit his mind like a devilish lullaby and he promptly changed his K to a rude sign formed with only his middle phalange. Kameron laughed and turned away, the small hurricane of ground litter tumbling behind. Well aware that Jeremiah didn’t give impossible assignments Hugh knew that Kameron would eventually find the key ring with her name on it. Determination filled his spirit and he kicked into a jog. Swinging left out of the gate he headed along the sidewalk toward the city lights.
One place in town offered a Double Chicken Parlay with bacon and it was crawling with business. Cars lined up at the drive-thru with costumed drivers shouting their orders into the kiosk while others flooded inside. Goggling at all the people Hugh slipped between the vehicles and took careful position behind the kiosk, close enough to make an impression but not too close that people would feel his icy presence. Why so busy this year, he wondered?
“Your order comes to twenty-one sixty-eight at the second window, please.”
“Thank you.” The black cloaked witch behind the wheel shifted her SUV into drive and inched forward off the weight plate. A large mouse riding shotgun peered intently into the witch’s face.
“Do you feel anything?” The witch shook her head.
“No but right at the end I thought I saw a little mist around the back of the kiosk.” She fiddled with her sideview mirror. “Do you see any mist?” The mouse turned around in her seat and stared directly at Hugh who froze in surprise.
“Nah, I don’t see anything at all.”
Aw crap. After finally getting himself pulled together time had been short at the last Gathering and out of desperation Hugh had tried to force a man to say the words Double Chicken Parlay. In a panic the guy and gunned his accelerator, striking the rear bumper of the truck in front of him. Evidently he had told his story to a few people. Self-consciously Hugh sidled behind the outdoor order menu. On the bright side, he thought, he had a lot of material to work with this year.
Four vehicles back from the witch and her mouse rocked a gray van filled with fully costumed zombies. From his new vantage point Hugh watched the zombies with interest, the driver in particular seeming impatient to get to the kiosk. The van rode as close to the back of the car ahead of it as it could without actually touching it. The car’s driver, a plain joe in a dark suit looked like he just wanted to get out of line but the van was too close and cutting off a third of the opposite lane. He couldn’t turn outward without causing a commotion among the rest of the people behind him. Hugh chuckled and thought, face it pal, it’s going to be chicken for dinner whether you want it or not. Would the suit guy be a good candidate, he wondered? Probably not. The car was a small, practical model with no sign of a baby seat or a wife. Most likely he would eat from his coffee table with his porch light turned firmly off.
The van became much more interesting as it inched up the line. The driver draped himself out the window and began grumbling at the other cars.
“Killers! All of you. What is wrong with people? Did it ever occur to any of you to just eat a salad?” Spirit soaring with hope Hugh stepped out from behind the sign and edged toward the van. Could it really be a group of activists crashing the chicken joint on Halloween? Dark suit pulled up to the kiosk and ordered a bucket with two sides and biscuits in a voice dripping with discomfort. His back tires hadn’t even cleared the weight plate before the zombie forced his van onto it and began shouting into the kiosk.
“Gimme twenty-one Double Chicken Parlays with bacon! Let’s kill as many animals as possible for one sandwich eh!” Hugh counted the occupants of the van as he wondered if the driver realized there was cheese on the Parlay? Technically that brought the animal abuse count to three but, only two were actually dead. Counting the driver the long van held fourteen people. At least seven of them thought they were going to eat two full Parlays all by themselves? With that many sandwiches going out the window he thought he would be able to claim just one without too much hassle.
“Chicken is murder!” the driver hollered and beat his hand against the outside of his door. “Murder!” The guy had just ordered twenty-one Double Chicken Parlays. Who was murdering who? Suppressing the urge to laugh Hugh laid his hand carefully over the driver’s hand pressed against the outside of his door and thought firmly about the gate of Century Cemetery, drawing a clear picture of the large wooden sign with its deeply beveled wording. Had he possessed lungs he would have held his breath. The driver stared into space for a few seconds, his sunken zombie eyes looking vacant, then a smile spread over his face. “I know what to do,” he stated and inched forward.
(If you missed it, Part One is here.)