Stylized line drawing of mark playing the flute

The best (and worst) Halloween

It was 1988 and I was in 6th grade.

I was not yet a social pariah in Middle School and so I scored an invite to Richard Norman’s Halloween Birthday Slumber party.

There was a strange old concrete structure near the Redding, CA Civic Center that held a haunted house and that year was my first time going. There were 7 or 8 boys in all. There was plenty of bravado happening but I’m pretty sure everyone was terrified. I certainly was.

We made our way through the hallways in a tight bundle, jumping and trying not to shriek every time something leaped out at us.

At one point people started grabbing at our legs from cages in a dark hallway. A meaty hand latched onto one kid’s ankle and he started stomping furiously on it. The man in the cage yelled β€œFUCK! You broke my fucking finger!”.

We ran through the rest of the haunted house, cackling wildly.

Richard’s parents drove us back to his house so we could go trick-or-treating. We split up into smaller groups to cover more ground.

I ended up with one other boy. I can’t remember his name but I do remember we got on well and I was having fun with him.

The other boys scattered in all directions as we made our way slowly down Richard’s block. The boy I was with started complaining of stomach pains when we were only half a dozen houses away. We rested for a while but he kept feeling worse and worse and we had to turn back.

Back at Richard’s house, the boy immediately fell asleep and I sat there by myself in Richard’s room for what seemed like forever until the other kids came home.

The boys felt bad and shared some of their candy but it was still the lightest Halloween haul I ever came home with.

I disappeared into total social isolation not long after and didn’t see Richard much, although he was always kind when we did interact. After middle school we went to different high schools and I didn’t see Richard again until college.

Jane and I came to Redding and were renting movies at the video store close by. She was super excited because they had a Jazzercise tape which she rented to work out to during our visit.

Fast forward another year and we went back to the same video store and found the same Jazzercise tape. On a whim, we decided to see if the video store would just sell us the tape.

We walked up to the counter and there, working the register, was Richard Norman! We chatted for a while and then brought up the idea of us buying the tape. He said he need to check the rental history to see how often it was rented out.

Pulling up the file on the computer, he laughed out loud. The last person to rent that video was us, the year before.

He sold us the tape on the spot for $5. We still have it in a box in the basement.