Friday, October 30, 2015


Nancy Gideon's 5th Annual Haunted Open House

Haunted Blog Hop!

If you checked in on October 26, you know that A Blue Million Books is participating in a Halloween blog hop. As promised, today I'm sharing a chapter from Heroes & Hooligans in Goose Pimple Junction that occurs on Halloween night. Louetta loves to cook, and she's prepared a Halloween feast . . .

Excerpt from Heroes & Hooligans in Goose Pimple Junction

Chapter 34


Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were.  
~Southern Proverb

Johnny and Martha Maye walked along the sidewalk, trailing Butterbean and Maddy Mack, who were trick-or-treating. Johnny put his arm around Martha Maye's shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “Did your mama tell you she invited me to dinner tonight?”

Martha Maye watched the girls run across a lawn to knock on another door. “She did, and if she hadn’t, I would have. Mama puts on the best Halloween party you ever did see. I hope you’re hungry. She’ll expect you to eat until you burst.”

“I’m always hungry. But I’ll pass on the bursting.” Butterbean screamed, and the light from the flashlight in Johnny's hand jerked toward the sound. Martha Maye took off at a dead run, but Johnny beat her to the two girls, who were jumping up and down, clinging to each other, half-laughing and half-crying. Pickle stood inside a Rubbermaid trashcan, his skinny legs sticking out of the cutout bottom that was cut out. He held the lid in his hand. He was wearing the black trashcan like it was a pair of overalls.

“What in the – ” Martha Maye started to say.

“Mama! We came past this trashcan — least we thought it was a trashcan — and Pickle jumped out of it and scared the living daylights out of us.”

“Him is mean!” Maddy Mack glared at Pickle, who was still laughing at his practical joke.

“Aw, I’m sorry.” Pickle didn’t look sorry. “But y’all gotta admit that’s a good trick.”

“That is a good trick,” Johnny said. “I’ll have to remember that next time I’m on surveillance.”

“Surveillance?” Matty Maddy Mack’s face screwed up in confusion.

“Like a stakeout,” Johnny explained.

“You’ve been on a stakeout before?” Butterbean asked, full of awe and wonder.

“Sure. A couple of times.”

As Johnny recounted one stakeout he’d been on, Pickle quietly crouched back down on the grass, pulling the trashcan lid over himself like a turtle. Then he lowered the lid on top, pulled his arms through the cut-outs, and tucked them inside. It looked like a trashcan was simply sitting on the lawn. When Johnny finished his story, Pickle jumped out like a jack-in-the-box, scaring the little girls again and sending them into another round of peals of screams.

“Aw, come on, that couldn’t have scared you! You knew I was inside there.”

“Okay, y’all, everybody move it. Let’s head to Mama’s for dinner. I can practically smell the cornbread from here.” Martha Maye herded them all toward Lou’s house in typical teacher mode.

“Hey, looka there!” Pickle said. “Hi, Mama! Hey, Peanut!”

“Ugh. Peanut,” Maddy Mack said to Butterbean. “He’s so ugly he could trick-or-treat over the phone.”

“Shh, now, none of that, girls.” Martha Maye swatted at the girls behinds. “Hello, Caledonia. Hi, Peanut. You sure are a scary vampire,” Martha Maye said.

“He scared us!” Butterbean said to Caledonia, pointing to Pickle.

“What did he do, darlin’?” Caledonia looked from Butterbean to her son. “What did you do, Pickle?”

Pickle started to crouch back down and show his mother his trick, but Martha Maye stopped him. “Show her later. Like when the girls aren’t in the vicinity. Caledonia, will you and Peanut join us for supper? I’m sure Mama fixed enough to feed Pharaoh’s army.”

“That would be lovely,” Caledonia said.

“Where’s Philetus tonight?”

She shook her head. “Working. He’s always working, isn’t he, Peanut?” Peanut was no longer at his mother’s side. He was running after the girls, who were going to trick-or-treat at the last few houses.

When they finally got to Louetta’s house, Martha Maye led them through the extensively-decorated living and dining rooms and into the hub of activity – the kitchen. Louetta had placed jack-o’-lanterns all over the living room. Some lined the mantle, some were on the coffee table, some went up the stairs, and some stood sentry in the doorways. Witches, ghosts, and monsters decorated every table in the room. In the dining room, five tissue paper ghosts hung from the chandelier, and pumpkins with faces made from vegetables sat on the table as a centerpiece. They had broccoli, unshelled peanuts, or Brussels
sprouts for hair; red peppers for lips; tiny white potatoes for eyes; string beans for eyebrows; tomatoes for ears. And the antique sideboard showcased five different desserts.

Ima Jean, Louetta, and Charlotte were in the kitchen, preparing dinner.

“Howdy, y’all. Welcome.” Louetta was dressed up like a witch, all in black, complete with striped stockings, a witch’s hat, and a fake nose with a wart. “Would y’all like some of my witch’s brew?” She cackled like a witch and didn’t wait for an answer, but grabbed mugs, and began pouring hot apple cider into them. “I got Polka Dot Punch for the kids, too.”

Martha Maye opened the lid of a pot on the stove, her face showing utter contentment as she breathed in the aroma. “Mmmm, chili.”

“Where’s the beef?” Ima Jean said.

“Looks like it’s in the chili.” Johnny peered over Martha Maye’s shoulder into the pot.

“Good Lord, this is a gracious plenty,” Johnny said, looking at the food covering every surface of the big country kitchen.

“I had lots of help this year,” she said. “Imy and Charlotte have purt near cooked their fingers to the bone.”

“Shake and bake. And I hayulped,” Ima Jean said.

“So y’all better eat up,” Lou continued. “Caledonia, Peanut,” she hugged Caledonia, “I’m so glad y’all could come, too. Philetus isn’t with y’all?”

“Thank you kindly for having us, Ms. Louetta. No, he’s working tonight, as usual. It sure does smell good in here. And everything looks wonderful.” She stepped next to Charlotte, who was putting corn sticks into a basket, and pulled her in for a quick side hug.

“Hi, Ms. Culpepper,” Charlotte said. “Where’s Pickle?”

Caledonia looked around the room. “Well shoot, he was here just a minute ago. Peanut, where’d your brother go?”

Peanut shrugged. “I dunno.”

“He’s probably out front playing his Pickle-in-the-trashcan joke on some poor unsuspecting person,” Johnny said.

“I’ll go look for him.” Charlotte headed for the door.

“No need. We brought in the trash,” Jack said, coming into the room with Tess and Pickle.

“And by trash, I mean Pickle, not my sweetheart.”

“You didn’t bring Ezzie?” Martha Maye asked.

“Heavens no, she wouldn’t be able to keep herself from all this good food. It would be a calamity.”

“Here, Caledonia." Lou handed over a cheese ball that looked like a pumpkin. "You take this cheese ball to the table. Imy, take the tater salad. Charlotte, grab the macaroni and
cheese. Butterbean, you take the mummy pizzas. Madison Mackenzie, take these.” She handed her a plate of pigs in a blanket, made to look like mummies.

“Lou, can I just have dessert?” Johnny eyed the huge orange-iced pumpkin-shaped cake, ghost sugar cookies with M&Ms for eyes, spider cookies with candy eyes and chow mien noodles for legs, Rice Krispies treat eyeballs, skeleton cupcakes with white chocolate–coated pretzels for the bones, and cupcakes with candy witch “legs” sticking upside down out of the icing.

“You can have whatever your little ol’ heart desires, Johnny.”

Johnny’s eyes immediately went to Martha Maye.

Jack whispered into his ear, “Man, you got it bad, don’tcha?”

Johnny’s face flushed bright red, and he swiped his hand over it.

“Yoo-hoo!” Honey called out from the front door. “Can we come in?”

“Absodanglutely.” Louetta hurried to greet Honey and Lolly. “Lolly, I’m glad you could make it.”

“Thank you kindly for the invite.” Lolly kissed her cheek.

“All right, y’all, have a seat and dig in,” Lou said, clapping her hands together. Then, “Wait. Let me say grace first.”

“I tell you what,” Lolly said after dinner, when everyone was sitting around in a sugar stupor, “that’ll chink your cracks.”

“I second that.” Jack patted his stomach. “That was flat-cold good. Y’all outdid yourselves.”

“Aw, thank you, boys, I – ” Lou stopped talking when she saw Ima Jean sit up straight, staring and stare strangely at the dining room window.

“Ernest Borgnine!” Ima Jean pointed. “Ernest Borgnine! He’s here.” She got up and ran to the window. Lou went with her, as Jack and Johnny went out the back door to see if Ima Jean really had seen somebody.

“I don’t see Mr. Borgnine, Imy. And furthermore, I can’t imagine why he would be in Goose Pimple Junction, or looking in our window.”

“But he was,” Imy insisted.

The men came back inside shaking their heads. “Nobody out there that we could see,” Jack said.

“Hey Pickle, come here a minute, would you?” Johnny said.

They disappeared out the back door and Jack explained, “He’s going to set out the trash.”

“I beg your pardon?” Caledonia said.

Jack laughed, along with everyone else. “I didn’t mean it like that. He’s setting up his own stakeout, and Pickle’s going to help. He looks invisible in that trash can, but even though nobody would guess there’s somebody inside that can, he can see out with those peep holes he punched into the side. Maybe he’ll see someone. You never know.”

Charlotte stood up so fast she nearly knocked her chair over. “I don’t want him doing that,” she said loudly. “He doesn’t know anything about stakeouts. He could get hurt.”

“Naw, Johnny won’t let that happen,” Jack assured.

“Won’t let what happen?” Johnny said, coming back inside.

“You won’t let Pickle get hurt out there.”

“’Course not.”

“I don’t care.” She looked like she was going to cry. “I don’t want him out there by himself. I’m going out, too.”

“But honey, if you go out, whoever it is might see you, and then Pickle wouldn’t be able to catch him,” Lou pointed out.

“He’s gonna scare the living daylights outta some poor unsuspecting soul.” Charlotte ran for the back door, leaving everyone at the table to look at each other in puzzlement.

Louetta broke the silence. “I’ve been around teenage girls in my time, but that’n is acting crazy as an outhouse mouse.”

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