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1When Bo and Cheng Lee flew into the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on a Boeing 747 from Hong Kong, it was one month before the 31st of October. The precocious twins, at age seventeen, had just won a Fulbright scholarship in Chemical Engineering. Memory University had recruited these honour roll students for a four-year program. Their parents had already invested a lot in their preparatory years at the American School in London. So the scholarship was a godsend, and no one, absolutely no one, could accuse their American mother, a former alumni of Memory University, of shifting her weight around to get the Lee boys in.

2Now that the twins were in a college dormitory they considered themselves full-fledged men. Bo and Cheng had piercing blue eyes and fine black hair. They were black belts and considered the broad-shouldered football players in the Frat dorm as raucous nuisances that could eventually serve as punching bags. Bo and Cheng knew that that the two of them could knock a pack of those drunken Frats out like a series of bowling pins. Luckily, they hadn’t had the opportunity; they were peaceful boys anyway who just wanted to fit into the melting pot.

3This was their second month in Atlanta and both brothers were becoming restless. They had been expecting to find a town square with a church and a big clock, somewhere—like the ones they’d seen in photos of the old South. But as they were soon to discover, cities like Atlanta had much more to offer. Having no car, they did their sightseeing by bus. One of the places the bus stopped that night was upper Peachtree Street, the longest road in Atlanta which was known for its stretch of nightclubs. One of the trendiest: The Circus, was doing a pre-Halloween night, where the pulse of Atlanta had been throbbing since 5 pm. Happy Hour was in full swing when Bo and Cheng walked in. The costume theme was the Roman Empire.

4“Get a load of that!” Cheng said gawking at the waitress, “She’s dressed to kill.” The tall brunette was wearing a sleeveless blouse with small iron cones fixed into the moulded bust line. She had a rubber slingshot strapped to her waist. The boys looked around. Plastic Jack O’Lanterns lit up the room. Yellow flames flickered from behind the shadowy grins of the pumpkins that illuminated the tables where clients were seated: ­secretaries and lawyers from downtown Atlanta, discus throwers, football players; students from Georgia Tech and Memory University were all there. The bar scene was truly a mixed bag of tricks that night.

5“Cheng Look!” Bo said thrusting a finger out so abruptly that it sent the straw ricocheting across the room. “Look! It’s Mary-Joe. What a sex bomb!”

6“Too bad Bobby’s the detonator,” Cheng chuckled. “Bobby’s not much of a brain, you know. I’ve seen him at it red-handed in Dr Kingston’s class. When he can’t understand something he makes out like he’s blowing a kiss to Mary-Joe and she slips him the answer. Dr. Kingston’s never gotten a whiff of it!”

7Mary-Joe was wearing a light blue cashmere turtleneck sweater; the soft glow of her face flickered in the orange candlelight. “Oh man, if I could just make her!” Cheng gawked.

8“You mean make out with. It’s a phrasal verb, and mind your tongue!” Bo corrected.

9“Who gives a damn, as long as you get a home run,” Cheng insisted. Bo’s full attention was now focused entirely on Mary-Joe who was trying to help Bobby on with his jacket.

10“Speaking of home,” Cheng interjected, “I hope we can still catch a bus to get back to the dormitory. You know how shop closes up in this part of the city. They say it’s a real ghost town as soon as night falls.”

11“Good grief!” Bo bleated out, pointing a finger in the direction of Bobby. “Look! Bobby the Magnificent has just passed out cold. Good grief! Good grief! Good grief!”

12Cheng clapped his brother on the back. “You sound like your computer program just got stuck. Come on let’s give her a hand.” “Hi,” he said to Mary-Joe, “should I call for help?”

13“Don’t worry, it’s gonna be just fine. But, a little cold water, with some ice cubes would help, immensely.” Mary-Joe motioned in the ­direction of the waitress.

14Bo got closer to Mary-Joe. His left hand prevented Bobby from sinking onto the table. “You really look nice tonight,” he said looking at Mary-Joe.

15She shot him a disdainful smile. “Please hold him up straight. He’s drooling all over the table, can’t you see?”

16She decided it was best to get Bobby out of The Circus and sauntered off to find her convertible. “Just toss ‘em in my car,” she said, as they ­struggled to stuff Bobby’s discus thrower arms into the back seat first.

17“Guess I’m supposed to thank ya,” Bobby slurred. “Well, thank ya,” he said squinting over at Cheng on the right and Bo on the left. “Sweet Jesus! I’m bein’ chaperoned by two Kung Fu’s.” Then he dropped out cold.

18Cheng was huffing and puffing as he stuffed the right leg of Bobby into the back seat. Bo sat him up straight, and closed the door, forgetting to fasten the seat belt. Mary-Joe already skidded off before he could say a thing.

19“Wow, I can’t believe it, she’s blowing us a kiss in the rear-view mirror! Did you see that - a kiss?” Bo jabbered, elbowing his brother who had started walking down the sidewalk, glancing cautiously about.

20“I’d rather have a ride back to the dormitory at this time of night than a kiss from Mary-Joe,” Cheng muttered, turning to the immense blackness, which had fallen over downtown Atlanta.

21They must have a night-owl bus available on weekends,” Bo said reassuringly.

22“Ya, they do. The eleven o’clock just left five minutes ago. We’ll have to hang around this ghost town another hour.” At that precise moment Cheng felt a sharp blow on the right side of his neck. His knees buckled in— and his body struck the sidewalk.

23Bo let out a shrill cry: “Thief, robber, thief!” but the swift hand had already disappeared into a dark side street with Cheng’s wallet. “Cheng, you all right, Cheng say something,” Bo insisted.

24Cheng looked up. “Nearly broke my collarbone that S.O.B.,” he said rubbing his neck. “Happened too fast, even for a black belt like me.” Cheng scrambled to his feet and started limping in the direction of The Circus. A small rip in the side of his trousers was glazed with blood.

25At least we have my wallet,” Bo whispered, craning his head around nervously. “Better flag down a cab.” Then he started pointing wildly at something. “Look over there. If that’s not Mary-Joe in her red ­convertible, right there parked in front of The Circus.” Cheng stretched his neck painfully to get a better look.

26“She was Miss Georgia, did you know that?” Bo sighed.

27“Miss Bad Luck, you mean,” Cheng groaned.

28Mary-Joe turned and saw Cheng who was leaning against Bo hobbling in her direction. “My gosh, don’t you men ever sober up?” She looked at Cheng with an air of disgust.

29“It’s not what it seems,” Bo corrected. “It’s not what you think— Mary-Joe! Some jerk just ripped off my brother’s wallet. Before we knew it he’d delivered a left blade stroke and beat it down a side street.” Then knitting his eyebrows, he asked: “What are you doing back here anyway? I thought you were taking care of Bobby!”

30“I dropped him off, but I forgot my pocket-book. I had to come back and pick it up. She started shuffling her feet nervously—Oh Lord! It’s my entire fault, I should have given you a lift, after all you did. Wanna go for another round? It’s on me,” she smiled.

31A half-an-hour later they found themselves in a bar in the Highlands district. Mary-Joe was sitting between the two brothers. A jazz band was playing Gershwin’s Summertime.

32“Thanks,” Mary-Joe said, “for helping me out with Bobby.”

33“Come on, that’s the least we could do,” Bo said, flustered.

34Mary-Joe stretched out her arms. Spreading them like wings around the back of each brother; she let her dainty hands settle down lightly and pulled Bo and Cheng closer to her. Ya’ll obviously don’t know too much about Atlanta,” she drawled.

35“Well, we’ve only been here since September,” Bo noted defensively.

36“True, but we’ve been around,” Cheng corrected.

37Mary-Joe looked at them both with a knowing smile. “So you have, huh?”

38“Ya. We’ve been to the High Museum of Art, the Philharmonic and the Ballet,” the Brothers chimed in.

39“Ohhh, lord, why then ya’ll obviously haven’t seen anything at all. Wait till tomorrow. You’re comin’ to one of the wickedest Halloween parties ever, I mean really wicked! It’s at my folk’s place, they’re outta town.”

40“And they know about the party?” the brothers asked.

41“Nah, Dad’s a workaholic; he’s always out of town,” she replied.

42And your Mom?” Cheng asked.

43She paused. “My Dad collects rifles,” she said evading his question.

44“What kind?” Cheng asked politely.

45Clashkoffs,” she said with a slur. “He’s got a whole closet full of them, startin’ with the series of Clashkoffs that Russian guy patented in 1946. They were revamped by an American to shoot at double range in 1990. Dad’s real proud of that last model. That’s the year I was born, 1990. Dad says I’m as sharp as a...”

46“You mean a Kalashnikov. An M16A2 assault rifle?” Bo corrected.

47“That’s right—a Clashkoff—that’s what I said. Dad swears I’m as sharp as that rifle: got wide range, long caliber, and deadly cartridges when I‘m loaded!” The twins jostled each other, looking at Mary-Joe, incredulously.

48“We only got a hint of what you can do sober. But now, we’re ­beginning to know what you’re worth when you’re loaded!” Cheng jested. “A toast to us three!”

49Mary Joe looked stern suddenly and set down her glass, firmly. “Ok, party’s over. Ya’ll are comin’ back to my folk’s place. I’m not in shape to drive you back to Memory. But you’ll have to lay low, cuz Bobby’s there. So, keep your eyes peeled.”

50Her red convertible was the only car on the road at this late hour. Mary-Joe took a right. Her headlights lit up a white sign indicating “Highlander’s Estate.” A guard at the entrance, drowsing off, jerked back to life under the headlights. She rolled down her window. His gaze rode absently over the twins in the back seat and fixed itself on Mary-Jo: “Evenin’ Miss Mortel.” He activated the gate.

51When they entered—Bobby was lying on the couch inert in the living room—a pair of tennis shoes dangling over the armrest. The TV was blaring and so was the radio. “Bob, how ya feelin’? You feelin’ better?” She bent down and stroked his forehead.

52“Guh nite Mary baby, guh night.” He turned over on his side and closed his eyes.

53Mary-Joe turned to Cheng and Bo. “Ya’ll can sleep in the guest room over there. Just make yourself at home.” She spread her arms again and the two brothers froze, feeling her so close. “Now don’t be shy,” she smiled, “the kitchen’s over there on the left, the boy’s room is on the right. If ya’ll need a shower, it’s upstairs. That’s where I sleep. Oh ya—I promised to show you my Dad’s Clashkoff collection. It’s right there in the closet behind Bobby.” She took a key lying beside the TV and opened the large oak door. A wide variety of pistols, shotguns and rifles in shiny neat rows gleamed out at them from the darkness.

54“Must be about fifty of them in all!” Cheng gasped.

55“Is that legal?” Bo whispered, drawing back.

56“I’ll show you the rest tomorrow. Better get some sleep, it’s almost 3 a.m.” She turned slowly and disappeared behind the spiral staircase blowing a brief kiss with her right hand as she vanished.

57“Hey, wha, wha what was that supposed to mean?” Bo stuttered.

58“Well, it’s supposed to mean that you’re protecting yourself—in America that is, since everyone has guns. It’s the state constitutional right: to bear arms and protect property, but I don’t know, maybe her Dad hunts or something,” Cheng ventured.

59“Did you see that? She blew me a kiss. Miss Georgia blew me a kiss!” Bo repeated.

60Cheng snickered, “If Miss Georgia blew YOU a kiss then Mr. Discus player over there; I suppose HE must be your personal chauffeur, too. Sober up Bo!” He looked at his brother, shrugging his shoulders, “Come on, let’s get some sleep.”

61The next day, the four of them were seated around the kitchen table having coffee. They could see squirrels scampering up the huge oak trees from the bay window that looked out on the pond. The leaves were raging with colour: flaming ochre, deep crimson, scintillating gold, a spectrum of hues that proved perilous to the overly sensitive optic nerves of minds still saturated with alcohol from the night before. “Can ya draw that curtain just a tad, Bobby? It looks like an expressionist paintin’ out there, the whole landscape’s drunk with colour!” Mary-Joe squinted her eyes.

62“Don’t talk about drinkin’ please,” Bobby pressed a hand to his forehead.

63Mary Joe took a sip of her coffee. “Say Bobby, what are ya wearing for Halloween tonight?”

64He grunted and turned to the twins: “Ya’ll comin’ to Marie-Joe’s Halloween party? Ya gotta dress up —I’m goin’ as an ourangatang,” he said throttling his chest.

65“That’s what I love about Bobby, he doesn’t take himself too, seriously!” Marie-Joe smiled, settling back on the couch. “An’ ya’ll? What are ya’ll dressin’ up as?”

66“No idea,” Cheng shrugged his shoulders.

67“Me either. If you’ve got any suggestions...,” Bo smiled demurely.

68“Now I’m countin’ on ya’ll. This is gonna be a really wicked Halloween party—I’ve invited fifty people and they’re all going to be disguised as somethin’ or other.” She paused and looked at Bo: “Why, you can be a cowboy. It’s not often someone gets the right to tote around somethin’ from Dad’s gun collection.”

69“A cowboy, hmm,” Bo tried to imagine himself with a Stetson hat swinging a Smith and Wesson.

70“And you,” she turned to Cheng, “You can be, the Sheriff, and I’ll be, well, I’ll just be Mae-West, the damsel in distress.” Sensing no resistance, Mary-Joe continued, “We have the cowboy hat and the pistol for Bo, the badge for Cheng, the blindfold for me. Don’t even have to go out to rent a costume. Well, except you Bobby—an orangutan of all things—now be serious, what are ya dressin’ up to be?”

71“Good grief. I don’t know. It’ll be a surprise. You like surprises, don’t you honey?” Bobby bent over and pecked Mary-Joe on the cheek.

*****

72On Halloween night, beer, wine, champagne and mixed drinks of all sorts filled the bar. A couple of young girls, dressed up as mermaids, extended their shimmering scales, offering the guests a silver platter filled with hot hors-d’oeuvres. Halloween had transformed the salon into a wild zoo of human fantasy. The doorbell would occasionally ring and a group of children arrived, jostling each other as they went through the ritual trick-or-treating. Mary-Joe had prepared a selection of tootsie-rolls, lolly-pops, gum breakers, Baby Ruth bars, and Reese’s butter cups. In the room outside of the main bar, some of the guests were bobbing for apples. Bobby, who was the only one not to dress up, pulled her aside: “Hey, Mary-Joe, you didn’t get nearly enough apples for bobbin’ an’ the whiskey’s goin’ dry as well.” He threw her a blank look and swayed heavily in her direction.

73Mary-Joe steadied him. “I’m not goin’ anywhere, I’m a bit tipsy myself,” she retorted.

74Bo turned to Mary-Joe. “I can drive, but I’ll need a guide.”

75“All right, if you insist, but you’ll drive carefully, promise?”

76“Your wish is my command!” Bo said taking her hand.

77They walked out to the red convertible. Mary-Joe had pushed her gag up over her head. It formed a white band over her blond bob and stopped the wind from mussing her hair. She looked at Bo: “Hey baby, you’re dressed to kill! That’s just how Mae likes her men!”

78Bo’s cheeks were flaming. He glanced at Mary-Joe and slipped the .22 short Smith and Wesson into a clasp on his belt loop: “Let’s go Miss West!”

79“Whoopee, I’m free!” she hooted and slammed the car door.

80Cheng came running out into the driveway to stop his brother. Momentarily blinded by the car lights, he came to a halt. Bo drove up next to him. Cheng leaned towards Bo’s open window: “You crazy or what, you’re half wasted, now don’t go looking for the sheriff.”

81The red convertible swung into first, stifling Cheng’s voice. Bo entered into a small stretch of the suburbs. Jack-O’lanterns lit up the windows of the neighbouring houses. “Mary-Joe,” he said in a low voice.

82“Ya?” she turned to him, thrilled and afraid at the same time.

83“You know, I really think you’re the world’s most fabulous creature, I mean the most fabulous. You oughta get yourself treated right. I mean, you know what I mean?” He slipped his hand into Mary-Joe’s. They drove in silence for a good fifteen minutes when suddenly the car started to putter to a stop. “Oh jeez, we’re out of gas, you might know,” Bo said in a low voice. The car idled, puttered softly and rolled to a stop in the middle of the darkened road.

84Bo turned to Mary-Joe, patting her shoulder gently, “now don’t worry,” he said soothingly, while opening his door.

85Mary-Joe pulled him back. “Don’t, please don’t go!—she said, grating her teeth.

86“I’ll be right back, I promise. See, there’s a house right over there. Halloween is hospitality night, don’t you worry your pretty little head. Just lock the door. I’ll be right back.”

87She could see Bo making his way up to a lone house on a hill. She waited and waited and waited. It seemed like an eternity. Then she heard a man yelling: “Get off my property, right this minute, you hear me! I’ll give you to the count of three and if you don’t get off my property...”

88Two sharp explosions followed as her name pierced the night: “Mary-Joooe!”

89She ran up towards the house. Bo was sprawled out on the lawn. One lead bullet had gone through the moistened chamber of his pericardial cavity; the other lay lodged in his diaphragm.

...................................................................................

90Although the Lee family claimed it was murder, the newspapers summed up what happened as an act of legitimate self-defence, abiding the Second Amendment. In Georgia, it should be remembered that trespassing on private property is a federal crime and the use of deadly force to prevent imminent injury is justifiable. Samuel Jenkins, arguing in his defence, dismissed accusations of inebriation, for he was on his own private property and could durn well do as he pleased. He was under no influence, except Jesus who lit his way. Jenkins claimed that he answered the doorbell that Halloween night with the fear of god in his heart. When he saw Cheng marching up the hill, dishevelled and breathing heavily, he asked the boy to retreat. The Lee family says that Cheng heard “treat”—not—“retreat” and was probably expecting to find a bowl full of Sugar Daddies, or Mars Bars, when Jenkins slipped his own Smith and Weston into shooting range that fatal night.

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Alice Clark, « Trick or Treat », Journal of the Short Story in English, 67 | 2016, 275-282.

Référence électronique

Alice Clark, « Trick or Treat », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 67 | Autumn 2016, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2018, consulté le 16 décembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/jsse/1769

Auteur

Alice Clark

Sydney Alice Clark is an Associate Professor of literature at the University of Nantes, France. Her short stories have appeared in French and American journals and anthologies such as Bridges: a Global Anthology of Short Stories, Temenos Publishing; Short Story, University of Texas at Brownsville and Résonances, Université Paris 8. A collection of poems in French and English was published in Imaginaires, University of Nantes, France. Her short story manuscript collection, A Darker Shade of Light, was awarded first prize (Prix Manuscrit Technikart) at the Paris Book Fair (March 2011). She is a member of the Jury for English Short Story Fiction, organised by the CIRHILL and the CRILA at the University of Angers and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Nantes. Her work on Shakespeare and French theatre (Le Théâtre romantique en crise, Shakespeare et Nerval, Paris: Harmattan, 2005) was short-listed for a research prize by the Franco-British and Franco-American Research and Higher Education Associations (SAES and AFEA). Numerous articles on short stories and theatre have been published in French and American ­literary reviews. She has also co-authored a book on the Anglo-Saxon short story (La nouvelle anglo-saxonne, une étude psychanalytique, Paris: Hachette).

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