Heather said that if she gave me the recipe for a drink called Mask of the Red Death that she would give me a costume that suited my Inner Soul.
I wasn’t sure why she believed I had this secret drink. I didn’t know a recipe for any drink except chocolate milk, and I didn’t want a costume for my Inner Soul. I just wanted a costume that wasn’t stupid.
I’d already tried to pretend that my regular clothes were my costume, I was a homicidal maniac, they looked like everyone else, but that was getting old. My mom, who’s a waitress, couldn’t afford a store-bought costume. If I wanted to be a witch I would have to make a cone hat out of construction paper. She couldn’t afford a Harry Potter scarf. What she actually told me was “Why do we want to pay good money for a cheap costume that will fall apart in a week and will make you look like everyone else?” She told me to come up with something on my own. And I have no imagination. I admit it. I only came up with stupid ideas. Or ideas which would rip up perfectly good sheets, or really dumb masks made out of paper plates. I could get cheap vampire teeth, but everybody knows vampires look like everybody else except for the eyes, so that wouldn’t work.
Heather told me to meet her at this theater on Main Street. It looked like a movie theater that had been there for a hundred years.
Mom dropped me off outside the brass doors decorated with sun rays. When they opened, they let out the smell of hot apple cider. Farther in the lobby it smelled like warm chocolate. I saw a real chocolate fountain by the wall, under the chandeliers. Two women behind the concessions counter sold popcorn balls colored like pumpkins.
Heather’s family owned this theater.
She took me to the wardrobe room where hundreds of dresses, tuxedoes, fairy costumes, hobo costumes, and countless others hung on racks. Heather’s mom, the wardrobe manager, let me pick out a cream-colored Princess costume to wear. Normally I’d say that princess costumes were for little kids, but not these. Heather said they were made from real chiffon.
When we had our dresses on, she grabbed a large bowl of candy and headed toward the theater doors.
What’s that smell?” I asked.
“Greasepaint. We get a lot of it around here.”
We entered the theater itself. The red satin curtains were closed. The audience waited for them to open. Then I noticed something. Everybody in the audience was in costume.
Being in the audience was actually like being at a big Halloween party
“They pay to do this?”
“Yes. It’s participatory theater.”
During the rest of the months, she said, they put on shows like “Don Quixote” where she got to play Dulcinea, and “The Sound of Music,” where she got to play one of the Von Trapp kids.
She said that now, in return for the costumes, they would take our souls, and turned her into an automaton, and put her into servitude, which is like slavery only you got to wear costumes. I was about to run back out the brass doors until she gave me a big bowl of candy. When we went out into the aisles throwing candy into the audience, the audience yelled and stomped.
This must be the servitude, I thought. I guessed that if your family owns a theater, your language gets more dramatic.
The play featured actors in capes and an evil scientist’s laboratory with dry ice to make the experiments smoke.
Afterward Heather’s mom packed the chiffon costume so I could use it for trick-or-treating. When Mom came to get me, she helped me with the Mask of the Red Death drink. She said Heather could use Sprite and some thick red syrup that Mom called grenadine. It looked like blood when you poured it into the Sprite.
I hoped they liked it. Maybe they would invite me back.