Happy Hallo-weenies

If one weekend night’s costume party was about mysteries, food, and fun, the next was its near-direct opposite. We took to creating our costumes a couple of hours before the faculty party, Susanne donning a personification of her office building’s reconstruction, and me going as the carpet a couple of offices down from hers. When this construction—a 30-foot addition to the end of the building—began at the start of last summer, several emails went out with a slew of mixed messages. This construction will be completed quickly. We didn’t expect anyone would need their offices in the summer. The noise should be minimal. We’ve discovered we need to remove asbestos. And so on.

When the jack hammering got too loud, Susanne went to work in the library, or came home. At some point the psychology lab upstairs was getting its facelift, and lo and behold, a waste pipe burst, spilling pigeon crap all over the carpet in one of Susanne’s colleagues offices. This was not the “minimal intrusion” he’d been promised. One day, while I was in the Bi-Mart, looking at canning equipment, I came across some carpet remnants. I typed into my phone:

TELL BRUCE CARPET’S ON SALE AT BIMART.

I’m sure he was pleased with my helpful suggestion, though I haven’t stopped by to see if he took me up on the idea.

I needed to figure out how to replicate bird poop without using any actual excrement. So I turned to the most logical place—our kitchen. It is with my own trial and error process that I now reveal my bird poop recipe.

Recipe for pigeon-like poop

4 packages of regular flavor instant oatmeal

1/4 cup of corn starch

6–8 drops of yellow food coloring

1/2 cup of raisins

1 T flour, unbleached if possible

1/2 to 3/4 a cup of water

Grind up the oatmeal and the raisins in a food processor. Turn out into a metal bowl and add the corn starch and flour, mixing with a fork or whisk. Add in 1/2 cup of water and stir, adding more water as desired. Add drops of food coloring, enough to give a sick-looking hue. Drop by the spoonful from about 4–6 feet away for desired splatter effect, and let dry.

Yes folks, my bird shit was completely edible, although it didn’t taste particularly good. But it could have been helpful for a Renfield imitation, I suppose. What else is Halloween for?

I dropped the whole mess on a piece of carpet we had in the basement and let it sit for a good while, and was happy when it stayed put once I hoisted the carpet up on string so it was wearable.

I looked mostly like I was planning to jump over Niagara Falls in a dirty carpet-turned-barrel, but whatever. It was in this way that Susanne declared that we were protest art. I was my own art installation! Nifty.

We drove over to the festivities with a couple of other professors in tow, a cowgirl and a witch. Susanne had looked up the directions before we left, and then we were off into the night. The spooky night. We jumped on the highway, made a right, went over some railroad tracks, and then.

Then we drove up to the big house. Hmm. That couldn’t be right. That looked like a maximum security prison where the state of Washington executes prisoners, not a Halloween party for the local liberal arts college.

Susanne tapped her foot impatiently. I was not listening to her, clearly. I turned the car around.

And then we made it, our lives still intact from our brush with death row. Crossroads Steakhouse and Lounge overlooked a high school football game and the rest of the city. We walked in, looked around at the coworkers who were, in their costumes, one scraggly, intentionally creepy bunch, and . . .

were immediately and rudely asked to step aside for a waiter who was trying to fetch drinks from the bar. “Seriously?,” we wondered. The rest of the waitstaff were just as rude.

“Please, people, make a path here,” a woman in a white shirt and black skirt said, walking through the space and waving her arms. I thought of waving my own and saying, “Danger, Danger, Dr. Smith,” but I actually wasn’t that mobile wearing 30 pounds of carpet. In fact, I would have had a hard time making a path for the President, much less for these inconsiderate people.

Now then, I’m used to rude service, given that I lived in DC for 11 years. I’ve encountered several rude people in that town over the years. But at least they had something to back it up—terrific sushi (yes, that’s a swipe at you, Cafe Asia), comfortable seating in the cinema (Hoffman 22), or posh hotel accommodations. This place was as far from quality as a local ExxonMobile TigerMart is for quality dining fare. Yes, there was a dance floor, and yes, it was not the smallest dance floor I’ve ever seen, but it was one of the most barren. The DJ was so bad (“how bad WAS he?”), the DJ was so bad he’d start a new song, see nobody was coming to the dance floor and would then put on a new song, screech-skidilidatting the old one off the first turntable. My dead grandmother turns better tunes.

Susanne went and found the drinks, meaning, she stood at the bar, waited for a bartender, then walked to the register in our part of the building, where she was admonished for standing in the “path” the waiters needed. Several minutes later she came up to me with a martini and a beer, sighing.

There were several other twosome, coordinated costumes at the party—the usual pirate and piratess, a bloody bride and her bloody bridesmaids, a fork and a spoon, and so forth. I wondered if there wasn’t some kind of violence influencing chemical in the water around these parts, as there were a lot of murdered and murdering characters there. A “cereal” killer, with a bleeding box of Honey Nut Cheerios strapped to his back. A man killed by a shark. Maybe there’s a fake blood factory around here I don’t know about, or the K-Mart had a sale.

At any rate, it was inevitable that Susanne and I would be asked to show our costumes to the college president. Two minutes of explaining and he didn’t look like he really understood what we were trying to represent, Susanne wearing a trash bag with “Warning: Asbestos” signs taped to her, and me in a moldy, pukey-looking carpet. We were saved by the bell, also known as Beyonce’s Single Ladies song, and it was off to the dance floor to try to replicate the choreography from Glee.

Back to our spot at one of the tables, the waitstaff had cleared away Susanne’s martini, though she’d only drunk half of it. And about this time I noticed that some people who weren’t a part of the party had come into the room, taken a long table, and were watching us. A couple even got up and danced. Apparently it was also the bar’s karaoke night. No wonder they were clearing drinks, the asses. Hadn’t the college paid for this space? Were they planning on kicking us out at a certain hour?

My carpet was cutting into my shoulders, so I made a move to take it off. I set down my beer glass on the table. In two nanoseconds (or so; I wasn’t counting) a waitress was there, next to me.

“I need you to pick that up,” she said to me.

“Excuse me?”

“I need to clear this table.”

“I’m using this table.” I sound like I’m arguing in the retelling, but I really wasn’t understanding her.

“I need to clear this table.”

“I just need to put this down FOR A SECOND.” With all the music, maybe she didn’t understand what I was trying to accomplish, but I also didn’t understand why it mattered to her. Was the ghost of Princess Di going to need this crepe-covered surface?

I picked up my drink. She walked away. I put down my drink and took off the carpet. A colleague of Susanne’s had overheard the exchange.

“Better watch it, Everett, or you’re gonna get kicked out of here.”

“God, no kidding!” Hey, that’s fine, I figured, I’m ready to take on the white water of Niagara in this thing.

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