“Okay, sport, just one more for tonight, then it’s lights out, okay? You ready? What did the skeleton drink on
Halloween night?”

Jeremy did a somersault on his bed, his bare feet slapping against the wall, and squealed like only a seven-year-
old can. At full volume. “Grave juice!” He bounced some more and giggled. “Get it, Dad? Grave juice, with a v,
not grape juice with a p!”

I laughed as I tackled him into my lap, the Halloween book I’d been holding tumbling to the floor. The riddle’s
answer had been ‘spirits’, but I liked my son’s answer better. “That’s really good, Jeremy. You’ve got a good
imagination.”

He squirmed out of my grasp and looked up at me. “Was that the answer in the book, Dad? Was it grave juice?”

“No, it was ‘spirits’. But I like your answer better.”

Jeremy’s little forehead scrunched in thought. “That’s silly, Dad. You can’t drink spirits.
They just float around.”

I laughed. “You’re right. Spirits are ghosts. But there are spirits that you can drink, too. It’s alcohol.”

“Oh.” Jeremy slipped under the blankets I held up for him and let me tuck them around his shoulders. “I like my
answer better, too, then.”

“Me, too.” I leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “Good night, son. Sleep well, okay? Tomorrow’s
Halloween, so get lots of rest.”

Jeremy yawned. “Okay, Dad. Good night.”

I rumpled his hair. “Good night, sleep tight.”

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” He smiled sleepily.

“See you in the morning.”

I started to close Jeremy’s bedroom door and reached to flick off the light switch.

“Dad?” Jeremy called, his voice small and sleepy.

“Yes?”

“When are you going to make me another sculpture for my collection? It’s been a long time.”

My eyes were drawn to the shelf where my son’s special collection of miniature sculptures was displayed - an
airplane, a car, a train, a motorcycle, a robot and several animals, including a dinosaur. None were larger than
about six or seven inches and each had been meticulously carved by my own hands over the years. I couldn’t
help smiling as I looked at my tiny works of art. They brought back so many memories.

I returned to Jeremy’s side and sat down on the bed. “It has been an awful long time, hasn’t it? Work has been
so busy lately, but I promise that soon, I’ll make another one for you, okay, Jeremy? What would you like? A lion
or maybe a giraffe?”

“No, Dad. I want something different this time.”

“Okay. How about a boat?”

“No. I want a monster. A really, really scary monster. And I want it for Halloween.”

***

It had been almost four months since I’d sculpted anything or even set foot in the shed at the back of the
property that I had converted into a studio over a decade ago when my wife Loretta and I moved into our
house. But I’d been working extremely long hours at the office lately and had not been able to find the time to
indulge my hobby. As a corporate lawyer, I’d taken on several new clients recently and had been clocking
seventy to eighty hours a week at the office. There were only so many hours left over. Something had to give.
And it always seemed to be time spent with my family and time doing what I loved most in the world - sculpting.

Tonight was the first night in almost two weeks that I was home, and while it had been nice having dinner with
Loretta and Jeremy as a family again and simply wonderful putting my son to bed after his bath, I was dying to
slip out to the studio and get started on his sculpture. But Loretta had amorous plans for me that involved
candles and silk sheets on the bed - “c’mon, Will, it’s been two weeks, you know” - and it wasn’t until well after
eleven when she finally fell asleep that I was able to quietly let myself out of the house.

The night was as dark as coal and sharp with chill, damp air that crept inside the collar of my jacket as I made
my way across the backyard to my studio and unlocked the front door. I switched on the main light and stood
looking around at my work space and all my tools hanging neatly on pegboard. I was itching to get started on
Jeremy’s sculpture right away, but there was something I had to do first.

Locking my studio again, I went around to the front of the house, got in behind the wheel of my Ford Escape,
and started the engine. I didn’t worry that Loretta would wake up; she had always been a sound sleeper. But if
she did, she would undoubtedly look out at the studio, see the light on, and assume that I was working through
the night. I smiled to myself as I backed into the street and started off in the direction of Ferndale, a town
several miles away.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of a rundown, seedy bar on the outskirts of the sleepy little
town. A square, cinder-block place called The Red Rooster with more than a few Harleys and several dusty pick-
up trucks parked right out front, but no rooster anywhere in sight. I smiled again as I parked as far from the
bikes as I could and climbed out of the Escape. I could hear Patsy Cline whining loudly on the jukebox even
before I had made it halfway to the entrance. Unzipping my leather jacket, I took a deep breath and pushed
through the door.

It was dark inside the bar, murky like roiling waters, and the air was thick with cigarette smoke that stung my
eyes. Patsy Cline stopped whining and Shania Twain started up as I headed for the bar. The place wasn’t busy.
A few bikers played pool in the back, a man and two women occupied one of the booths against the wall, a
couple swayed in each other’s arms on the tiny dance floor, and several people took up stools along the bar. I
chose one at the end, next to a platinum blonde, and asked for a pint from the bartender who shuffled over to
take my order. He was in his late forties, skinny everywhere except for a beer belly that hung over his Texas-
shaped belt buckle. He brought my beer and I gave him a ten out of my wallet, refusing any change. He showed
crooked, yellow teeth when he smiled, thanking me for the tip.

“That was mighty generous of you,” the blonde next to me said, turning on her stool to face me. “I bet that’s
the biggest tip Rodney’s gotten all night. Hell, all week.”

She wasn’t pretty. Not even a little. Her nose was too long, her eyes too closely set together, her lips too thin.
But the rest of her was just about perfect. In a stereotypical way, of course. Fake breasts spilling out of a low-
cut pink blouse, small waist, and legs that went on forever in a pair of skin-tight jeans. I couldn’t help it; I felt
myself growing hard as I let my eyes trail over her body.

“It’s only money,” I said, forcing my eyes to meet hers as I pocketed my wallet.

She smiled, leaning so close to me I could smell her cheap, cloying perfume. “Is that right, handsome? You got
money to burn, do you?” She leaned in closer still, putting her lips against my ear and a hand on my thigh. Her
fingers slid across my jeans and rubbed the length of my erection through the material. “Fifty bucks and I’ll
show you a good time, baby.”

“What’s your name?”

“Does it matter?”

“No, but I still want to know.”

“Cherry.”

“Right, and mine’s Rod.”

We both looked down at her hand still rubbing my erection, and burst into laughter at the same moment.

“Good one,” she said, squeezing me even harder between her fingers.

“Mmmm,” I groaned, grabbing her hand. “You okay with taking a ride? I have a place not far from here.”

“Sure, baby, whatever you want.”

We finished our drinks and I helped Cherry shrug into a long, black coat. Escorting her outside, I led the way to
my Ford Escape and held the passenger door open for her. Then I went around to the driver’s side, hopped in
and started the truck.

“It’s not too far,” I said as I pulled out of the lot and onto the highway. “We’ll be there in no time.”

Cherry cranked up the radio and sang along with the songs as I drove along the dark, deserted highway. She
didn’t have a bad voice, but I was relieved nonetheless when I finally pulled into my driveway and turned off
the engine. Everything was as I had left it - the house dark, the studio lit up. I told Cherry to be quiet as I led
her around the garage and into the backyard.

Unlocking my studio, I ushered her inside and locked the door again. At the sound of the click, she whirled
around to face me, a question in her eyes.

I was standing right by the door. I didn’t say anything as I casually reached over and flicked off the light,
plunging the studio into utter darkness.

A fraction of a second later, Cherry uttered a little scream, her voice catching in the back of her throat. I
opened the top drawer of the bureau I keep on the right side of the door, for paperwork and such, and
retrieved my night-vision goggles. I put them on and smiled in glee when I looked at my green-tinged world and
saw Cherry standing in the middle of my studio, her eyes frantically darting around in panic, her arms
outstretched and her hands flailing the air all around her.

It was time.

Cherry opened her mouth to scream, this time at the top of her voice. Sneaking up behind her, I clamped both
hands around her neck before she could make a sound and started squeezing as hard as I could. At first, she
struggled with everything she had, her fingernails trying to gouge my face and her feet kicking at my shins, but
it wasn’t long before her eyes rolled back in her head and her body went limp in my arms.

I made sure she was dead, then I took down my tools and starting sculpting.

***

There was a small vampire eating a bowl of rice crispies at the kitchen table when I came downstairs in the
morning. Dressed in a navy suit and striped tie, I came to stand beside Loretta at the counter and poured
myself a cup of coffee.

“You mind telling me why we have a vampire in our kitchen this morning, hon? Where’s Jeremy?” I asked,
winking at her.

She smiled and shrugged. “Haven’t seen him. But this little vampire just appeared out of nowhere.”

“It’s me!” The vampire shouted, jumping down from the chair he’d been sitting on. “It’s me, Mom. It’s Jeremy.
See?”

He lifted the hem of his shirt and pointed to the crescent-shaped birthmark on his belly.

“Oh my God, Loretta,” I said, “some vampire’s taken over our Jeremy. Call 9-1-1, quick.”

“No, Dad!” Jeremy shouted, “it’s me. It’s really me. I’m just dressed up for Halloween.”

I slapped a hand across my forehead. “Oh, thank God. For a minute there, I thought I’d never see you again.”

“You’re silly, Dad.”

I rumpled his hair and reached for more coffee. Loretta kissed me on the lips and Jeremy on the cheek before
leaving the kitchen to go have a shower.

“Hey Dad?”

“Yep?”

“Did you make me a sculpture for Halloween, like you said? Did you make me a really scary monster?”

“I sure did.”

I smiled, set down my mug of coffee and picked Jeremy up in my arms. I sat him down on the counter and
reached inside my jacket pocket for the little sculpture I had stayed up all night carving for my son. It was by
far the best work I’d ever done and I wanted so badly for Jeremy to like it.

I watched his face as I placed the little figurine in his hand. It was sculpted, like all the others, out of human
bone. A frown appeared on his forehead and his eyes narrowed in puzzlement.

“What’s the matter, sport? You don’t like it?”

“No, I like it. But it’s not a monster, Dad.”

“Sure it is, Jeremy. It’s a terrible monster. Look closely.”

He stared at the tiny figurine in his hand, then looked up at me with his big blue eyes.

“You’re wrong, Dad. This isn’t a monster. It’s you.”

I just smiled.
The Sculptor
by: Sonia Suedfeld