Seen sight of jack
“Yeah born this way just like you, well not, so whatcha lookin at and for, jack?”
The guy spat at the vegetable. Its crooked smile had spooked him, the smile on the pumpkin, the jack.
“O’-lantern, o’-lantern,” the guy sang out off-key.
He stumbled, more tree root than city sidewalk plus sky had darkened, lower the sun this time of year, day as night. That’s why the dying vegetable had spooked the guy. It glowed with unknown expectation, the guy knew his route, but the vegetable was new.
“Crooked letter, crooked letter,” the man chanted an old remembrance, how they learned to spell Mississippi back home.
His leg itched. He looked down for something missing, a limb or more. The wheelchair hit another root. It cried out through the concrete underfoot.
“Sorry,” the man told the root with no musical lilt to mock its pain.
Some kids barreled straight toward the guy.
“A pox on ya shoe, both of ’em, monkeypox, and the big pox, both aaall ya shoes. Awwwwwwl.” And he spat a curse.
The kids didn’t bother to a thing. They stared at devices that glowed at their faces like the jack’s had at the man. He spat at them again but with poor aim of his juice just as before. The kids kept on texting. They knew their way, better eyes. To the man strapped in his chair, their feet floated like a ballet dance above the broken tree-feet impeding his path.
He saw another jack on the next porch over and figured yeah it about that time. A streetlamp overhead switched on buzz. The guy jumped as he could, tight grip on his wheels ’til he shuddered, remembering shelter closing time. No watch, gone missing last night. He let go to search. Toothbrush, yeah found it, saved in side pocket.
“Sidesaddle, sidesaddle.” He sang again, kids out of sight.
He needed to keep that brush to keep those teeth, not end up like a jack. Another house switched on porch lights. A solo kid with a knapsack smiled big and gave way. Admiring his toothbrush, the guy didn’t see the boy’s manners, but the kid’s gapped teeth would’ve spooked him like the jack. The man put away his toothbrush and patted his chest pocket. Another porch light glared orange through the remaining brown leaves. The man looked up and down the street, then shook his head.
“Wasteful,” he scoffed.
He didn’t understand city folk buying haystacks for city yards. He remembered when they would give away prettier hay and more to caring neighbors ahead of a rough hurricane, back when folks knew.
“Knew our neighbors,” the man yelled like a country preacher. “Kin to ’em all.”
He wanted to laugh, but decided to sing.
“Kin four, five ways. Gotta be mighty nice when that’s all ya gotta.”
He sang loud and started dancing in his chair, which hit another root cluster. He almost fell out. Clink clink. He reached for his chest pocket, yeah toothbrush safe. His eyes strained to scour both sidewalk and street, the last of daylight raining from above. There.
“My baby, my baby,” the man sang out.
He maneuvered over to the amulet. Purple and bedazzled, it glowed better than any orange porch light or crooked jack any store could try to sell.
A trio of mean kids ran right by the guy balam-bamm and nudged his chair over another root and off the sidewalk balam-bamm. A blessing when he stopped rolling and still in it. He clutched his jewel, entranced.
He didn’t hear or see a thing when the brakes of a city bus failed at the intersection ahead, the monster right into and over two of the mean kids, or that’s what the 11 o’clock news reported later that night. One of the rowdy kids tried to tell a doctor at the hospital that an old man had blinded the bus driver with something, the man had tried to kick him and his buddies when they offered him trick-or-treats, but they didn’t really know the man, didn’t notice anything, only the odd purple light.
“It was the weirdest color, and I know you’ll say I watch too much of them scary movies, but that guy was holding on to something and the bus driver couldn’t see.”
Someone said they gave the surviving kid a sedative followed by an evaluation the next day.
Neighborhood talk was the boy didn’t know his words.
“We see everything,” a homeowner said in the TV news report, “know all our neighbors like family, and this time of year we hold carving contests, oh we know we can’t carve the first perfect jack but we see everything, serve orange punch and chocolate candies on hay. And for Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Mardi Gras, St. Patty’s, Passover, Easter, Solstice and Equinox,” pausing for a breath, “and for Valentine’s, which we love, we….”