I guess, if we decide to show excerpts as a way for fans, friends and family to keep us honest/motivated in this thing, we do so here.  But don’t quote me.  I’m not going to do daily excerpts or anything, just periodically.  So anyhow, here’s today’s work thus far.  A prelude to the novel, as it were.  Hope you dig it.

October 31, 1988

Rodger pulled the car over to the side of the street, checking his mirrors before putting it in park.  A sea of young trick-or-treaters roamed as far as he could see.  He turned around to his young daughter, Meghan, who was dressed as a princess in the back seat.

“Okay, hun, do you have your flashlight?” Rodger asked as a group of kids dressed as Ghostbusters went by, chasing another kid who was dressed as a ghost.

“Yes, Daddy, I do.  Can I get candy now?”

“Yes, yes.  Now, you know the routine, kiddo, right?  Up one side and then down the other, back to me, staying on the sidewalk at all times except for when you cross at Mrs. Swenson’s house, yeah?”

“I know, Daddy.” The princess moaned, annoyed, “I will I promise.” Meghan’s little hand reached for the door handle just as Rodger unbuckled her seatbelt.

“Take it easy,” Rodger said, “there’s plenty of trick-or-treat time left.  Here, don’t forget your jack-o-lantern.”  He passed the orange bucket out to Meghan as she delicately straightened the white frill of her princess-pink dress.  “Feels like you’ve got a ton already!”

“Thank you, Daddy!” Meghan said, grabbing her bucket and making off for the first house on the street, mindful to let a couple of older kids who were dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy pass in front of her.

Rodger watched as his little girl walked up the sidewalk toward the house and he smiled.  He loved the autumn, and Halloween most of all.  The orange and browns of the trees moved in time to a gentle wind; the dark green of the bushes complimenting the affair.  It was unseasonably warm, Rodger noted, taking out his book of crosswords as Meghan began walking toward the next house up the street.  One really didn’t need a jacket, Rodger said to himself, agreeing with his earlier assessment of letting Meghan go trick-or-treating without her coat.

“But Daddy,” she had said, working Rodger over.  He was such a fool for Meghan’s Daddy, “my coat will wrinkle my gown, and princesses don’t have wrinkled gowns.  And we can’t see breaths.  See?” She proceeded to exhale sharply.

And with that, Rodger’s princess had gotten to trick-or-treat without her coat.

Meghan waved to him from the second house’s porch as she waited for an answer to her knock, smiling her biggest smile.

Rodger waved back and then looked down to his crossword.

“Michael Knight’s co-pilot.” Rodger read aloud, “Six across.”  Rodger had an annoying habit of clicking his pen as he thought on his crossword.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Onlookers, as evidenced by an unseemly incident at the DMV last year involving a can of Coke and Rodger’s paperwork during a two hour wait, found it maddening.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.  Cli-click.

“K.I.T.T.!” Michael shouted, as he wrote in the answer feeling very proud of himself.

And so it went.  Answer after answer, making his way through the crossword.  STAIRWAY followed WIZARD; TEA came after PRESIDENT, on and on until Rodger turned the page to start a third puzzle.

That was when her absence hit him.  When time caught up and he knew she should be back by now.  Rodger just knew, he had a feeling, that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

He looked up, quickly, eyes darting from one side of the street to the other, distinguishing all the other children on the street between those who definitely weren’t his child and those that could be.

“The pink dress,” Rodger said, getting out of the car and speaking to nobody and everybody around him, “I should – th-that should be easy to see out here in – Meghan!” he shouted, running down the street.

“Meghan!”

He turned to another group of children.  So many damn kids around, why couldn’t he see his?  “Have you seen my little girl?  She’s about this tall, brown hair.  She’s a princess?”  He could see he was unnerving them, hysteria creeping into his eyes.  They shook their head in unison, afraid of the man who was losing his mind.  “MEGHAN!”

Rodger ran toward the last house he had seen her at, running through yards, jumping bushes.

“Meghan, my little girl, she’s a princess.  Have you seen Meghan?” he asked of everyone, anyone.  Could no one help him?  He reached the end of the street, Mrs. Swenson’s house.  He leapt to the porch and pounded on the screen door.

“Mrs. Swenson!  Mrs. Swenson!”

“Land’s sakes, Mr. Wallace, I’m here!  What’s the matter with you?” a woman in her sixties asked through the screen, wearing a worried look.

“It’s Meghan, Mrs. Swenson, my little one.  Has she come here yet?”

“Y-yes,” Mrs. Swenson answered, removing her glasses as she did and looking to a spot behind Rodger.

Rodger spun around to see what she was looking at.  It caught his eye almost immediately.  There, in the street, tipped over with candy strewn all around it, was a jack-o-lantern.  Frantic, Rodger ran, stopping just short of reaching it.  He could read the bottom of the jack-o-lantern.

Meghan Wallace.

Rodger fell to his knees in the street as a crowd of children and other adults began to gather around him.  Their hushed whispers and nervous murmuring becoming something else he had to sort through to find his daughter.  But he couldn’t find Meghan.  Couldn’t see her.  Rodger could feel something letting go inside.  He focused on her name, scrawled with a black marker on orange plastic in her handwriting, and he screamed.

The buzzing of the crowd.

The sirens in the distance.

The colors of autumn.

All muted by a father’s anguish.

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