This is Halloween, this is Halloween... Plus meet the baby!
"Patrick! Patrick, I know you're in there, open the door!"
I groan and look at my alarm clock, rolling my eyes and putting my pillow over my face.
"Patrick, get up!"
I contemplate laying here until he leaves, but the possibility of Joe breaking my door down is too great to chance it. I haul myself out of bed, pulling a tshirt over my head and stumbling to the door, throwing the deadbolt open and turning the knob. Before I have time to step back, the door is flung open and Joe's rushing past me, rooting through my front closet before heading to my bedroom.
"Uh, Joe? It's like nine in the morning. What the hell are you doing?"
"I need your vest." He says it so simply that it takes me a full thirty seconds to even comprehend what he's said.
"The blue and orange one. I need it right now," he calls from inside my closet.
"I'm going to be you."
I know I just woke up, but I don't think I should be having this hard of a time understanding him. "What the hell are you saying?"
He turns to face me and dramatically enunciates his words. "I'm going to be you for Halloween."
"Halloween is two weeks away. Which means you don't need my vest right now. And why would you be me?" I add as an afterthought.
"I do need it right now. I need to work on the costume; it needs to be perfect."
"Sure, right. Again, why me?"
"Why not you?"
"Uh huh. Move." I push Joe out of the way and rummage around for a minute, pulling out my blue puffy vest and a few tshirts and tossing them at him. "I usually wear one of those shirts with it. And, uh, these shoes," I glance at his feet, "but I think they'd be too small for you. Is that all you need?"
"Yes, thank you. No! A hat, I need a hat."
"Not a chance, not after last time," I reply as I gently push him towards the front door.
"It was an accident!"
"I'm sure it was, but still no. Can you leave so I can go back to sleep now?"
He turns around with his hand still on the knob. "Is that all you do? Sleep?"
"Let's see: we just got home last week, I have no commitments today, and, oh yeah, it's nine a.m. Yes, sleep is on top of the list. Wait, no. Sleep is the whole list. I'll see you later."
Joe thanks me again as he closes the door behind him and I head back to bed, wrapping myself in my blankets and trying to recapture the dream I was so rudely awakened from.* I toss and turn for five minutes before sighing at the ceiling; once I'm awake, that's it. Thanks, Joe.
I walk into the kitchen and open the refrigerator, staring blankly into it for a minute or two before closing the door again. I repeat this process with every cabinet before finally grabbing some oatmeal and dumping it into a bowl with some water. I jam the bowl into the microwave and turn on my phone: 6 new messages. As usual, I hope for the best but expect nothing close as I punch my password in. The first message is from Pete, Mr. Insomnia himself, wanting me to watch a movie with him, and I sigh. Doesn't anyone just call to say 'hi' anymore? The next two are Pete as well, and I make a mental note to buy him a coloring book or something. This is followed by a message from Joe, calling to tell me he'll be here soon, and another bitching at me to wake up and open the door. The last message is from Anna and I smile, until she tells me her work schedule has changed and she's cancelling our lunch date.
Today is just not my day.
Joe's big Halloween party has finally arrived and I'm standing in his doorway, surveying the crowd. As usual, I'm late, so pretty much everyone is here, giving me an opportunity to check out the costumes and locate familiar faces without being noticed.
"Hey, Lunchbox! Nice Clark Kent."
"Thanks Lucy. It's easy and I don't have to walk around all night looking like..." I trail off as I notice her green tutu-esque outfit.
"An idiot?" She laughs.
I clear my throat self-consciously. "That's not what I meant, I mean, you make a great Tinkerbell, really, you look... uh, you look really good."
She sighs. "It's okay, Patrick, I know I look pretty dumb. But Pete just had to be Peter Pan and he just had to have a sidekick. And I flat-out refused to be a Lost Boy, so here I am in tulle and tights. What a moron I was."
I laugh and she links arms with me, gently pulling me into the fray. "Speaking of tights, please tell me Pete did the manly thing and found a way around wearing them?"
"Pete? Manly? Please." We laugh and she motions toward a pointy green hat, underneath which is a very sparkly Pete.
"Fairy dust, thank you. And it was an accident. See, I was putting it on, and then Pete came in and he thought I looked really sexy in this fucking tutu, and then we... uh..."
"Oh. Thanks for that." As I try to shake the image of Pete and Lucy's matching tights rubbing up against one another out of my head, Joe runs up, looking like a slightly taller, much (to my dismay) thinner, but otherwise very accurate me.
"Wow Joe, you look great."
"Thanks," he grins. "I even found those shoes." I look down and sure enough, my blue and white Pumas are on his feet. "The hair was the hardest. Maddie had to talk me out of dying it but I couldn't find a wig so I just had to flatiron it. Which took me forever... remind me never to be you again."
"Will do, buddy." I hear a dog bark from somewhere to my left, followed by what sounds like a baby laughing. "What was that?"
"Uhm, I don't know what you're talking about."
The dog barks again and I turn my head in the direction it's coming from. "That noise."
"Oh, that's the dog. She's playing with the baby," he explains nonchalantly while peering over my head.
"Joe? You don't have a dog or a baby."
"No, you're right. But Lexi's got a dog, and Maddie's got a baby. They're in the kitchen," he mumbles as he pushes past me. "Don't fucking touch the stereo!"
"Alexis has a dog?" I ask myself as I make my way through the crowd. Note to self: ask Joe who the hell all these people are. As I enter the kitchen, I nearly trip over a tan fuzzball being chased by a black and white blur. I regain my footing and look up to see Alexis laughing at me from her perch on the counter. She's got on some sort of blue plaid dress that stops really short on her thighs, and her hair is twisted away from her face to show off her lips, painted the same color as her shoes.
"What is this, Stripper Dorothy?"
"Close. Haven't you ever seen that Blues Traveler video? They're at this nightclub or something, and all the Wizard of Oz characters show up, except they look all cracked out?"
I stare dumbly at her and she shakes her head.
I'm almost knocked off my feet again and Alexis slides off the counter, her glittery red shoes thumping onto the tile, and scoops up a tiny, shrieking cow.
"T, I told you not to run so fast. You're about to take someone out!" The cow giggles as she tickles it, then she looks up and seems to remember that I'm in the dark here. "Patrick, this is Tara." The cow scrambles into my arms and immediately grabs for my glasses. "Ah! She likes you."
"How can you tell?" Once I've regained my glasses, Tara starts tugging on my sideburn, and I'm trying to figure out how beating me senseless translates into liking me.
"She did the same thing to Tatum."
"Who's Tatum? Why is this costume stabbing me?"
Alexis turns Tara in my arms so she's facing away from me. She points down and I'm transfixed by the anatomically correct costume.
"And this," she grunts slightly, "is Tatum."
I tear my eyes away from Tara's udders to see Alexis trying to keep a grip on the fuzzball from earlier, which I now can recognize as a puppy.
"Tom gave her to me. Isn't she adorable?" She giggles at Tatum starts licking her wildly, and I stand shocked as Tara shrieks and licks my nose.
"I told you she likes you."
"There's my baby!" Maddie strolls in and rescues me from Tara, who has, in the past ten minutes, permanently attached herself to me. "Have you said hi to Patrick yet?"
Tara shakes her head and buries her face in Maddie's shoulder, suddenly shy.
"I know you can. Don't be rude."
Tara looks uncertainly at me for a minute, and I can't help but smile as she unleashes the loudest "moo" I have ever heard.
"Good enough, baby."
Maddie leans over to kiss my cheek and Tara starts wriggling between us, grabbing my tie for leverage. I wheeze a little, hoisting her over my shoulder in an attempt to loosen her grip. As air floods back into my lungs, Tara starts making sputtery noises behind my head and I raise an eyebrow at Maddie.
"Did I hurt her?"
"Don't be silly. She's a toddler; they're resilient. That's just her airplane noise. It looks like you've replaced Joe as her crush of the day." Maddie pats me on the shoulder and goes off to find someone, waving at Tara as she leaves. Tara, in return, opens her fist in a mock wave, then closes it tightly on a chunk of my hair. I pry her off my head and hold her at arm's length, squinting at her.
"You've got a pretty firm grip there, little one."
She squints back and makes the airplaine noise again, so I swing her over my head and watch her laugh. After a few minutes she gets bored and starts struggling to get down. I set her gently on the floor and she takes off, running in circles around the kitchen. As I'm chasing her down, she stops abruptly and I skid to a halt, praying I don't lose my balance and crush the poor girl. She turns and looks up at me, looming over her.
"Tara," she proclaims, pointing at herself and smiling widely.
"Yes, Tara," I respond, grabbing her and settling her on my hip. She thrusts a stubby finger into my chest and looks at me expectantly.
"Oh. Sorry, Patrick," I enunciate. She frowns and I repeat myself slowly.
"Patty!" She slaps me on the shoulder and I shake my head.
"Only to you."
She scrunches her face and looks around, then slaps me again. "Tam?"
"Uhm, nope. Patrick."
"No," she sighs dramatically. "Tam. Tam-uhm," she struggles with the last word and realization dawns on me.
"Yes! Go peez." She may be a baby, but indecisive she is not.
"Okay then. Let's find Tatum."
I'm sitting on the back porch, smoking a cigarette and watching Tatum sniff everything in sight when the back door slides open behind me.
I smile at Tara who's waving at me from atop Patrick's shoulders. "Hey baby! Are you being nice to Patrick?"
I laugh and Patrick shrugs slightly. "At least she's honest."
She taps him on the head and points at me. "I see Letsi now, fank you Patty."
"You let her call you that?"
"Well, what am I supposed to do?" He asks as he hands Tara over to me. "Tell her no? Thanks for taking her; those udders were killing my neck."
"No problem. I love little miss Tara, don't I?" I smother her face with kisses and she giggles, trying to push me away. Tatum sees her in my lap and bounds over, wagging her tail. "Okay, Tatum, down. No, Tatum. Tara, don't pull her tail. Tatum, no jumping!" I sigh and Patrick laughs at me. "No one ever listens to me."
"They'll be fine. I didn't get a chance to ask earlier: what's with Tatum?"
"She was a gift from Tom. I kept whining about being bored so he gave her to me to 'keep me busy.' She's part cocker-spaniel, part something else. She's my Toto tonight. I know she's not grey so it doesn't really count but..."
"No," he interrupts. "What with the name?"
"Oh! I dont know. Just popped into my head, I guess. Why, you don't like it?"
"No, it's not that. I've just never heard of anyone naming a dog Tatum, that's all."
I reach into my wicker basket and grab two dog biscuits, showing Tara how to give them to Tatum. The puppy gently takes one, sets it down on the grass, licks Tara's hand, then happily chomps into the treat. "So where's Anna? I haven't seen her in a while; I was hoping she'd be here. And what are you supposed to be?"
"She had to supervise her little brother and his friends while they trick-or-treated. I went with her for a while, but it got boring so here I am."
I tug on his pants leg and he looks down before shaking his head in recognition.
"Oh, sorry. Clark Kent, duh. Lucy got it."
"Well, Lucy's better than me. Oh man, speaking of costumes, have you seen Tyra? She's..."
"Jessica Rabbit, yeah I saw. Pretty damn hot is what she is, if I may be a complete frat boy about it."
"Frat it up, I agree." I reach down to where Tara's sitting at my feet and tug on one of her floppy cow ears. "Hey, munchkin, you getting tired?"
"No," she yawns, sleepily patting Tatum's belly.
"Okay, you let me know."
"I think she's lying to you," Patrick smiles.
"Yeah, I figured as much." I grab a cigarette and light it up, and Patrick and I stare at the sky until I'm finished. "You wanna go in? I think Maddie might want to put this one down for the night."
I stand up and flick my hair over my shoulder, bending down to pick up a half-asleep Tara. I turn to go inside and Patrick quickly locks eyes with me, giving me his best innocent face, a dead giveaway that he's doing something completely not-innocent.
"You just checked out my ass."
"Never," he blushes, trying to keep a straight face.
I laugh as I open the door, then pat my hip with my free hand. "Come on Tatum, let's go. Uncle Patrick is being pervy."
"That's the grossest thing I've ever heard."
Lexi and I nod our agreement to Lucy, and the three of us resume watching the Discovery Channel in silence. It's about three thirty and everyone is either passed out or on the way. An hour or so ago, I found Lucy and Lex watching infomercials in the basement, so I implanted myself into their girl talk and now, here I am: wedged in the middle of the sofa, watching some horrifically fascinating program on necrophilia. On the bright side, I made the wise choice of bringing extra clothes, so at least I don't have to watch this while squeezed into tights.
"Do you think he ever..." I stop, realizing that both girls' breathing is deep and steady, Lexi gently snoring on my right.
"I guess not." I delicately lift Lucy's head from my lap and stand up, smiling as she subconsciously snuggles deeper into the couch. I hunt around for a minute for some extra blankets, the tuck the girls in, switching off the tv as I leave to find anyone to talk to. I hope Patrick's still awake.
As I make my trip through the house, I realize this looks exactly like a scene out of a movie: bodies and bottle strewn everywhere, with random pieces of food and articles of clothing filling the empty floor space. I find Patrick in the kitchen, his head resting on one forearm, his other hand still clutching his cell phone. I pick up his hat from where it fell to the floor and set it on the table next to him, wondering who might be awake. Drew and his friends left around one, and I smile at the thought of our mom's reaction to him coming home so late on a school night. Carden's passed out in the upstairs bathroom; Joe and Maddie went to bed after finally getting Tara to sleep; Tom was around earlier but I haven't seen him in hours. I guess it's just me. Something cold pokes my shin and I look down at Lexi's new puppy, wagging her tail at me.
"Well, then, I guess it's not just me. You bored too, uh, shit, what's your name?" I lean over and pat her head and she licks my hand, then walks to the front door. "Smart, huh? Okay, puppy, let's do it." I look sternly at her as I grab the knob. "Don't run away. Your mommy will destroy me. Okay?" She whines and I pull the door open. "Okay."
We wander around the yard, Tiny (as I've dubbed her) sniffing everything twice. I'm sitting crosslegged on the ground, pulling up clumps of grass when I realize I can't see the dog anymore.
"Shit. Tiny? Uh, puppy? Come here, sweetie!" I jog down to the street, hoping she hasn't decided to take off, but then I hear some laughter and barking from the backyard. "Oh, thank god," I sigh as I round the house and spot the dog romping around with Nick Scimeca. "Dude, did you just get here?"
"Yeah. Thomas called me a while ago but I was busy. By the time I got over here, he was gone, but I thought I'd stop in anyway and say hi. Unfortunately, you assholes have all drank yourselves into a coma by now. What's with this dog?" He waves at Tiny, who's pulling on his pants leg.
"Tom gave her to Lexi. I can't remember her name, so I'm calling her Tiny until Lex gets up and I can ask."
"Ah, Lexi, Tom's infamous girlfriend. That kid will not shut up about her."
"Yeah, she's pretty cool. She's loud, and she's got a mouth like a sailor, but we love her."
"That's what he tells me. She's sleeping, then?" I nod. "Bummer, I wanted to meet her. Put a face to the name, you know?"
"Yeah, she's out cold. But she'll be around in the morning, if you're planning on hanging out. She likes to mom us, cook and clean and all that."
"Homemade breakfast? I'm in."
Chapter title from that new Maroon 5 song. I can't remember what it's called but it's pretty badass.
*Lucy: The preposition attacks! Actually, I hear it's a Chicago dialect thingy and we cannot be held responsible for it. Cheers.