Harry slouched forward on his elbows, his right hand listlessly stirring a tumbler of orange liquid and ice with a miniature umbrella.
“What are you gonna be for Halloween, Fred?” he said as he studied his reflection in the mirror behind the bar.
Fred sat on the next stool and had his back to the bar. Harry could see the bald patch on the top of his friend’s head smiling back at him in the mirror. Fred appeared to watching the ceiling fan rotate. It hummed and was slightly out of balance.
“Hey Fred,” the first man said. “What are you gonna be for Halloween?”
Fred slowly lowered his head to level. His eyes took a moment to come back into focus. Then he turned toward his friend.
“Haven’t decided,” he said. “What about you?”
“I dunno. Maybe a pirate. With an eye patch. But that might make it hard to walk straight.”
“Is that why you’re slurping a boat drink in October?”
“I just can’t let go of summer,” Harry said. “I doubt any pirate ever drank a mai tai. It was rum straight from the bottle for them. I’m still mourning the fact I didn’t spend enough time on the water this year. And now it’s too late.”
“If you’ve gotta sip a boat drink when leaves are falling off the trees, at least make it a black storm,” Fred said.
“What’s a black storm?”
“Rum and Coke with a cherry and a lime wedge,” said Fred. “It’s still a summer drink, but at least it has a name that jibes with the weather in October. And with my mood.”
Fred pulled the celery stalk out of his bloody Mary, licked it dry, bit off a chunk and chewed.
“I was a bowl of Cap’n Crunch last year,” he said. “The captain was sort of like a pirate.”
“What?” said Harry. “You’ll need to explain that statement.”
“My girlfriend made a Halloween costume for me last year,” Fred said. “She sewed a Hula Hoop into the bottom edge of an old red skirt and hooked on some suspenders. It looked like the top half of my body was in the middle of a big cereal bowl. And she made some little gold colored pillows to put in the bowl. I was a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. She dressed up as a spoon.”
“Wish I’d seen that,” Harry said. “Got any pictures?”
“We broke up,” said Fred.
“Sorry to hear that,” said Harry. “Because of the costume?”
“No. Just a couple of months ago. She said it wasn’t me, it was her,” said Fred. “We had a great afternoon on her boat. We got back to town and anchored off West End Beach. Then she said it was over. I guess I’d been expecting it. I grabbed my stuff and jumped off the stern like I was walking the plank.
“She loved Cap’n Crunch. I used to like it, too — the way it’s so unnaturally crunchy and sticks to your teeth like honey when you chew it. But now I can’t stand the way it turns from crunchy to mushy when you leave it in the milk too long. And it reminds me of her — because of the costume.”
“Man, I’m sorry,” Harry said. “Let’s get you into a costume this year that doesn’t involve breakfast food.”
“I could be a zombie,” said Fred. “They’re big right now. Zombies have more movies and TV shows than vampires.”
“The way I feel right now,” said Harry, “I probably look like a zombie without even trying.”
“I’ve been feeling like a zombie since the day we broke up,” Fred said. “I just can’t stop thinking about her. But she’s gone for good. It’s just too late. She loaded her boat on a trailer and moved to Sandusky.”
Harry downed the last of his mai tai. The bartender approached.
“Make my friend and I each a wobbling zombie,” said Harry. He leaned toward his friend and said: “One of these will help you forget.”
Fred finished his bloody Mary and waited for the second round to arrive.
“Tomorrow let’s go to the costume shop,” Harry said. “The party’s only a couple of days away.”
Copyright Daniel C. Nielsen