STAR OF VENGEANCE
“At night?” Pop said, like
it was unheard-of, on Halloween. “You crazy?”
“A party . . .” Mary left
out the “slumber” part. “At Greta’s. Please, Pop? Just me, Noreen, and Deb’re
“Deb?” Mom said. “Whose
mother drinks in bars?”
Please, God, Mary begged.
“OK,” Pop said. “But stay
away from that bastard next door.”
To the Fornells, he meant. Greta’s
family. That mean, old guy Mr. Baum-something. Baumgartner?
“Fucking Nazi,” Pop said.
“Don’t believe me, ask Lenny.”
Lenny, the bar owner, would
know. He was a Polish Jew. Over twenty years ago, he’d lost half his family,
thanks to Nazis.
camp,” Mary overheard Lenny tell Pop, “The horrors. No food. Raw potatoes, my little
cousin begged for. They kicked his teeth in. Then the ovens. . . .”
In school, Sister Michael
taught them about World War 2, but not much about Nazis. Maybe ‘cos they were
only in sixth grade.
Pop,” Mary told Greta later, “Said stay away from . . .”
Greta sighed. “We know.”
“Shit,” Dizzy Deb said.
“That old creep. Let’s trick-or-treat there, first.”
When Noreen gasped, Deb
added, “Before it gets dark.”
They got changed, fast. In
a pale green nightgown, Greta looked like a Greek goddess, especially with her
hair up. Noreen’s Pilgrim costume looked itchy. In last year’s Fairy Princess
dress, Mary’s stomach felt tight. Deb’s hobo outfit looked thrown together.
her men left behind,” Mom would’ve said, about Deb’s mom.
Mr. Baumgartner’s place
looked like a haunted house. The other trick-or-treaters avoided it, like
Deb marched up to his door, Mary’s heart pounded. Noreen and Greta stayed back,
Deb said. As she swung around, the door opened behind her.
In beat-up clothes,
the old guy looked more like a hobo than Deb. Mary had
expected a Nazi uniform.
Deb faced him.
“Trick or treat!”
Snarling, he had sharp, yellow teeth. “All of you!”
Mary froze, as
the others ran. His eyes were cold, like a monster’s. Super-tall,
she pictured him stomping on kids’ heads.
Kicked his teeth in, Lenny had said.
When Deb grabbed her arm,
Mary jumped. They all ran to Greta’s.
“Back already?” Mrs.
Fornell said. Mary was still shivering. “Well, we can start the party early.”
At Greta’s, they always
drank Tang, and ate chocolate chip cookies. Homemade, chewy cookies, so Mary’s
stomach would growl, just thinking of them.
But tonight she
could still feel those Nazi eyes on her.
we do, next?” Deb said, much later. They’d already listened to
Sgt. Pepper, twice, and watched a movie. From the living room, more creepy
music played on TV.
them closer. “My sister Missy’s away, at school,” she
whispered. “Let’s use her Ouija board.”
her arm. “No.”
But Greta broke
free. They all went upstairs, Mary last.
room was pitch-black, smelling vaguely of hairspray. “We don’t
have candles,” Greta said, “Just flashlights.” She handed one to Mary.
In the bright
light, the Ouija board stood out on the bed. Like it was waiting for them.
“You put it there!” Mary said.
“No!” Greta said. “I . .
. don’t come in here.”
She trained the flashlight around the room,
so they saw Missy’s things: antique
dolls with pearly teeth, a lab skeleton, and a vanity dressing table, with a multi-sided
“I’m not playing,” Mary said.
The flashlight shook in her hand.
“Hold it still!” they all yelled
at her. She felt like crying. Plus, she
was so scared, she felt sick.
good we’re all here. ‘Cos you
can’t play alone. And you can’t insult it. Or it can possess you.” Somehow,
Greta knew all the rules. “You first, Noreen. Put your hands lightly on the
who doesn’t come in
here, Mary thought, she knows way too much.
In the beam from Mary’s flashlight, Noreen’s
face looked white. She
pressed down on the planchette.
“Lightly!” Greta said.
“Will I go to college?” was Noreen’s
Mary almost groaned. Noreen was the smartest
kid in school. Even the
eighth-graders hated her.
She kept the beam on Noreen’s hands,
as steadily as she could. The
planchette slid right to “Yes.”
“Cheater!” Deb said.
“I am not!”
“I saw you push it!”
“Quiet!” Greta said. “My
parents’ll hear.’’ Then, “Deb, your turn.”
Deb was crazy about Danny Feely, that kid who
called her “Scuzz Bucket.” Mary
bet she would cheat.
When Deb said, “Will I marry Dan--?”,
the planchette almost flew off the
Mary squealed. “You’re the cheater!”
Noreen said, taking the flashlight
“The spirits,” Greta said, in a
superior voice, “think you’re laughing at
She took Deb’s place at the board.
“Mr. Baumgartner next
door,” Mary said, suddenly. “Who is he? Really?”
“It’s not your. . .” Deb
began, but then the planchette was wildly dragging
Greta around the board.
Mary felt fearless. “What is
In her hands, the flashlight leapt, almost
by itself. Noreen’s and her lights
beamed all over: in Greta’s goddess hair, in a doll’s toothy mouth, up and down
the skeleton’s ribcage.
Then, into the mirror. All over the mirror,
striking each side, in turn.
When the six-pointed star appeared, they all
This can’t, Mary thought, be
The star disappeared, then reappeared.
“He’s evil!” a strange voice
said. Boy’s, or girl’s, Mary wasn’t sure. But
it now it was hers. “He . . . killed us all!”
In her mind,
she saw it,
happening, now: a man, on a wood floor, eyes wide in terror. Shuffling
backwards, crab-like. As small figures hurried toward him.
“Now,” Mary’s new voice said,
“We’ll kill him!’
sides, the man was
attacked. Screaming, as tiny feet kicked his face, and head. Over, and over.
Screams dying in his throat, as so many small hands grabbed and squeezed it, as
hard as they could.
When the room went black, the girls’
screams were deafening.
Then footsteps, as Greta’s parents ran,
and burst, into the room.
“Calm down,” Mr. Fornell said.
Like a mother hen, Mrs. Fornell held all
the girls at once. Mary’s mind was a blur.
Soon, Tang and cookies appeared. Everyone but
“It was how you two held the flashlights,”
Mr. Fornell explained. A
scientist, he was, so they kept quiet. He demonstrated his theory. “The mirrors
are at right angles to each other. When the flashlights hit the mirrors, the
star effect appeared. When you moved . . .”
Mary stopped watching.
“So it looked like a Star of David.”
She didn’t believe him. She knew what
she saw. She could almost taste
those dead, gritty words. Was it even English, she heard?
Next day, when Pop went to Lenny’s, Mary
As he set a Shirley Temple before her, Lenny
mouthed to Pop, “He’s dead.”
In dribs and drabs, for hours, she heard the
news: how Baumgartner was
found dead. Eyes wide open, cold and glassy, like one of Missy’s dolls. Hands
clutching his own throat, like invisible hands—lots of invisible hands—had
reached it, first.
Small ones, Mary thought.
And small feet she knew kept kicking . . .
Till he swallowed all his teeth.
is a Jersey girl who looks like a
Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out
5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink
or do whatever the hell she wants.
She’s been published in the usual places, such as Shotgun Honey,
Hardboiled, A Twist
of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E,
Dark Dossier, and
She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow
Mama. She’s a
Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist.