A Strange Dream
The ghost of Wilford Brimley rode upon an ocelot across the dry-skinned floor of the salt flats out beyond the perimeter of Brigham City, Utah where he lived in a holy water and whitewashed adobe abode. He was strung out on cinnamon-tainted oatmeal and lomticks of toast as he rattled along the parched earth singing opera like Oasis. The sun was creeping up like an erection and the morning was already hotter than Hades, even in October Halloween time. That’s just the way it is where he was.
The ghost of Wilford Brimley saw visions of blue-hatted Quakers churning butter and browning biscuits out ahead somewhere on the steaming deck of the desert and he clicked his teeth and tugged on the reins so the ocelot would get the message and turn and pick up the pace because he wanted to go there to get a closer look at how they lived.
He reached down and patted the wild cat because he felt somewhat sorry for him. “I know this isn’t the right kind of environment for a cat such as yourself, and I’m sure you don’t like it, but I sure do appreciate you giving me a ride across the salt flats. At least the few trees and the hills in the distance are dappled with the colors of October. Isn’t that just fine?”
The cat hissed in return. “I don’t care about the weather, but you’re too heavy and you’re going to bend my spine and then I won’t be able to run and hunt. That’s a pretty big deal to me. I’m not made for carrying around someone who eats too much oatmeal.”
The ocelot suddenly stopped, and the ghost of Wilford Brimley flew forward and off the cat and hit the crusted dirt like a tossed sack of potatoes. He groaned some and shook his head before trying to stand. “What the hell did you do that for!? You could have at least warned me you were going to stop so abruptly.”
“I told you. You’re too heavy. I can’t keep going with you crushing my back like that. I’m not an elephant, you big goof.” And then the ocelot ran off and the ghost of Wilford Brimley watched the animal go until it disappeared into the shimmer of an oven-baked and mirrored horizon.
Grape Jones clicked his eyes and suddenly yelled out in his bed and shot straight up, panting. “What a weird dream,” he groaned out loud. He clumsily reached for his cell phone that was sitting on the table beside his bed and called his latest girlfriend.
Her voice was fresh and sparkly like a grapefruit at a sunny breakfast. “Hey, what’s shaking baked potato?”
“Hey babe. I just woke up from another one of those weird dreams.”
He heard her sigh in frustration on the other end of wireless phone space. “Were you Wilford Brimley again?”
“Yeah… But this time I was his ghost.”
“Grape, you really need to get over this Wilford Brimley shit. I’m tired of you walking around and talking like him all the time, going on and on about die-a-beetus, and eating all that god damn oatmeal. It’s ridiculous. You’re a grown man. Snap out of it and live in the real world already.”
“I know, I know. I get it, but it’s almost Halloween and I was hoping you’d let me dress up as Wilford Brimley one last time. And then after that, I’m done with it. End of story. I promise.”
“I don’t know, Grape. It’s hard for me to believe that. You’ve said the exact thing multiple times before, and you never hold true to it… And anyways, I’ve decided to go out with friends for Halloween this year.”
“What!? What do you mean go out with friends!? We had plans! I thought you were coming over to binge watch Our House and pass out Halloween treats to all the little tricksters.”
“Yeah, um. Look, Grape. You’re a nice guy and everything, but none of that is really my idea of fun. At all. I mean, it’s Halloween. I want to party, not sit around and watch Our House all night. That show’s like from the 80s, and it’s so stupid.”
“It is not stupid. It showcases some of Brimley’s finest work as an actor.”
“He’s an asshole in it.”
“He’s not an asshole. He’s just stern and overprotective because he cares about his family. Give the guy a break, his character suffered a terrible loss on the show. And it’s got some pretty good life lessons in it which frankly you could use.”
“Yeah, whatever. Look. Don’t call me anymore… And by the way, your name is stupid, too!”
The line went blank, and Grape held the phone out in front of his face in disbelief. “Yeah, whatever, too, bitch. I don’t need a Wilford Brimley hater in my life.” He set his phone back on the table, snuzzled back down into the bed, covered his entire head with the sheet, and began sobbing uncontrollably.
A Hallowed Halloween Lesson
When Grape Jones pulled the front door open, there before him stood a small cluster of children in various Halloween costumes. He himself was now craftily disguised as the infamous peddler of oatmeal and sound advice – Wilford Brimley – his hair powdered white and a matching bushy moustache wriggling away above his mouth, round-rimmed wire reading glasses perched on his nose, a rumpled white shirt, suspenders holding up his baggy chinos.
Beyond his Halloween visitors, in the streetlight-lit pinkish dark, other children were running up and down the sidewalks on either side, laughing and chattering, ringing doorbells and crying out “Trick-or-Treat!” The group now before him did the same. “Trick-or-Treat!” their chorus rang.
Grape grinned and in his best Wilford Brimley voice said to them, “Well, my, my, aren’t you a scary lookin’ bunch. Let’s see,” and he pointed at them in turn. “Looks like we got a witch, a vampire, a princess…” And his eyes fell upon a boy wearing a moppish blonde wig, oversized reading glasses and he had what looked to be blood smeared all over his mouth. “Hmm, and who are you supposed to be? A flesh-eating zombie?”
“Not a flesh-eating zombie. I’m Jefferey Dahmer.”
“Oh, Jeffrey Dahmer. Now that is scary.”
Then Grape looked upon another boy who was wearing a sun hat, sunglasses, a button-up Hawaiian shirt that was too big for him, khaki shorts, and sandals. “You must be cold in that outfit,” Grape said to him.
“Nah, I’m fine.”
“Off to the beach are ya?”
“That’s right. I’m U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas. As soon as I’m done trick-or-treating, I’m headed to sunny Cancun to selfishly escape my responsibilities to the people who voted me into power.”
Grape let out a grand grandpa-like guffaw. “Now that’s a good one, young fella. A very good one… All right then, let me get all of you your treats.”
Grape ducked inside to the table near the door and grasped in one arm the kettle of oatmeal he had prepared earlier while he dipped a silver-colored ladle into the warm cereal with the other hand. “All right now, hold out your bags,” he said to them when he returned to the opened front door.
The children did as they were asked, each gladly holding out their bags or orange plastic pumpkins that never let go that smell of Halloween candy from long ago. Grape raised the first ladleful over young Jeffrey Dahmer’s bag and poured in the gloopy oatmeal. The boy looked down in absolute shock.
Grape did the same to the next child, and the next and the next, each one of them making their own unique face of disgust. “Eww,” the princess said. “My candy!” and she began to cry. When Grape got to the kid dressed as Ted Cruz on his way to holiday in Mexico, he gave him an extra heavy helping of oatmeal and sloppily plopped it in.
“What gives, mister!?” the Cruz kid snapped. “You just ruined all our treats with this damn oatmeal!”
“Now, now, kids. Calm down. I’m doing you all a favor.” And in a stern, lecturing tone he said to them, “Don’t you know what’s going to happen if you eat all that candy?”
“Yeah. I’m going to enjoy it,” the boy dressed as Jeffrey Dahmer smarmily replied. “At least I was.”
“Well, now that may be true,” Grape continued. “But in reality, what may seem enjoyable to you all right now, could very well be bad for you later on in life. You see young people, it’s important to always weigh the consequences of your actions.”
The small cluster of kids looked up at him, disgruntled and confused and Grape sensed it. “I’m talking about die-a-beetus, kids. Die-a-beetus.”
“What’s die-a-beetus?” the girl made up as a green witch with a black pointed hat asked.
“It’s a disease you get from eating too much candy, and it can kill you!” The young girl dressed as the princess wailed even louder now. “That’s right, you should be crying about it,” Grape stressed, beaming at them like a grumpy old man. “This is very serious. All that candy is going to be the end of you. I’m just being the fella who’s trying to save all your young lives from irreparable harm. I’m trying to do good by you. That’s why I gave you oatmeal. It’s healthy for you. It’s got fiber and it doesn’t rot your teeth out.”
Now the young princess screamed, dropped her candy bag, and ran off. Her older brother, that being the Jeffrey Dahmer boy, chased after her. All the others followed as well, except the boy dressed as Cancun Cruz and now he scowled up at Grape and it was nearly frightening.
“Thanks for ruining our Halloween, gramps. I’m going to go tell my dad, and he’s going to come back here and beat your ass!” And with that, the Ted Cruz boy ran off into the night.
Grape stood there for a moment listening to the sounds of Halloween flow up and down the cozy street of a Brigham City in October night like an unsettled river of glowing orange and flashlight beams dancing. He sighed and shook his head. “Kids these days,” he said aloud to himself. “They just don’t know how to listen.”
Before turning and going back inside, Grape eyed the young girl’s bag of candy crumpled up there on the walkway in front of his house. He bent down to pick it up and carefully brought it inside. He locked the front door and turned off the porch lights.
He took the girl’s bag of candy into the kitchen and dumped the contents into the stainless-steel sink. He picked through the oatmeal-splattered treats as best he could, and the pieces he saved he set aside in a glass bowl. The rest he threw out.
He took the bowl of candy into the living room and settled into the old couch he had there. He reached for a remote control and clicked the television on. He used another remote to power up the VCR (Video Cassette Recorder). The screen flickered for a moment and then the tape whirred to life and Grape Jones slowly ate all the candy while he watched episode after episode of Our House before cascading off into another wonderous Wilford Brimley dreamland.