The Hackerman’s Decorations
by Nate Ealy
“So, what are you going to be for Halloween?” Martha Hackerman asked. The old lady sat a cardboard box of decorations down on the porch.
Timmy waited a few moments before answering. “A ninja.”
“That’ll be just fine,” Martha smiled. The wrinkles on her face looked like deep caverns. Martha opened up the box and pulled out some bones, spiders, and a giant cobweb. “I remember when I went as the Wicked Witch of the West.”
“Cool,” Timmy said. He had on a red baseball hat and his fourth grade walkathon t-shirt from last year. For a ten year old boy he was small. Timmy barely made it past Martha’s waist.
“Honey, is there another box to be taken out?” Jack Hackerman called from inside the house.
“Yes!” Martha shouted back. Even though they were in the middle of town, the Hackermans would still yell like they lived on the farm. Martha then turned to Timmy. “I’m going to help Jack find the other decorations. Can you start laying the bones on the walkway?”
Timmy nodded his head.
“Thank you, dear.” Martha walked inside the house, leaving Timmy alone with the beginnings of nightmares.
Timmy looked at the spiders that used to live in the brown, cardboard box. If the Hackermans weren’t his next door neighbors, and if his Mom hadn’t forced him to help them, Timmy would have been in the park playing with his friends. Timmy never talked much to his neighbors, and he didn’t want to change that today. Instead of playing in the park though, Timmy stared into the eight plastic eyes of a monster.
There were a lot of little bones next to the spiders. It looked like a whole skeleton’s worth. Timmy picked one up and it was much lighter than he anticipated it being. The bone was soft like the pages of an old book. He gave it a small knock. The bone wasn’t hollow like the ones in Walmart, and it wasn’t as white either. It was more of a dull off-white.
Timmy scrunched his nose and threw the bone at the walkway. Chips of white flew in the air. The bone landed and bounced to the side, right where he wanted it. Timmy picked up two more bones hand, and walked them down to the cement walkway. He set the bones on the grass, one on top of the other, making an X.
As Timmy walked back to the porch Jack and Martha came through the front door.
“You be careful with those, bud. They’re quite an old set.” Jack huffed. He set another brown, cardboard box down on the porch. “There’s more in here too.”
Martha had the stringy cobweb in her hands. She strung the synthetic webbing across the side of the porch. “Oh this will be a wonderful Halloween!”
“You don’t say much, do you?” Jack asked as he sat down in his chair.
Timmy shook his head.
“Well that’s fine as long as you work. Set some of those bones over there.” Jack pointed to the side of the porch now woven into a fake cobweb. “It’ll give it some ambiance.”
Timmy scattered the bones like he was hiding a murder. Jack gave him a thumbs up, and then went back inside the house. Martha placed the spiders closer to the webs to give it a more believable feel. She ran her fingers over their hairy legs.
“Can you get the skull out of the other box for me? I know exactly where it should go!” Martha asked.
Timmy walked over to the new box and opened it. A strong smell wafted out of the cardboard, and Timmy had to turn away for a moment. Inside was a white-yellow skull that was missing the jawbone. Goosebumps pricked Timmy’s arms as he held the skull in his hand. It wasn’t smooth, but rough and jagged in places.
“Where do you want it Mrs. Hackerman?” Timmy asked. He wanted to get the skull out of his hands as quickly as possible. Somehow, it just didn’t feel fake to him.
“Over here, over here!” Martha said.
Timmy took it over to where Martha assembled the spiders’ lair. As Timmy handed the skull to Martha he turned it over. He saw no seams from a plastic mold and no Made in China stamped on it.
“Do you like it?” Martha asked. She took the skull and set it beneath spider’s claws.
Timmy didn’t answer.
“His name was Brandon, you know.” Martha said. She then stood up and walked back a few steps into the yard to see her work. “He was a nice boy, but I like him better as decoration.”
Timmy paused and took a moment to think of what the old woman was saying. He stared at Martha Hackerman in the yard. She didn’t appear to be talking to him anymore but softly to herself.
“Brandon’s bones are getting old and brittle, though. We need to get a new set for next year. There’s bound to be a little boy out there who won’t be missed. I can find him. I found Brandon, of course.”
Timmy took a step back. He was right. It wasn’t a fake skull. It was real, and that meant the other bones were real too. They were decorating with real bones. Some kid named Brandon’s bones. Instantly, Timmy was through with helping the Hackermans. He wanted to leave.
“Mrs. Hackerman, I-”
Martha looked at Timmy. She smiled.
“Tell all you friends to come visit on Halloween!” She laughed and then clapped her hands. “Or better yet! Would you like to stay for dinner?”
Timmy ran. He didn’t stay for dinner, and he didn’t tell anyone to come visit for Halloween. He didn’t want to be a new decoration, and he didn’t want any of his friends to be either.