Academy of Bards 2019 Halloween Invitational story


Mickey Minner


This story involves the characters from Sally’s Story; written for the 2017 Academy of Bards Valentine’s Day Invitational.


Mattie McDonald poured coffee into a pair of empty mugs on the kitchen table.

Smiling, Becka Simpson looked up from her breakfast. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Mattie cheerfully responded carrying the coffee pot back to its warmer.

“What’s on your agenda today?” Becka asked after Mattie sat down to her own breakfast plate.

“I thought Sally might like to help me decorate the house today,” Mattie answered lifting a piece of buttered toast to her lips.

At the mention of her name, the child peered across the table at the two women; her eyes shining in curiosity. Momentarily, she forgot about the bowl of cereal and bananas she had been devouring.

“Ah, did I miss something?” Becka asked confused as to why the house would need special adornment. “What are you decorating for?”

Mattie grinned. “Halloween,” she said enthusiastically. “Did I forget to tell you that I have a big Halloween party every year?”

Becka chuckled at her new friend’s child-like excitement. “Yeah, I think you did.”

“Oh, sorry about that,” Mattie apologized. “I guess with you and Sally moving in and getting settled, I kinda forgot to warn you,” she explained.

“Yes, a lot has happened in the past few weeks,” Becka agreed recalling the most recent events in her life. Thinking she was on the verge of homelessness, she instead was invited to move into Mattie’s large house with a nice big, fenced yard for her three year old daughter to play in. “Hard to believe how much my life has changed in a couple of weeks.” She smiled. “So, tell me about this party of yours.”

Mattie took a moment to swallow some coffee. “Well, I love Halloween. Always have. When I first moved out on my own, I began a tradition of throwing a party every year for my friends who felt the same way. I decorate… probably a bit too much,” she smiled self-consciously, “but who cares… its fun. Everyone brings some food… we always end up with way too much,” she laughed.

“Do you dress up?”

“A lot of people do but it’s not necessary. However, a sense of humor most definitely is—it’s a night for friends, laughs, and good times.”

“It sounds like fun,” Becka said smiling at her daughter. “Don’t you think so, Sally?”

A blond head with neat pigtails bopped up and down. “Yes, I do.”

“Do you want to help me get the house ready?” Mattie asked the child.

“I’m a good helper,” Sally emphatically declared digging a spoonful of cereal topped with a slice of banana out of its bowl.

Mattie smiled. “I’m sure you are.” Sipping from her coffee cup, she leaned back in her chair. “When I moved back here to help my mother out, I thought I’d have to give up the parties. But Mom insisted that I keep the tradition going. Although, I’m pretty sure she thought the whole idea was crazy. Funny thing… after the first couple of Halloween’s,” she laughed at the memories, “she was having as much fun as anyone. I never did get her to wear a costume… she always said she was dressed like a ninety year old lady and that was costume enough.”

“I better get moving or I’ll be late for work,” Becka said pushing her chair back from the table. “You and Sally have fun and I’ll help when I get home.”

Mattie also stood. “Sounds like a deal. We’ll get started right after I get these dishes cleaned,” she told Sally.


“You be a good girl for Mattie,” Becka told her daughter after kissing her forehead.

“I always a good girl, Momma.”

Becka smiled. “Yes, you are.” She turned toward Mattie busy placing the dirty dishes in the sink of hot soapy water. “Don’t let her run you ragged… she’s like the Energizer Bunny when she’s on a mission.”

“Don’t worry,” Mattie assured her roommate. “After lunch, we’ll both take a nap. Have a good day at work.”


Halloween Night



Setting in the west, the last of the sun’s bright yellow, red, and orange streaks were fading quickly. The rising moon was all but invisible as a new moon cycle had begun a couple of days before. The darkness hung like a heavy cloak making an eerie night even creepier.

Mattie gestured to Sally who was keeping watch out the front windows in anticipation of their party guests. “I think it’s time we turned on the lights,” she told the excited child.

Sally’s head bopped in agreement as she turned away from the window.

“Want to do the honors?” Mattie asked smiling.

“What’s that mean?” Sally asked.

“Come here… I’ll show you.”

Sally ran across the room to where Mattie stood by the front door; giggling when she was lifted into the air.

“You, my little helper, can turn on the lights and everything else we put up this week,” Mattie explained pointing to the correct button. The words were barely out of her mouth when Sally activated the switch and strains of the Monster Mash started playing outside.

“Let’s see how things look lit up,” Becka said opening the front door.

Still holding Sally, Mattie stepped outside to stand on the front porch.

Eyes wide in awe, Sally looked about at the lit pumpkins, ghosts, and witches that seemed to occupy every nook and cranny along the front of the house and driveway. Even the fence was laced with strings of miniature pumpkins bearing scary faces; many of which resembled the candle lit carved pumpkins in the corner of the porch. The yard had been transformed into a spooky cemetery with partially buried skeletons occupying half dug graves.

“Well, what do you think?” Mattie asked the little girl enjoying her first Halloween experience.

“Good,” Sally declared, vigorously clapping her hands.

“What time are your guests arriving?” Becka asked.

“Any time now.”

“We better get dressed then.”

“I’m halfway done,” Mattie said indicating her long black slacks and the pair of mens’ dress shoes she wore. “My makeup is on and as soon as I put on my morning coat and hat, I’ll be a creepy undertaker.”

“Lucky you. It’s going to take me a bit longer to get into that zombie outfit you got me. And, heaven knows, how long to get Sally dressed. Come on, kiddo, let’s go,” she said reaching for her daughter.

Mattie remained on the porch long after Becka and Sally had disappeared back inside the house. Looking around at the over abundance of decorations, she smiled. “You would have really liked this year, Mom,” she whispered into the darkness before following the others.


“Great outfit, Mattie,” a skeleton said as she filled a plastic cup with a bubbling green brew sharing a witch’s cauldron with floating eyeballs, severed fingers, and twitching frog legs. “Who did your makeup? You really look like you’ve been dead for decades.”

Mattie smiled. “Why, thank you… I did it myself.”

“Nice job,” the skeleton praised. “So where is this new roommate of yours?”

“Becka is around here someplace,” Mattie told the skeleton while helping herself to the offerings on a platter of Halloween cookies.

“And Sally—”

“Gobble gobble!”

“Ouch!” the skeleton screamed twisting about to see what had poked her.

“Sowwy,” a turkey called out as it darted around standing party guests. “Gobble, gobble.”

Laughing, Mattie watched her friend rubbing the back of her leg.

“Damn, that turkey is dangerous,” the skeleton grumbled.

“That turkey is Sally.”

“She needs a softer beak.”

“I’ll talk to her,” Mattie offered chuckling. “You okay or do you need first aid?”

“I’ll probably bruise but I’m fine.”

“I’m sure I could get someone who would be willing to kiss it… maybe even a special someone.”

“Ah, shit,” the skeleton spun around to study the other party guests she could see. “You didn’t invite my ex, did you?”

Mattie laughed louder. “You don’t fool me… I know you want another chance with her. And you know I don’t send out invitations,” she said heading out of the kitchen. “So, who knows who might be here?



The party was in full swing when the outside speakers activated and ghoulish Halloween music began playing loudly.

Chatting with a pair of ghosts, Becka was nearest the door. Excusing herself, she stepped out onto the porch to welcome the new arrival.

Leaning heavily on an ornately carved cane, a witch shuffled up the walkway. Her hands and face, covered in thick green makeup, bore ugly moles, and patches of scraggly hairs placed strategically on her long, sharp nose and chin. She wore a long black dress that dragged along the ground and a typical witch’s hat rested on top of her head.

“Goodness, let me help you,” Becka exclaimed as the witch struggled up the steps trying not to trip on the hem of her dress while balancing a large glass cooking dish in her hands.

“Thank you,” the witch said pleasantly when the heavy dish was removed from her grasp.

“My, this is interesting,” Becka observed looking at the dish’s contents of a miniature graveyard complete with bats in trees, gravestones, and skeletons.

 “I’ll take that,” a woman wearing the head of a unicorn exclaimed snatching the cooking dish out of Becka’s hands. “Hey, everybody… Aunt Lois brought her graveyard dip.” A loud cheer rose at the news.

Becka smiled. “Ah, you must be Mattie’s aunt and that must be your famous bean dip.”

“I don’t know how famous it is but the kids do seem to like it,” the witch responded.

“Kids?” Mattie laughed. “Most of us are in our forties or close to it.”

The witch chuckled. “You’re all kids to me.”

“Come on in,” Becka motioned for the older woman to enter. “Mattie’s around here someplace. I’ll go look for her.”

“Oh, don’t bother… we’ll cross paths eventually. Are you Becka?”


The witch reached out and gently wrapped her hands around Becka’s. “Mattie has spoken about you often. We’ll have to find a nice quiet corner where we can talk later.”

“Should I be afraid?” Becka asked cautiously.

Chuckling, the witch patted the worried woman’s hand. “Don’t be silly, just a friendly chat to get to know you… nothing more.”

“Will you tell me stories about Mattie as a kid?” Becka asked.

“If you insist.”

Becka smiled.

“But first, lead me to the food. I’m famished.”



“This is some party,” Becka said when Mattie joined her on the couch as the party continued into the late hours of the night. “Your friends are really nice.”

“They’re good people,” Mattie agreed.

“Sally is sure having fun.”

“Speaking of the little gobbler, where is she? We need to be sure she has a safer costume next year. She’s run into a few people with her beak; including Karen who about peed her pants.”

“Uh, oh. Was she hurt?”

“More surprised than anything… it was pretty funny. Ah, I think I hear her,” Mattie said turning her head toward the sound of a gobble. “Gotcha,” she cried out snaring the turkey as it tried to rush by the couch.

“What you doing?” the turkey protested.

“You have been poking people with your nose,” Mattie said in an overly serious tone while she gently lifted the turkey’s head up to expose a frowning child.

“I said sowwy.”

“So you did. Are you having fun?” Mattie asked.

Sally nodded vigorously.


“Can I have a cookie, Momma?” Sally asked Becka. “And some punch?”

“It’s getting late.”

“Ah, it’s Halloween,” Mattie argued in the child’s favor.

Becka let loose an exaggerated sigh. “Oh, all right. One cookie,” she told her daughter. “But, please, watch where you stick your nose,” she warned.

“I will,” Sally assured the women then she climbed down from Mattie’s lap. “I promise.”

While Sally skipped toward the buffet, a mountain climber holding his head in the crook of his arm and bowling pin claimed chairs across the room.

“Whoa, who brought that rotten corpse dip?” the mountain climber asked Mattie. “That stuff could melt artic ice.”

“Gavin. He said he forgot how much chili powder he put in it so he added some more,” Mattie replied with a laugh. “I’ve chosen to avoid it this year.”

“Smart move. The grave yard dip is much safer.”

Mattie looked at her friend. “Grave yard dip? Are you sure?”

“Yes, your aunt brought it,” Becka said. “It is really good.”

“Strange,” Mattie murmured.

“What’s wrong?” Becka asked.

“She told me she wasn’t going to make the party this year.”

“She must have changed her mind because she’s here,” Becka told her friend. “She’s wearing a great costume… a witch.”

“I better go say hello,” Mattie said standing.



After several minutes of searching, Mattie spotted a witch talking with a turkey in the small sitting room that overlooked the back patio and yard.

“You’re a sweet little girl,” the witch was telling the turkey.

“Thanks,” Sally answered. “You’re nice.”

“Thank you. You better get back to the party… you don’t want to miss anything.”

The turkey turned then ran out of the sitting room. “Scuse me,” she called out brushing past Mattie.

“Watch your nose,” Mattie reminded the excited child. Then she walked over to the witch. “Aunt Lois, you snuck in,” she teased. “I love that green makeup.”

“I think it suits me. Sit,” the witch said patting the chair beside her. “You’re too tall for me to have to look up at.”

“You could have said something when you arrived,” Mattie teasingly chastised once she had settled onto the chair.

“You were busy with your friends. I didn’t want to bother you.”

Mattie reached out to capture’s her aunt’s hand. “You’re never a bother, Aunt Lois,” she said entwining their fingers.

“You’ve always been my favorite.”

Mattie chuckled. “I’m your only niece.”

The witch smiled. “You’re still my favorite.” She gazed at Mattie for a long moment. “You look happy… happier than you’ve looked in some time.”

“Do I?”


Mattie studied the witch, forcing her mind to see the woman beneath the makeup. “Nothing’s changed.”

“Oh, yes,” the witch declared nodding to herself, “something has. Dare I say perhaps you’ve finally found the right someone?”

Slightly uncomfortable with her aunt’s question, Mattie changed the subject. “You met Sally,” she observed.

“She makes a lovely turkey. Strange choice for a costume I must say.”

Mattie grinned. “She loves turkeys and that’s all she would agree to wear.”

“How on earth did you find it?”

“We got lucky. A friend of a friend of a friend… you know how it goes, had made one for their kid a couple of years ago.”

“Imagine that,” the witch laughed. “That child adores you,” she added earnestly.

“She barely knows me,” Mattie objected. “Becka and Sally only moved in here a couple of weeks ago.

“That’s plenty long… especially for a child.”

“She’s a good kid. I like having her… and her mother around. Come on, let’s find Becka and I’ll introduce you.”

“Oh, we’ve already had a chat.”

“Oh, no. You didn’t tell any stories did you?”

“Who me?” The witch rose from her chair. “I must be getting along home… I’m no spring chicken anymore.” She wrapped her arms around Mattie.

Laughing loudly, a half dozen costumed guests entered the room. “Come on, Mattie,” one of them urged, “we’re going to try dunking for apples.

“Just a minute,” Mattie told her friends as they opened the patio door. “Thanks for coming, Aunt Lois. I’ll walk you out.”

“Tell Becka and Sally that I enjoyed meeting them,” the witch said before firmly pulling Mattie down so she could whisper in her ear. “You’ll make a wonderful family.” Then she released her hold. “Go join your friends,” she said gently directing Mattie toward the patio.

“Wait… what?”

The witch turned around just long enough to wave goodbye. “Never forget how much your mother loves you. I am so proud.”

The words froze Mattie in place. They seemed odd to be coming from her aunt but before she could stop the witch from leaving, her friends grabbed her and pulled her outside.



Becka was putting Sally to bed as Mattie carried the last bag of trash out to the garage. Most of the party clean up was complete except for decorations and it had been an easy decision to leave them for another day. She retrieved a pitcher of ice water from the fridge and filled two glasses.

“I hope one of those is for me,” Becka said having just entered the kitchen. She had changed out of her costume and was wearing a set of pajamas.

“You look comfy.”

Becka nodded. “Why don’t you go change?”

“Eh, later. Let’s go sit down before I fall down,” Mattie suggested handing a glass of water to her roommate. Then she headed for the front room and claimed one of the recliners.

“Party was great,” Becka declared stretching out on the couch. “I’ve never seen Sally have so much fun.”

“She certainly was one happy turkey,” Mattie agreed chuckling. “What have you got there?” she asked seeing a piece of a chain hanging from Becka’s closed hand.

“I wanted to talk to you about this,” Becka said opening her hand and stretching her arm out. “Sally was wearing this. She said ‘the nice witch’ gave it to her and told her ‘always wear it and it would bring her happiness’. If this was that important to your aunt, I think we should return it.”

Finding it hard to breathe, Mattie gingerly lifted the necklace from Becka’s hand. “This doesn’t belong to my aunt,” she whispered staring at the object she now held. Hanging at the end of a gold chain and no bigger than the end of her little finger, a heart-shaped ruby was nestled inside the silhouette of a delicately formed golden heart.

“But your aunt was the only witch—”

“No,” Mattie insisted shaking her head. “Sally didn’t get this from my Aunt Lois.”

Becka took the comment as an accusation. “My daughter doesn’t steal,” she snapped swinging her legs off the couch to sit up. “And she’s too young to make up a story like that.”

Mattie forced her eyes off the necklace to look at her upset roommate. “Of course… I didn’t mean that Sally did anything wrong,” she said apologetically. “I just mean this wasn’t my aunt’s… it was my mom’s.”

“Your mother’s?”

Mattie nodded.

“Did your mother leave it to her sister when she died?”

Mattie shook her head as she gently traced the amulet’s unique shape. “No. My mother wore this every day, she never took it off. My father gave it to her on their wedding day. He told her that as long as she wore it, he would always love her and it would bring happiness to their marriage,” she forced the words out past the lump forming in her throat. “She was wearing it when we buried her,” she softly added. “I placed it around her neck myself… just before they closed the casket.”

“I don’t understand… then how could Sally have it?”

Unable to think of a logical explanation, Mattie mumbled, “You tell me.”

“All I know is she said Lois gave it to her,” Becka struggled to make sense of the situation. “Maybe you should give her a call.”

Remaining silent for several minutes, Mattie finally nodded. “I think you’re right. I’m going to—” Just then her phone rang startling her. “That’s freaky,” she grumbled reaching into the deep pocket of her costume pants. “Hello?”

“Hello, dear.”

“Aunt Lois? Hey, I was just about to call you.”

“Whatever for? Isn’t it long past midnight there?”

“Yes. But… this is important. Where did you get the necklace you gave Sally?” Mattie blurted out, too impatient to phase the question tactfully.


“She said you gave her mother’s lucky necklace.”

“Dear, what are you talking about? You don’t mean the necklace your father gave her, do you?”

“Yes. She was wearing it after you left,” Mattie’s explained, her voice rising to frenzied level.

“Left? Left where?”

“The Halloween party. It was tonight… you were here,” Mattie cried out trying to will her aunt to understand.

“No. I couldn’t make your party… that’s why I’m calling. I’m stuck in Chicago for at least another day or two.”

Mattie pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it. “Aunt Lois,” she started a few moments later after repositioning the phone. “You were here. We all saw you!”

“My goodness, dear… how much did you drink tonight? I just told you I’m still in Chicago.”

“No! You were here,” Mattie repeated through clinched teeth. “You brought your graveyard dip… you wore a witch costume… you talked to everyone. You met Becka and Sally.”

“No, dear, I wasn’t there. Why don’t you get some sleep and we’ll try this again tomorrow. I love you.”

“She hung up,” Mattie stammered incredulously.

Concerned by the disturbing conversation and the look of anguish on her friend’s face, Becka decided to tread lightly. “Um, I know I’m new here… but… are you sure that witch was your aunt? She did have on some pretty heavy makeup.”

Tilting her head, to study the woman voicing the question, Mattie glared. “What are you saying?”

Becka shrugged. “I’m not sure I know.”

“It had to be her,” Mattie muttered. “The recipe for that dip is a long held family secret. She and mom came up with it when they were in college. I don’t even know it.”

“Mattie,” Becka continued warily, “it’s not unheard of for people to visit their loved ones after they pass.”

“That’s impossible… isn’t it?”

Becka shrugged again. “I think… there’s a lot we don’t know… especially about what happens after we die.”

“I don’t believe…”

“You can’t deny your holding your mother’s necklace. If you did what you said… who else could have given it to Sally? And what better place is there to be in order to hide your true identity than a Halloween party?”

Slumping back into her chair, Mattie raised the amulet up and watched it sparkling in the light of the room’s lamps. “If what you say is true,” she thought out loud, “then there’s a reason Mom wanted Sally to have this.”

“Heck if I can figure out why,” Becka said.

“Me either,” Mattie agreed then she smiled. “But Mom did a lot of things that made no sense at the time.” She stood and moved the few steps to where Becka sat. “Let Sally wear it… maybe in time, we’ll know why Mom wanted her to,” she said handing the necklace back.



A dark shadow hovered above the ground below the front room windows. A range of emotions crossing her face as she listened to the conversation taking place inside the house she once called her home. “At last,” she murmured when she saw her daughter place her treasured necklace into Becka’s hand. “Good girl,” she whispered smiling. “Some day, my daughter, you will know my reasons. Keep this one close to your heart… she will bring you happiness. And the little one will brighten your days for years to come.”



The women were shutting off the lights and verifying the doors were locked before heading to the separate bedrooms.

“Hey, Mattie.”


“Can I ask a favor?”


“Will you get the recipe for that dip from your aunt? It would be a shame not to pass it on.”

Mattie grinned. “Yeah, I’ll ask her. Good night.”

“Sweet dreams.”



“I knew she was a keeper,” the shadow murmured then slowly faded into nothingness leaving only the sounds of a soft chuckle to mark her passing.