As we entered October, we all seemed to have a great deal to do and not a lot of time to get it done. Noah let us know that he and some of his teammates wanted to get started on the Haunted House this weekend, so I talked to Brandon, Dion, and Trey. We had to find a way to keep Joshie and Bennie busy - preferably out of the house so they wouldn't see what was going on.
"I heard at school last week that the 4-H Club and a bunch of the local farmers are going to team up next weekend and put on a pumpkin carving workshop," Dion mentioned. "The farmers are bringing in truckloads of pumpkins that parents can buy for their kids to use, and the 4-H club advisors are going to demonstrate the proper way to carve a jack-o-lantern."
"That sounds like it would be fun, but do the kids have to take their own tools?" Brandon asked.
"I believe they'll be allowed to take their own, but I was told the 4-H will also have special pumpkin carving kits for sale that are kid safe. The 4-H will show the children how to hollow out the pumpkin and remove the guts before demonstrating how to carve it. They'll also have patterns the kids can use if they'd rather make a design on the pumpkin instead of just making a face."
"That sounds like it would be fun for them to do and it should take awhile for them to finish," I observed. "Do one of you want to take the boys or do you want one of us to do it?"
"We'll do it and take Wyatt to watch," Trey agreed. "I'm probably as excited about doing it as the boys are."
"As long as you don't mind," I concurred. "Just give us a call before you head home so we can clean up and put things away before you get here."
"Ok, but I was thinking we could drive around the area with the boys for a while afterward to see if anyone has any Halloween decorations up yet. I'm sure someone will."
"That would take even longer and help out even more, so that would be great," Brandon confirmed.
"Ok, that's what we'll do on Saturday and the workshop starts at 1:00. You can tell Noah that his friends can show up a little before then, because we'll probably be leaving about twenty minutes to one."
"Good, and this will work out great," I agreed. "Now all we have to do is figure out something for Sunday."
"How about we take them to the cider mill to see how they make apple cider," Dion offered. "That always takes a while, and the staff usually serves cider and donuts, plus we can buy some cider and candy apples for the boys to bring home with them."
"Do you want us to do that, since you're taking care of them the previous day?" Brandon asked, as Dion and Trey glanced at each other.
"No, we'll do that too, since it's something Wyatt will probably enjoy as well and then we'll have his party after we eat," Dion answered. "When we're done at the cider mill we'll drive around the countryside to check out the leaves as they're changing and maybe even stop to pick a few. Don't worry, we'll call before we head back."
"You guys are being tremendous about this, so thank you very much," I replied gratefully.
"Look, we know Noah talked his friends into doing this for Benny and Joshie's benefit, so it's the least we can do to help them in return," Trey confirmed. "Besides, you two took Joshie with you when you went to see Elliot, and you're going to be busy helping Noah and his friends get everything set up."
"Still, this helps out a great deal, so thank you," I reiterated.
Now that everything was settled, I went to tell Noah what we were going to do to keep Joshie and Benny busy, along with advising him about what time to tell his friends to arrive. I also mentioned that Brandon and I would be here to work with them before taking him down to the basement so we could start checking out the things we had from previous years. While we were doing that, Brandon made sure Benny and Joshie were busy playing games on the PS4.
After pulling out the various props we were going to use, we inspected them to see which ones needed to be touched up. Then, I made a list of the items we were going to need to buy in order to do this, and the list included red, white, gray, brown, and black paint, along with a variety of different size brushes and some putty to patch up a few cracks in the wood. I took Noah with me to pick up the supplies, and when we returned I went to the basement with him and supervised what he was doing, as well as fixing some of the items myself.
"Since we won't be doing anything different this year, we'll just set it up the way it was last year," Noah told me. "I'm doing this mainly for Benny and he won't know it's the same, but I don't think the other kids that show up will mind either."
"Ok, and I'll get the candy, but we won't offer quite as many choices as in the past. I feel badly about that, but we're all too busy to make the special items we'd prepared on our own in previous years."
"That's ok, because most kids are coming to see the Haunted House and are just happy to get something too."
"You're right and you're actually pretty lucky. I hope you know that."
"What do you mean?"
"Because you still have three more weekends to get everything ready and set up. Halloween won't be until the following Friday, so I'd say this worked out pretty well."
"I hope so, and we'll start spreading word around the schools that we're going to have it too, so plenty of other kids will show up." This let me know I should plan on picking up plenty of candy.
"Ok, but since you're going to advertise this in the schools, I'll mention it to Joshie, so he can come up with a way to help keep Benny from finding out."
"Oh, yeah. I didn't think about that."
"So I'll take care of it for you."
The following Saturday Dion and Trey explained to Joshie and Benny what they had planned and both boys were thrilled with the idea. That took care of the first of the issues for the day, so now we just had to wait for Noah and his buddies to show up after they got out of soccer practice.
I had pizzas delivered to the house because I knew they'd work better with full stomachs, and even though they were tired from practice, they got quite a bit done during the time we were together. I also allowed them to start setting things up in the rec room, because I said I'd cover the window on the Dutch door to keep the boys from seeing what was in there. I'd also tell Joshie and Benny that the room was off limits for awhile because I was doing some repair work in there. I didn't think they would question it, since neither of them used the room very often anyway.
When Dion and Trey called later, I asked if they'd hold off for another half hour before coming back so I'd have time to send the other boys home and close things up. They agreed and most of the boys called their parents to pick them up, and then I took those that didn't have a ride. I'd told each of them to show up around the same time the following day and they agreed.
When the others arrived home, Joshie and Benny had to show the rest of us what they'd done. "Wow, you did a great job," I stated after inspecting their pumpkins, which brought a smile to each of their faces.
"I agree. They look super!" Brandon added with a huge grin.
"I couldn't have done that good a job," Noah chimed in. "Come on and I'll help you set them up on the front porch."
I was proud of Noah, because he'd made both boys feel extra special by doing this. Before long they were asking if we had a couple of candles they could use to light inside the jack-o-lanterns when it got dark out. We found two that would work well, since they had a broad base, but we told Noah to stay close to the pumpkins until he blew the candles out, so nothing else caught on fire. I also told him I'd find some battery operated candles they could use after today.
The younger boys were totally hyper when it came time to shower, so Dion and Trey wanted them to take a bath instead. The boys objected and promised they'd be careful, so I said I'd watch them closely to make sure nothing happened. Dion and Trey weren't convinced, but relented anyway, so I made both boys promise to calm down and be very careful. They did as I asked, and it also got them to quiet down enough so they were able to fall asleep afterward as well.
Sunday morning at breakfast, Dion and Trey advised the boys what they had planned for the day. This immediately set the pair off again, so I was glad Dion and Trey were going to be dealing with them. Joshie and Benny were whooping it up and racing about like a couple of restless banshees, so I was glad I'd be working with the older group again.
Shortly after they left the house, the other boys showed up and we quickly got to work. They finished touching up the various tombstones that we'd place outside later, and I told the boys to store them in the rec room with the other things while they touched up Dracula's coffin. Noah and another boy were busy fixing the ghosts so they looked presentable, but those items would also remain inside until the final weekend.
We got a lot done before Dion and Trey returned home, and the other boys had already left prior to Trey calling to tell us they were on their way home. Dion, Trey, and our boys had been gone a lot longer than I'd anticipated, so I figured Joshie and Benny must have really enjoyed themselves. I was about to find out and hear it directly from the horses' mouths, so to speak.
"Did you know they squished a whole bunch of apples to make cider?" Benny asked, barely able to contain his excitement. "We watched as they put the apples on this piece of cloth and then squished them with a big board."
I knew he was talking about the cider press, which used a cloth as a strainer to keep everything but the liquid from getting past it and being collected. It was a very large vice that squeezed the apples to a pulp, extracting all of the liquid contained within. They obviously thought watching it was pretty amazing, since it was the first time they'd seen one in action.
"We got to drink some of the cider too and we ate a donut," Joshie added.
"And then Uncle Dion and Uncle Trey bought us apples on a stick that are covered with some red candy," Benny added.
"They're candy apples and Daddy said we could eat them after dinner, if it's alright with you," Joshie chimed in. How could I say 'no' to that?
"If you eat all of your dinner, then I don't see why you can't have a candy apple too," I agreed.
"We brought some back for Noah and you too," Benny quickly added as Dion and Trey each held up a 4-pack to prove it.
After we finished dinner it was time for Wyatt's birthday party. Trey brought in the cake and lit the candle, a number '3', while Dion was giving all of us hats and noisemakers. Once we were ready, we sang Happy Birthday to Wyatt and Trey helped him blow out the candle. Then he cut the cake while Dion dished out the ice cream. While we were eating, Dion and Trey helped Wyatt open his presents, which were mostly toys, and we sounded our noisemakers while they were doing it. We decided to save the candy apples for the following night, seeing we had cake and ice cream already.
It was late and we'd all had a really long day, so we got the boys ready for bed and tucked them in. Benny was beginning to see that birthdays around here were pretty special, but we explained that Wyatt didn't have as big of a party since he was so young. Benny seemed to accept that and said it was still nice.
We returned to school and work the next day and it was nice to get back to our normal routines again. When we arrived home later we had dinner together, and after we finished the meal, we were each given a candy apple because we're all kids at heart. Dion had to cut up the one for Wyatt so he could enjoy it too, but when we finished Joshie and Benny had red rings around their mouths, along with a smile on their faces. I took them upstairs for their shower and made sure they cleaned that part of their body as well, so they wouldn't go to school looking like clowns.
The rest of the week seemed to fly by, since we were all so busy. Trey and Brandon sat down with Joshie and Benny to help them decide what they wanted to be for Halloween before advising them they would take them shopping for costumes on Saturday afternoon. That was the cover story they were going to use to get the boys out of the house so Noah and his friends could work on the Haunted House.
It was a lot harder for Benny to decide what he wanted to be for Halloween, since he'd been so sheltered and was unfamiliar with many of the potential choices. He told us he'd never gone trick-or-treating before, so this was all new to him, but hearing this just made us want to make the experience extra special for him. Brandon and Trey said they'd give him time to look around and would tell him about the different choices, since it would give us more time to finish up what we were doing. I said that would be fine, even though I wished I could be helping Benny instead.
Before we finished up, Noah asked Brandon and Trey to look for a King Joffrey costume from 'The Game of Thrones', because he wanted to wear it when greeting the kids to the Haunted House. They agreed to do it for him, so hopefully they'd find one in Noah's size, along with helping Benny to pick out something.
By the time they took off on Saturday, Joshie had shown Benny pictures of a whole bunch of different characters he could be for Halloween and explained them to him. I could tell Joshie really wanted to be Batman and hoped Benny would be Superman, but neither of those characters appealed to Benny. Joshie tried to help him understand why they should choose those costumes, but Benny wasn't convinced. It wasn't easy to understand what they represented, since he hadn't seen the movies, TV shows, or animated programs with them in it.
Noah and his crew worked really hard again and got a lot done before the others returned home. As soon as Brandon stopped the car, Joshie and Benny jumped out and came racing inside, eager to show us their costumes. "I wanted to be Batman, but Benny saw these and really liked how they looked, so I decided we'd wear the same thing."
After announcing this, they showed us that they each had a Star Wars Stormtrooper outfit instead. That wasn't a bad choice and we had the DVDs of the movies so Benny could watch them and get a better idea of what the Stormtroopers were.
"Since they were going to be Stormtroopers, I bought a Yoda costume for Wyatt," Trey announced as he held it up. He then handed a package to Noah, and after looking inside Noah shouted with joy.
"Alright, you got it!"
He was soon pulling out a complete Joffrey outfit, with a golden crown that appeared to consist of a bunch of tiny golden antlers that had been fastened to a golden ringlet. There was also what appeared to be a red leather jacket, although this one was made out of vinyl, along with beige tights and a black vinyl item that was intended to look like a pair of riding boots. It was merely a piece of black vinyl that would wrap around his legs and fasten to the tights using Velcro strips. There was also an extension at the bottom that would fit over his shoes and be held in place by a strap that fastened around the arch and another that would secure the piece around the toes. The effect was meant to make it appear as if he was wearing a pair of riding boots, and although the overall costume left a lot to be desired, it made Noah happy, and that's all that mattered.
The boys immediately went up to their rooms to try on their costumes and see how they fit, and then they returned to show us. "You all look really great!" Dion told them, and we all agreed. The boys were pleased and eager to get a chance to wear them out in public.
They all began walking on cloud nine for the rest of the night, so we gave them plenty of space as they admired themselves and each other. I think Joshie and Benny would have worn their costumes to bed if we'd let them, but we made them take their costumes off until Halloween.
On Sunday, Dion set up the DVD so Joshie and Benny could watch the first Star Wars movie while Noah and his group were working on the last of the things they needed to finish. Those boys also decided on who would do what for the haunted house, since there were numerous roles that needed to be filled.
One of them would lay in wait as the monster that appeared near the gravestones, while another would play Dracula laying in his coffin and waiting to pop out to scare the visitors. There would also be a person who'd be chained up to appear as if he were a prisoner being tortured for information. Someone else would be required to operate the truck cab that would come racing toward the visitors after its headlights flashed on and an air horn blasted for effect. Yet another boy would be required to control the ropes attached to the ghosts so he could drag them toward each group as they were being led to the back of the house. In addition to those things, someone else would be required to cue up the ghostly recordings when the visitors first entered the rec room, while others would be required to oversee the basement.
Noah had already set himself up as the official greeter, a job that Grandpa Josh usually played. Once all of the details had been ironed out, the boys agreed to set up the outside displays the following Sunday, before taking Joshie and Benny through the Haunted House for the first time.
During the following week Brandon and I stopped on the way home to get the candy we would need for the trick-or-treaters. It was the last item on our 'to do' list, other than setting up the outdoor decorations. We had agreed to use Dad's old scarecrow outfit and stuff it with hay before placing it in a lawn chair on the porch. We knew some of the kids would think it was actually him again, since he'd scared them doing this before. They'd probably shy away from it, thinking he was going to jump up to scare them again. Now, we could spend our time concentrating on the younger group and making sure they had everything they would need for the big night.
"Are you and Brandon going to stay at the house the whole time on Halloween?" Dion wanted to know.
"Yes, we're going to have to keep an eye on things and take care of handing out the candy so everyone gets his share and no one gets more," I answered. "Why are you asking?"
"Seeing Joshie and Benny will have already gone through the Haunted House by then, Trey and I were thinking about taking them and Wyatt trick-or-treating. We felt we could drive them around to the houses of some of the people we knew, so we wouldn't have to worry about what they were getting."
"That sounds like a great idea, because it's something else Benny has never done before," I agreed. "It will give him a chance to be a kid and experience a little of what he'd missed out on until now." I was glad they'd offered to do this.
When Saturday came, Noah's soccer team had an away game, so Brandon and I took Joshie and Benny with us to watch him play. I'm not sure if the team was more motivated today or if the other team was that bad, but Noah's team won 4-0. He scored a goal and had an assist, so we were glad we had a chance to see him in action, and Joshie and Benny were all over him when he came off the pitch.
"You played great!" Joshie screamed when Noah joined us.
"You were the best one out there," Benny added, showing a little hero worship of his older brother.
"Nah, we just had a better team," Noah responded. "I couldn't have done any of that stuff without the other guys on my team. I'll agree that I had a good game today, but the other guys have all played better than me in our other matches, so we all need each other."
"Yeah, but you were still great out there," Joshie added before we headed toward the car.
Noah rode back on the bus with his team, so we picked him up at the high school before heading home. That had taken up a big chunk of the day, so I was glad we'd completed so much of the Haunted House already and hadn't fallen behind. The boys would be showing up tomorrow to finish up, and then hopefully they'd be ready to take Joshie and Benny through it for a dry run.
Since we needed time to finish up without Joshie and Benny around, Dion and Trey took them to play miniature golf, followed by lunch and a movie. As soon as they left, we went outside to get started.
"Hey, Grandpa Jake must've set up the suspension bridge while we were at our game yesterday," Noah announced when we got to the backyard. The bridge was only a few inches above the ground, but it swayed back and forth and was tricky to walk across, especially when someone else was on it at the same time.
Everything was in place and ready by the time the boys arrived home, but it wasn't dark yet, which would lessen the impact of going through it. For that reason, Noah raced out to meet the younger pair when the car pulled into the driveway and asked Joshie and Benny to go with him to the family room to play video games for awhile.
Joshie and Benny didn't appear enthusiastic about doing this, but since Noah had come outside to ask them specifically, they were willing to give in. Noah even promised to let them have four turns each before he took a turn, which helped to convince them to go along with his idea. I knew it would be about a half hour before it started to get dark, but it would probably be more effective if we waited an hour, so I hoped Noah could distract them until then.
To my surprise and delight, the boys became totally engrossed in their video games and didn't even notice the boys shuffling around outside. This would have been quite obvious if either of them had happened to gaze out the picture window overlooking the backyard, but since they were so absorbed in what they were doing they missed it completely. When it was nearly time to pull this off, I sent Dion and Trey to the family room to watch the younger boys and keep them occupied so Noah could slip out to put on his costume. When Noah was set, I went into the family room and made an announcement.
"Joshie and Benny, will you come outside with me. There's something I want to show you."
"Let me finish my turn first," Benny begged, so I waited until his turn ended. Then they followed me outside, along with Dion, Trey, and Brandon.
Noah was standing out of sight on the porch, but once we had walked outside he stepped down and greeted them. "Welcome, my subjects," he stated in a loud, forceful voice that caused both boys to jump, slightly startled.
"Why is Noah dressed up like that?" Benny immediately wanted to know.
"Yeah, it isn't Halloween yet," Joshie added.
"No, but you have wandered into my kingdom, so you must now pass through my Chamber of Horrors."
"You mean the Haunted House?" Joshie asked, mildly surprised. "Benny, you're going to like this because it's fun."
"First, I have to summon my assistant!" Noah announced. "Igor, come here!"
At that moment, Jake came charging off the porch dressed in the scarecrow costume and growling like a bear. This caused both boys to scream while trying to hide behind us, until Noah spoke to calm them down.
"Igor will not harm you unless I tell him to."
Once they understood it was merely another aspect of the Haunted House, they giggled sheepishly and finally understood the reason behind this little charade. Then, they followed Noah and Igor as they led them around to the back of the house. As soon as they got around the exterior of the family room and started walking along the rear of the house, they spotted the various tombstones that had been placed about. Noah held out the torch he carried, which he'd constructed so there was a flashlight inside that he now used as a pointer. One by one the 'torch' lit up a tombstone and Noah read out the name inscribed upon it.
As soon as Noah had read off the last name, one of the boys jumped off the ground and came charging toward us, groaning loudly. He was dressed completely in black and had been laying off to one side until now, but he was also wearing a horrible looking mask. Once again both boys jumped and screamed, only to start giggling a few seconds later.
"Now you must walk across the bridge to enter my castle," Noah told them next, as he pointed toward the short suspension bridge.
While they were busy looking down and concentrating on their footing, one of the other boys tugged on the ropes attached to the two ghosts and set them into motion. They glided down on the wires that Jake had strung from the roof of the rec room and fastened to the old apple tree on the other side of the bridge. As the apparitions came closer, they brushed against the boys' heads and caused them to jump slightly, while using one of their arms to swat away whatever had just touched their faces. They almost fell off the bridge while doing this, since it began to sway harder due to their sudden movements.
"What the heck was that?" Benny screamed, as the boy guiding the ghosts made an eerie, moaning sound as well. Since he was dressed entirely in black and had on a black ski mask, Joshie and Benny hadn't spotted him.
"Ghosts!" Joshie answered, with a giggle. The boys then looked around until they spotted the dangling sheets, but Noah was now urging them to go inside.
"Move through this portal to my chamber of horrors," he advised them as he opened the door to the rec room.
As the boys entered, the sounds of moaning, screaming, and cries for mercy filled the air. As Noah's 'torch' shown on the casket on the floor, the lid slowly began to open and Dracula sat up to greet them. "Good evening. May I bite your neck and taste your blood?"
Just beyond Dracula was the battered and bloodied form of a tortured man strung up in chains, and next to him on the floor was a collection of scattered bones, including a skull, to show what had happened to the previous victim.
As the boys were encouraged to move forward they had to brush away the spider webs in their path, along with some dangling rubber spiders, as they headed toward the door on the opposite wall. Almost as soon as they passed through it and moved into the narrow hallway on the other side, the next harrowing sight greeted them. It started when a pair of headlights flashed on, followed by the blast of an air horn that split the silence, and then what looked like a snub nose cab from an eighteen wheeler came flying toward them. Benny froze on the spot, totally terrified and unable to comprehend how we got a truck inside the house. I thought he was about to wet his pants, possibly even worse, but that didn't happen.
As the cab came to a stop in front of him and then slowly backed away again as the headlights dimmed before going completely dark, Benny began breathing again. As soon as he recovered, the boys followed Noah down the stairs to the basement. After walking through more spider webs and passing beside a collection of plastic cockroaches on the walls, the boys reached the tanks containing an assortment of snakes, spiders, mice, and bugs. As they passed each one a light came on to highlight what was inside, and this often caused Benny to jump and shy away from the tank when he saw what was inside.
Since this was merely a trial run, there was no candy to be had, but Noah stopped the boys to ask a question. "So what did you think of it, Benny?"
Benny's eyes were still open as wide as they would go as he got ready to respond. "I never saw nuttin like this before," he answered almost breathlessly.
"But how did you like it?" Noah pushed.
"Parts of it was real scary," Benny gasped, as he glanced around to see if something else was coming his way. "I don't like spiders and snakes, so they scared me too, but I thought I was gonna get run over upstairs."
"So did you enjoy it?" Noah pressed.
"It was scary, but it was fun too, cuz it wasn't real," Benny agreed with a slight grin.
"Good. I'll tell my friends we're ready for Friday night now."
"So you're gonna do this again?" Benny wanted to know.
"Yep, cuz other people will be coming here on Halloween. They will go through the Haunted House just like you did, and then we'll give them candy."
"Hey, I didn't get no candy," Benny said with a pout.
"You will on Halloween," Joshie explained, "but not yet." That seemed to appease Benny.
"So when did you do all this?" Benny wanted to know. "I never seen stuff like this before."
"We were working on it while you guys were going other places and doing other things, so you wouldn't see what we were up to."
"You mean when we carved the pumpkins and went to the cider mill?"
"Yep, and while you were playing video games, watching Star Wars movies, and when you were out yesterday."
"So that's why we did all that stuff?"
"Kind of, but I think all our dads wanted you to do it anyway, because they knew you'd enjoy it."
As they were walking away, Joshie was busy filling Benny in about going through the Haunted House in past years, as well as what Halloween was going to be like. Since Benny had never gone trick-or-treating before this was all totally new to him, but I could tell he was really getting pumped about doing it now.