Halloween night, the corner of Chestnut and Park, around 10:45, fire licking low in the fireplace, lights in the living room dim, the remaining candy resting abandoned in a bowl next to the front door, the mass of Trick-or-Treaters severely thinned, save the ninth-graders, knocking between long intervals of quiet, muttering, "Trickerfreakintreat," breath like Michelob and cigarettes, faces costumed with nylon stockings, beard stubble poking through, like grown-up bad guys. Others dressed like harlots, though they haven't heard the word, thinking themselves vampires.
"Should we call it a night?"
"You mean cuz I'm winning?"
"What're you talking about? It's almost 11. I work tomorrow. I'm old."
"Whatever. You stay up past midnight every night with your book light shining in my face."
"Doesn't seem to stop you from sleeping."
"Just cuz I'm lying there, doesn't mean I'm sleeping."
"Well, what does it mean when you're snoring?"
"I don't snore."
"How would you know?"
"Whatever. Do you want to finish this game or not?"
"It's SCRABBLE. We can leave it and pick it up tomorrow."
"Just cuz I'm winning."
"By two points. All I've had is Zs and Qs all night."
"You're a crappy loser."
"I haven't lost."
"Are there two Ls in verisimilitude?"
"You don't have verisimilitude."
"How many Ls?"
"Can you use it in a sentence?"
"Can you use it in a sentence? I mean, the point of the game isn't just to spell random words, is it? Just throw down letters and look them up in the SCRABBLE dictionary and hope they count? I thought the point of the game is to challenge, among other things, one's vocabulary . . . which implies an ability to actually use the word, not just spell it. Otherwise, some Rain Man savant could stroll in and win by virtue of an ability to spell without an ability to comprehend. What's the point of that?"
"Shut up already."
"Should we go up?"
"Sure, let's go up."
Then, while shutting the door for the night, just before flicking off the lights, a sound in the street, arising from the North, moving south up Chestnut Street. The sound of hooves.
"Just come here, quick. I think there's ..."
"What's that noise?"
"I think it's -- it is! It's someone on a horse!"
And that's what it was. As we stood in our doorway and then on our front porch, there came the galloping of an enormous, black horse carrying a black-caped rider. In his right hand were his reins and in his left -- yes, an orange pumpkin, carved in the likeness of fanged, demented laughter. The rider's high collar held no head.
"That, my dear, is absolutely awesome," I said, and surprised myself by my whispering. The sound of horse hooves clopping along Chestnut Street in the wet drizzle of a black, moonless Halloween night. The horse's rider, knees pressed against the beast's neck, vapor steaming from its nose and the rider, silent as the night itself, then spinning the horse around in the dim glow of the yellow street light at the intersection, the horse then rearing, frothing and whinnying -- as pure as any storybook drawing -- and then cloppity-clopping away, into the mist, up Chestnut, toward the Pinehurst Park graveyard, where bones have been resting since Lincoln and before ...
"What the hell was that?"
"The Headless Horseman, of course!"
"I know, but what was it?"
"I wonder if anyone saw it."
"I know, that's what's so cool -- he didn't show up in the midst of all the trick-or-treating chaos ... just did it for the ... for the art of it, or something."
"But why not do it for everyone to see?"
"Maybe everyone seeing wasn't the point."
"Then what was?"
"Not sure. Should've asked him."
"Verisimilitude. You win."
"Let's go up."
"Let's go up."
And in the dark hours after midnight, when Halloween became November 1st, the talk of breaking the thin veil between Now and Forever, about spiritual warfare, about not flirting with darkness, was muted with the mundane stirring of hyperglycemia, the twitching dreams of children and every so often one grown.
Cloquet resident Parnell Thill, former Pine Knot author of "Notes From the Small Pond" column for nearly a decade, is resurrecting the column as he works on a collection of short stories by the same title, along with other writing projects.