I'm pleased to welcome author, Martin Stewart, onto the blog today. For the Halloween blog tour, Martin tells us all about the Halloween costumes of his past.
I loved Hallowe’en as a boy: the anticipation, the cold air in my nose, the rattle of monkey nuts. It meant the beginning of winter, the coming of my birthday and Christmas, and a bounty of unsupervised sugar that lasted for weeks.
Yet now something else shapes my memories: not sugar, parties, leering lanterns, or the coming of the early dark, but something unexpected; seemingly at odds with the horror and gore, and bound up with my childhood costumes.
When I think of those costumes―chosen after months of deliberation: headless man, crayon, pirate, werewolf, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle™―I can feel them around me, smell the rich sweetness of face-paint.
And every year, I would petition my parents for one of the ghoulish rubber masks in the local toy store―kept out of reach by a high shelf and a steep price. No, they said: we’ll make your costume, same as last year.
How I cursed their thrift.
Home-spun make-up was no match for the rubber masks’ fleshy viscera. Everyone remembers how childish fantasy was given strength by superior equipment and infrastructure―how the metal toy guy trumped the plastic every time, how much better a real microphone than a hairbrush.
My parents kept up their annual painting of my indignant person: yellow for my crayon, green for my turtle, blue for my Smurf. I ground my teeth and bore it, and thought longingly of the rubber masks on the high shelf.
Then, one year, I got one. I was thrilled. A real mask, one of the fancy ones. I was thrilled.
Until I wasn’t. The mask was sweaty and sharp-edged, breath-wet around the face, with misaligned eye-holes that hid the best sweets in neighbours’ cauldrons and the edges of kerbs. As I picked myself up from the ground for the umpteenth time, I felt foolish and guilty.
I’ve never forgotten it. And it turns out that what I remember most powerfully about childhood’s Hallowe’en is not the cold or the sweets, but the love at its heart.
I remember the time and love my parents put into making my costumes. I remember them helping me dress, painting my face, delighting in my appearance. I remember moving through the street in a crocodile of neighbourhood kids, then ducking for apples in Aunt Doris’ house―a tin-tasting fork gripped in my teeth―and the cheer that filled the little kitchen when the tines snikked into fruity flesh.
And I remember the best costume my dad made: the headless man. A cardboard frame built around my head carrying his old trench-coat and making me six feet tall. It was comfortable and convincing, spacious and warm. And the best part was sewn neatly under the trench-coat’s arm: the
stuffed head of a ghoulish, rubber mask, a shop-bought mistake reclaimed by the love that made Hallowe’en so special.
Riverkeep by Martin Stewart is published by Penguin Books
The Danék is a wild, treacherous river, and the Fobisher family has tended it for generations—clearing it of ice and weed, making sure boats can get through, and fishing corpses from its bleak depths. Wulliam’s father, the current Riverkeep, is proud of this work. Wull dreads it. And in one week, when he comes of age, he will have to take over.
Then the unthinkable happens. While recovering a drowned man, Wull’s father is pulled under—and when he emerges, he is no longer himself. A dark spirit possesses him, devouring him from the inside. In an instant, Wull is Riverkeep. And he must care for his father, too.
When he hears that a cure for his father lurks in the belly of a great sea-dwelling beast known as the mormorach, he embarks on an epic journey down the river that his family has so long protected—but never explored. Along the way, he faces death in any number of ways, meets people and creatures touched by magic and madness and alchemy, and finds courage he never knew he possessed.
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