I was about to leave the Farmers Market and lug my bags of apples, green beans and cider doughnuts back to my car on North Main Street when I spied a familiar figure.
Lounging on a Public Square bench, staring off into space, was my old buddy, the Boogeyman.
Boog, I called, heading over toward him. How's it going?
Hey, Tom, he said, waving me over.
Setting my plastic bags on the ground, I stalled for time. I liked the old guy, but this promised to be an awkward situation. The Boogeyman, once the terror of ill-behaved children worldwide, had little to do in these modern enlightened times.
Tried the halushki yet? he asked, nodding his head toward a nearby stand. It's fantastic.
Never miss it, I said, even though today I'd had the pulled pork.
Got a new job, he said. I'm working at a party shop.
You wouldn't believe the number of mummy costumes and plastic rats we've been moving, he said.
I've always enjoyed Halloween, I replied. Guess you're pretty busy there these days.
Yeah, he sighed, and I sensed something was coming. Everybody's out to scare everybody. Hah! Scare, they don't know the meaning of the word.
I sensed his frustration. With parents in recent years preferring to reason with their kids instead of frightening the bejabbers out of them with ‘The Boogeyman will get you if you tease Susie, there was little call for his services.
I know, Boog, I said. I grew up on you, thanks to my grandmother. She knew after you disrespected the teacher or the priest a story about horned imps clawing at your window at night would get the job done.
She was a straight-up lady, he smiled. Now they're nearly all gone. All those people who called on me when the kids threatened to go off the rails are just … just memories.
Times change, Boog, I said.
Hey, remember that night you were coming home after that wolfman movie you stayed to see twice and you started thinking there was something up in the trees?
The rustling of the leaves, the noise, it all seemed so real, I said. When I ran through our front door my mom asked what was chasing me.
I had your number, he laughed. Didn't stay out again after dark, did you?
You're the man, Boog, I said.
You know how they deal with kids today? They make them go to their rooms for about an hour. If they're real little they make them sit silent for three minutes. It's called a ‘time-out'. I'm not saying that's a bad idea, but it's certainly low-impact compared to some unspeakable creature slithering through the trees at night
So what's next? I asked.
The Boogeyman shrugged. Hey, he said. You better get going. You're working tonight. Put a nice scary story in the paper for me.
I had gone only a few steps when, so help me, the Public Square trees started rustling, even though there wasn't a breeze to be had. I stopped. What's going on? I thought.
Then I looked back at the Boogeyman. He had a huge grin on his face.
Don't lie, he said. You didn't get the halushki; you got the pulled pork. Be good.
When I reached North Main I sneaked one more look back. Boog was gone. A woman was sitting on the bench, eating ice cream.
I'll try, Boog, I thought. I'll try.
Tom Mooney is a Times Leader columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.