The Costume Parade
(This is an older story of mine. I wrote this as I was playing around with ideas for Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions.)
Little Vlad knew he had been a disappointment to his father at last year’s parade. Most kids loved all those scary costumes, but to Little Vlad it had been torture. The costumes looked so real, so frightening. He would never forget the feeling of shame after hearing his father cover for him as they hurried away from the festivities.
“Little Vlad’s just upset I didn’t get him a costume,” his father said. But that was a lie, and they both knew it.
This year was going to be different. No matter how frightening the parade got; Little Vlad was going to be brave. He took a deep breath as they pushed through the crowd to find a good watching spot.
Just remember what Mummy said: The marchers aren’t real. It’s only a parade.
They found an open space next to Wolfman and his son, Howlie. Howlie was perched on Wolfman’s shoulders, his little fingers wound tightly into his father’s furry face.
“Hi, Little Vlad,” Howlie said. “Hi, Mr. Dracula.”
“Hello,” Little Vlad’s father answered. “That is a truly frightening costume, Howlie. Well done.”
Howlie had come dressed as a cherub. He wore fake wings and held a tiny harp. When he pulled the mask down, his furry face was covered with an adorable one of child-like innocence. It was hideous.
Little Vlad looked away, toward some un-costumed monsters in the crowd. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was dripping with slime in that reassuring way he had. He gave Little Vlad a thumbs up. Little Vlad smiled and waved back.
“Want to sit on my shoulders?” Little Vlad’s father asked.
Little Vlad shook his head. And have his fear on display for all to see? No, thank you. Better to be low to the ground. He wasn’t going to hide behind his father’s legs, but he felt safe knowing he had that option.
“Here they come,” his father said, and little Vlad’s heart started to race.
Leading off the parade was the mayor, Frankenstein, dressed as a priest. He wore a mask that looked entirely human and he threw cloves of garlic at the crowd. Everyone screamed and laughed.
“It’s not really garlic,” Little Vlad’s father said, unclenching Little Vlad’s hands from his leg. “It’s blood sausage, wrapped in pigs’ skin.” He snatched one from the air. “They’re delightful.”
Vlad didn’t want to touch the fake garlic, but his father took a bite first and handed it to him.
“Look, Vladdie, Wanda is dressed like Joan of Arc. See her armor? Her swords? Oh, clever! See the burn marks on the bottom of her robe?”
Little Vlad barely recognized Wanda the Witch. She had tucked her long hair into a short wig. “What happened to her?”
“Saint Joan was burned at the stake.”
Oh, that was all right, then. Little Vlad felt a bit better.
“She became a Patron Saint of France, for being a martyr. It’s said she had a divine calling.”
Little Vlad gulped. That was scary. Really scary. “Did she?”
His father shrugged. “I’ve heard an image of Joan can burn a monster to ashes.”
Little Vlad’s eyes went wide and he silently wished that Saint Joan would walk faster. Faster!
A larger group followed Joan. Most of the monsters wore monk habits and had fake halos over their heads. Some sprinkled “holy water” at the crowd. They tried to walk upright, with slow, graceful steps. It was hard for most of them. The walking upright part. Especially for the hunchbacks.
“What’s that horrible smell?” Little Vlad asked.
“The Odour of Sanctity,” his father said. “All saints smell like that when they die.”
“Ew, gross,” Little Vlad said. “It smells like flowers.”
“You’re right. It’s disgusting,” his father said. “They’ve really outdone themselves this year. The attention to detail! Best All Saints’ Day Parade I’ve seen!”
The next marcher thrust a giant crucifix at the crowd; everyone laughed and screamed. Vlad’s father put an arm around his son. “No need to be ashamed. That used to scare me, too.”
“Oh, I like that one,” Little Vlad said. He pointed to a monster in a costume that looked decapitated. He carried a haloed head in one hand, a book in the other. “Who is he?”
“That’s Saint Paul. He was beheaded for his beliefs,” his father said. “I rather like him. Patron Saint of poisonous snakes.”
“That’s good, right?” Little Vlad asked. He really wanted to like one of these costumes.
His father shrugged. “He’s also the Patron Saint of writers.”
“Oh, yuck,” Little Vlad said. “I don’t like him.”
“Good lad,” his father pointed to the next in line. “That’s the Yeti family, and look at their costumes!”
Little Yeti was dressed in a robe, his monster face on full display.
“Most kids like that costume,” his father explained. “It’s so easy. That’s Saint Drogo, the Patron Saint of ugly people. Plus, it’s said he could bi-locate, which is fun.”
“Be in two places at once.”
“That sounds like a monster power,” Little Vlad said.
“Indeed, it would come in handy. If only for alibis.”
“Who are Mr. and Mrs. Yeti?” Little Vlad asked.
Mr. Yeti had a swarm of birds flying around him, all attached by nearly invisible wires. Mrs. Yeti was bound up in a straight jacket, which looked pretty good to Little Vlad, until he looked at her face and winced. She wore the mask of a beautiful woman.
“They went tame this year, probably didn’t want to scare Little Yeti. Mr. Yeti is Saint Francis of Asisi, the patron saint of animals. Kind of looks like that Hitchcock movie, doesn’t it?”
“The Birds,” Little Vlad said. “Mommy lets me watch that movie when I can’t sleep.”
“And Mrs. Yeti is Saint Dymphna – the Patron Saint of the mentally ill.”
“She cured them.”
Disappointed, Little Vlad said, “Oh.”
The last of the marchers passed by. Little Vlad was so relieved that they were gone, he felt like biting something.
“Let’s go to the after-party,” his father said. “I’ll buy you a villager.”