The Sweater: A Halloween Ghost Story

This is a new version of an old story.  Hope you like it. Happy Halloween from The Wit Continuum.

The Sweater

       I was driving along one rainy night, Halloween Eve.  It was starting to get dark, the leaves blowing in the October winded rain stuck to my windshield.  I extricated myself from the comfortable warmth of my car at a stop sign to remove a very large leaf from the wiper when I noticed a boy walking ahead, being battered by the rain.  I was sure it was the boy who lived next door to me, a bit far from home.  I drove up to the curb next to him and lowered the passenger window, calling out to the boy–only I’d forgotten his name.  “Son, would you like a ride?  You live near my house I believe.”  The boy approached, pale in the darkening day as I unlock the door.  He got in, soaked as he was.  I hadn’t thought of that on the leather seats, but the boy needed this ride more than anything.  He was shaking profusely, and he barely could mutter an audible “thanks” through his chattering teeth.     

“You poor thing.  You’re completely soaked.  Here, throw this sweater on.  I’ll boost the heat.”  I reached back and gave him my large North Face red sweatshirt.  I call it a sweater, old fashioned as I am, even though it is nothing but.  The boy took it and disappeared beneath the huge red fleece material; then peered out at me from under the hood.  He smiled faintly.  His eyes were dark circled, lips purple-black.  His teeth still chattered.  I realized then that he was not at all the boy I knew from next door, but a complete stranger.  He must, no doubt, have been desperate with cold to get in my car.  Aren’t kids still taught not to talk to strangers?  Never to get in a stranger’s car?  Never the less, here was the boy.  And, of course, he was safe with me.

          As we drove on I asked him where he lived and he told me it was Arthur Street, a few blocks away.  I asked his name and he told me it was Timmy.  I put out my hand and introduced myself as Mr. Roberts.  Timmy’s pale hand disappeared in my palm.  I felt I was grasping a popcycle.  We rode on silently.  I could see the boy’s shivers subsiding.  On Arthur Street he pointed out his house to me, a red brick colonial, not too big, white shutters. The porch light was on.  I pulled into the drive and Timmy started to take off the red North Face.  “No son,” I said.  “Wear it in so you stay warm.  I”ll pick it up tomorrow at this time, okay?”  “Sure,” he said, then, “erh…thanks for the ride, Mr. Roberts.”  I nodded a you’re welcome as he got out.  At the door, under the porch lamp he turned back to me and waved.  I took that as my signal that he was fine so I left.

         The next day was Halloween.  I hadn’t thought much about Timmy or my sweater until it was time for me to leave work.  Many kids were walking along in the early evening dressed in their finest Halloween get-ups.  Along with ghosts and witches and skeletons, I noticed a Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, a pumpkin, a set of dice, and a slice of bread, all with their parents in tow.  On Arthur Street I found Timmy’s house without trouble.  A woman stood at the door giving out treats to some children.  I didn’t catch Timmy’s last name the night before, and feeling a bit foolish I approached the woman.  She looked doubtfully at me, so I smiled.  I introduced my self and asked if she was Timmy’s mother.   “What’s this about?” she said.  She looked frightened and began to back into the door.  I quickly explained how I’d given Timmy a ride the night before in the pouring rain, sure that he had told her, and had lent him my red sweater.  I said that I was simply here to pick it up.  She stood quite still, staring at me, her eyes watery with tears.

           “I’m sorry Mr. Roberts,” she said.  “My son Timmy is dead.”

Of course I was taken aback, confused, and quite frightened by her words.  I did not press Timmy’s mother. That would have been heartless.  But I left with so many questions spinning in my head.  Who had I given a ride to?  Where was this little boy?  And was he still wearing my sweater?  I investigated and I found Timmy’s last name was Van Pelt (thanks to the Internet) and that he had indeed died the summer before.  He had drowned. That night I dreamed of Timmy walking and talking with me, still pale but alive.  Sometimes I was wearing the red sweater.

         The next day to ease my haunted mind, I visited the local cemetery.  As I walked along the yellow leaves that surrounded me on the path I checked the tombstones and markers, sure in some strange supernatural way that I’d find Timmy’s resting place.  But it was not a tombstone I’d noticed first. In the distance, by the cemetery wall, was a shadow of color, contrasting with the golden leaves.  I rushed to the spot, and there, my breath caught in my chest.  Below me a small marker read Timothy Van Pelt, July18, 1997–July 5, 2007.   And lying on the yellow leaves over Timmy’s grave was my red North Face sweater.






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