The leafs on the trees had turned from green to orange and brown. The last of the soybeans and cotton was being harvest and the air was starting to become cooler. Pumpkins where starting to appear in the produce department of Sunflower, and sweaters, long skirts and leggings where starting to replace tank tops, sundresses and bikini bottoms.
Autumn was upon us. And with its coming, so too was Halloween. All around town, rumors where starting to crop up about ghost stories and ghostly sightings. Benton, like any small town located in deep south had its fair share of ghost stories and urban legends. From a screaming ghost that jumped from the towns water tower at the stroke of midnight. To a phantom civil war ironclad, that was often spotted sailing down the muddy waters of the Big Black on moonless nights. And even reports of a young women, dressed in all red strolling down the long hallways of “Cutters Hall.”
Yes, Benton is filled with ghost stories. But this story is not about a ghost story. This story is about a certain event that took place one Halloween night in the year two thousand and eighteen.
School had been in session now for some weeks. Everybody was pretty much wedded to there ebb and flow of classes. And with Halloween coming up, everybody was talking about who would be throwing parties and who would be stuck at home giving out candy. Somewhere even forming groups to go out and do a little legend tripping. Others where focusing on the yearly safe Halloween celebration held at Bran Park, a sixteen acre section of land, located a few blocks from main street.
Safe Halloween was something like a big deal, All the main downtown Merchants would have there own booth and would of course be giving out candy and sweets to the children. And there would be fun and games too of course. One of the main attractions was stated to be a vintage dunking stool! Or so said the flyer pinned in the board in the hallway.
But back to the story. I was standing in front of the door of Mrs. Fox’s office. She was the one putting on the whole dunking stool attraction. We’ll she was one of the three teachers you could come too to sigh up for the event. I felt a little better coming to, because of all my teachers she seemed to be coolest. I took her for Home Economics, and she had won me over one day when she spotted me reading a old cosplay manual, vintage two thousand and four. Instead of scolding me for reading instead of doing my lesson she offered some pointers. Seems that manual was way out of date, having been written in the stone age. She did let me off with a warning though.
Another thing that sounds out, was the way she allowed me to work on a cosplay.. See are first project was making a skirt or something. But I wanted to make a simple sailor fuku cause I think there cute and lets face it, the boys love them. She oddly enough agreed and even allowed me to stay late a few times to finish the project.. I was reward with a solid ‘A+’ for my efforts. Plus by now boyfriend thought it was cute, so double bonuses.
All that came to mind as I brought my hand down upon the door and knocked. Thirty beats of the heart passed before the door open and there in the doorway dressed in a cream colored button down blouse, a black pencil skirt, white stocking and black heel shoes stood Mrs. Fox. A flaming, red hair reached down to her shoulders and her green eyes seemed to twinkle.
“Oh, Hello Ms. Brewer.” She said leaning into the frame of the door, she leveled those eyes at me and folded her arms under her breast. “What can I do for you today?” She said as a small smile formed on the bow of her lips.
Taking a deep breach, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. Slowly I unfolded the paper and placed it into her hands. The slip of paper was the flyer the Safe Halloween Council members had been passing out. I had circled with a bright red marker the area where volunteers where needed to take turns being dunked on the ducking stool. Once the paper was in her hand, she smiled and chuckled a little.
“So you want to be dunked?” She asked, “Is that it?”
“Yes ma’am.” I said taking a deep breath as I looked down.
She chuckled again. “Why don’t step inside my office, so you and I can have a little chat.” She said as she stepped aside and motioned for me to enter into her private world. I always thought that going into somebody’s office was like going into their room.
So bawling my head, I entered into small square space. In front of there could be seen a small wooden chair, a desk and behind the desk another chair, one of those rolling chairs. Tucked into the corner was a another desk with a PC sitting on it. On the walls behind the desk, I could see what I thought was a diploma for finishing high school, followed by a degree. Both were framed.
Beside the framed diplomas where several high quality pieces of anime inspired artwork, all drawn in a vintage style and framed as well. And finally draped along the walls was the Irish tricolor.
“So.” She said sitting down upon the surface of the desk. “You want to get dunked for charity is that correct? And you want to do this at your own free will, nobody twisting you arm? No lost a bet, no late night game of truth or dare?” She said as she folded her arms again at peered at me.
“Yes ma’am.” I said taking a deep breath. I can’t believe it, I’m really going through with this.
“Okay.” She said smiling once more. “I’ll add you to the list. With you taking the last open spot, I’ll say where booked full, we have two boys and two girls. So where balanced right now.” She paused. “So given any thought on.. What your going as? Since you’ve been reading a lot of those cosplay manual’s and spending most of your break in the Library reading manga. I take it your going to be a anime character of some kind?”
I folded my arms across my chest and took a deep breath. It was a valid question.. One I felt like I had to give a valid answer too. Halloween was as my sister once said. ‘The only time a good girl can dress like a total slut and get away with it. Go big or go broke Maddie’ Blunt advice from a city girl gone country.
“I was thinking about one of the Sailor Senshi.. I watched a lot of Sailor Moon while I was in hospital.” I had developed two loves while spending six weeks in rehab in Hospital, was anime, the second was reading.
“That would be nice.” She said smiling toward me. “Let's see where going to have a Zombie, a Vampire and a Demon nurse.. What character were you thinking about cosplaying as?”
“I don’t know.. I was thinking about Sailor Mercury. Cause she like me, a bookworm.. Kind of dull and boring and bland. Plus blue is my favorite color.” I said blushing as I played with my skirt.
She raised a eyebrow and peered toward me for a few minutes. And finally she spoke with a careful measured tone of voice.
“Cosplaying is a hard game to break into. Back in the late nineties and early two thousands, you saw a lot of Sailor Moon cosplayers. I think you want to become a cosplayers.. A series one.. If so, I expect when you show up for this event. You will have the best Sailor Mercury Costume you can make. Or else..” She said her voice trailing.
“..” I blinked and she kept going on.
“Or else I’m afraid I’ll have to crack down on you. So far, I’ve let you slide with your reading those Cosplay manuals in my class. When instead you should be taking notes or maybe doing your free time to do some catch-up on the homework you have missed. You have two weeks young lady, fourteen days.. You also have a teacher willing to help you, and a room full of government brought supplies.” She paused and then said. “Do you understand me Ms. Brewer?”
I opened my mouth to say something but the sharp ringing of the school bell cut me off. I blinked and surely I was blushing as I tried to get my tongue to work. Another shrill ring of the bell filled my ears.
“That was the warning bell, I suggest you get to class. I’ll hate to have my favorite student get another tardy. If remember correctly, you have already landed in Saturday detention for being tardy.” She said showing me to the door.
And with that are meeting ended. And there this episode ends.
The park was filled with costume clad people milling about. Little girls dressed as princesses from some Disney movie. Boys being some super hero from the latest Marvel movie. Adding to the melting pot was a few random anime characters. The air was also cool and crisp and the leafs on the trees had turned from green to orange and red. Orange, buck tooth smiling Jack O’ Lanterns sat in groups of three or four.
Booth’s of all kind’s littered the cobblestone paved walkway that snaked through the park. These booth’s here staffed my owners of the various shops that formed the bulk of downtown Benton. There was ‘Potter’s Mercantile’ was among those. Mr. and Mrs. Potter where all dressed in turn of the century clothing.
Beside ‘Potter Mercantile’ there was the local feed store, the bakery of course and even the local branch of ‘Bank of Yazoo’ the only bank that operated in town. Fun fact I have a account with them. But back to the story.
As I made my way down the walkway, soaking in as I normally do the sights and the smells that make this little gatherings special, you know the smell of frying doughboys or funnel cakes. The local chapter of the “The most Respected rite of the Brotherhood of the Earth Cutters ” where deep frying Mississippi raised catfish, each plate was served with a larger than life serving of home cut French fries, hush puppies, coleslaw and deep fried snickers bars.
All in all.. It was a average gathering. Till through the chilly, autumn air came a yell and a big splash. Then I was reminded why I was here.. And a deep blush colored my cheeks as I turned around to face the source of the noise and then, I felt a hand touch my shoulder.
Quickly I turned around and there facing me was Mrs. Fox. She was dressed in a form fitting midnight black dress. Black cobweb print stocking and fingerless gloves accented her outfit with shiny black heels, a large witch’s hat completed the outfit.
“There my favorite student.” She Mrs. Fox said to me with a broad smile. “I’ve been looking all over for you. I was getting kind of worried. Thinking you might have chickened out at the last second.”
“Oh..” I said taking a deep breath as I looked peered toward her. “No ma’am. I just biked here, my sisters come down with a bad chest cold. So she at home nursing some chicken soup and watching back to back episodes of ‘Ghost Adventures’.”
Poor darling. I hope she starts to feel better, would you need a ride back? I mean it might be late when this thing ends. And the local weather radio said a cold front’s suppose to move in sometimes this evening.. So I’ll hate for you to bike home with soaking wet clothing.” She said folding her arms under her breast and giving me something of a motherly look.
“Hmm.. What about my bike?” I said looking over to a nearby bike rack that held a dozen or so bikes all chained and locked up.
“No problem, I attach it to the bike rack on top of my car.” She said smiling as she held out her hand. “Come on your going to be next.”
I blinked and blinked again as I reached over took her hand and was then guided through the crowd. And in a matter of seconds we were standing at the bank of a huge, oval shape concrete pound. The water was deep and clear. A dozen or so springs feed the pool, keeping a steady supply of fresh, clear and cold water being feed into it. The source of the springs and the water in the pond was countless artesian springs that lay hidden in the hills and hollows that surrounded the town. Those springs bubbled up from the ground naturally.
A large crowd was starting to form around the pool. Four uniformed men wearing brown-gray coats and trousers stood guarding a girl around my age. Her long blonde hair was braid back in the classic and always stylish French braid. She wore a loose gown of pink and white. White slippers completed the outfit. A look of great concern shadowed her face.
“Cindy changed her mind at the last minute. It seems that Fr. Brown caught wind of Cindy wanting to be a ‘Demon Nurse’. And sat down with her father and explained that Cindy, being the daughter of a ‘Senior Warden’ should lead by example and strongly suggested that she go as something else.” Mrs. Fox said with a sly smile.
“So she going as a cookie cutter princess.” I stated.
“Ouch.” Mrs. Fox said as she tried not to giggle.
“What? She thinks she queen of the halls anyway. Strolling up and down the hallway with her notebook in her hand, taking notes of everybody and giving out warning like some hotdog vender at the state fair.” I stated.
“Meow. Somebody feeling a little catty this evening.” Mrs. Fox said as she shot me a warning glare.
I rolled my eyes and turned my attention toward Cindy. The two of the four men where holding onto her arm and the other two where getting everything set up. The dunking stood was a wooden chair, that at this point was already quite wet. Blushing Cindy was gently guided into the seat and as soon as she was seated, a large, broad leather strap was placed across her waist Once those where in place, her feet where strapped to the legs of the chair and so was her wrist.
Deep blush colored my face, as I watched her being lifted into the air. Soon she was floating a good seven feet in the air. From side to side she was moved around, letting all those gathering around the pond to get a good look at the soon to be drenched princess. Her fingers dug into the wooden arms of the chair. She bit down upon her lip.
Then she dropped like a stone! A long girlish scream followed by the sound of splashing water and for fifteen solid seconds they held the girl under the water before bringing her back up. Water dripped from the helm of her dress down the legs of the chair and off the arms.
“That freaking cold!” She shouted again as she peered toward the crowd. A chorus of chuckles and laughs filled the air as she was dropped again into the inky black water. Ripples traveled on the surface as small waves lapped the bank. Fifteen more seconds and once more she was lifted out of the water.
You are all going to burn!” She shouted as she spat a stream of cold, water. Tiny bits of duck weed could be seen in her hair. Her eyes seem to burn like hot pieces of coal in the embers of hell. She opened her mouth to speak again and was dipped again! For half a minute this time she was held under the water before being brought to the surface. A deep pout crossed her look as she spat out a stream of water and glared at everybody. A dozen or so camera’s flashed.
“Everybody, give Miss. Cindy Peterman a warm around of applause for being such a good sport!” Mrs. Fox said as she started to clap. Others started to clap. Cindy just pouted as she was brought over and eased down. The same four men advanced and quickly removed the straps that held her in place. Once freed she stood up and flipped her hair and stuck her nose in the air.
“Wow, what a bitch.” I said taking a deep breath. No sooner had the last word left my mouth than did I feel a sharp sting come across my bottom. I yelped and turned around and caught sight of Mrs. Fox giving me a glare that could melt ice.
“If I was not so inclined to agree with you. I would pull you across my knee right now, at least wash your mouth out. Madeline Diana Brewer, I don’t want to hear a word like that pass through your teeth again. Do you understand me young lady? Otherwise I will be calling your sister and tomorrow, I will be seeing you detention. Do I make myself clear.”
“Yes..” I said as I watched Cindy get wrapped up in a nice warm housecoat and given a cup of hot chocolate. She was then guided over to wooden table and sat down. A big steaming bowl of something set in front of her and slowly she started to eat.
“All those who get dunked, also get something warm to eat. We hope this will keep down the number of colds. And to keep you little angels from going to the E.R with the flu.” Then she added. “Okay Ms. Brewer, it's your turn.”
I took a deep breath. There was no escaping my fate now.
I forced myself to take a deep breath as I moved toward the edge of the pond. Cindy who was sitting on a nearby log, looked up from her bowl of beef stood and shot me a look that could kill. I tried not to chuckle, but the girl looked more like a drowned rat than a fairy tale princess.
“I’ll get you one day Brewer.” She said as she pulled her robe a bit tighter around her. The air was starting to become a bit more chilly and the smell of burning oak and cedar logs was starting to perfume the air. The laughter of children was starting to dye down now. All their attention was starting to shift away from the venders, attractions and visiting. All eyes where now starting to focus in one the main event. The charity dunking.
“Okay everybody!” Bellowed Mrs. Fox as she peered toward the gathering crowds. “If I might have your attention. Are next volunteer is.. Straight from the streets of Tokyo herself everybody favorite Sailor Senshi is. Put your hands together for… Sailor Mercury!”
An odd silence fell over the crowd. And a deep blush colored my cheeks as I stepped into the circle of people. Cheeks still blushing, I offered them a little bow before peering toward the four uniformed men. They returning my bow with a small smile With all eyes fixed on me, I offered my shoulder to the two men doing the dunking.
The men smiled and then gently took me by the shoulder and started to guide me toward the chair. I could feel the eyes fixed upon me. And a mummer passed through the crowd. From the corner of the crowd, sitting upon a bench, nursing a bowl of hot beef stew was Cindy, a towel was draped around her shoulders and she was giving the stink eye to all those who dared look in her direction.
As I passed by her, I stuck my tongue out and she returned by giving me the middle finger. A gentle tap on my shoulder reminded me why I was here. Blushing and becoming shy, I was guided over to the wooden chair. Once I was standing by the chair, I felt a firm hand upon my shoulder, the hand then pushed me down into the chair. Once seated the leather straps started to come out and in a blink of a eye I was tightly secured. I forced a laugh as I looked around and through the crowd I saw Mrs. Fox standing there smiling at me.
“Okay it seems she all secure. Now Sailor Mercury, I think you should know that six people donated twenty five dollars each to get dunked. That means your into the pond six times. How does that make you feel?” She said walking up to me and placing a microphone to my mouth.
I blushed at being put on the spot so easy. Taking a deep breath I peered into the microphone, and after clearing my throat I spoke out in a strong clear voice.
“I would like thank all the people who donated.. Together we're raising a lot of money for charity.” I said taking a deep breath and smiling a big old smile. The crowd around me cheered and clapped and whooped and yelled and out of the corner of my eye.
“Okay folks.” Mrs. Fox said taking a deep breath as she peered toward the crowd. “Okay everybody, lets let her have it! One the count of three!” She bellowed.
I blushed as I felt the chair being lifted up in the air and moved toward the pond. The silvery moon shined off the water. I felt my heart jump into my throat as I peered toward the crowd. Princesses, superheroes and ghouls and vampires alike had turned out to see me get dunked. I then looked down and noticed I was still wearing my boots. “Hold on!” I called out and everybody stopped and just peered at me.
“Can I please remove my boots?” I said taking a deep breath as I looked down at my skirt.
A grumbling passed over the crowd as they lowered me down again. Instead of unbuckling me, one of the female staff members came over and removed my boots and tenderly placed them in a bag and set them to the side. She then smiled and removed my socks too and set them to the side too.
“I think we need to punish are volunteer for delaying her dunking.” She said as she took a deep breath and stood up and brushed off her pants. “How about we give her another dunking!”
Before I could protest. I felt myself being raised back up in the air and twirled toward the pond. Once more my heart seemed to jump into my throat as I peered down at the crowd and at the wavy surface of the water. I took a deep breath and wrapped my fingers around the wooden arm rest and closed my eyes. And then it happen, I felt myself drop.
A loud splash filled the air as I felt myself going under the water. The sudden onrush of cold water took my breath away. For several seconds they held me under till at last I was forced to open my mouth and then I felt the seat being risen up. Closing my eyes, I broke the surface of the pond, causing water to splash onto the muddy banks from the force of the waves generated by me breaking the surface.
I spat out a long stream of brown water and took a deep breath before I felt the seat once more give way, sending me down into the deep water. The water was colder this time and I swear they held me under a few seconds longer than the last time they did it. Butt once again I found myself being lifted up. Once more I forced myself to spit out a stream of water and take a deep breath. My hair hung over my eyes and water in long streams dripped from my blouse and skirt and off the tip of my toes.
Slowly a little smile crossed my face as I felt myself drop again into the water. This time they went all the way down and I felt my feet touch the sandy bottom of the pond. And once more I was lifted up. But this time I little chance to recover before being dunked again only halfway through and it was fast, it happen in a blink of a eye and then I was lifted up and spun around.
“Looking like a drowned rat there Brewer!” Shouted Cindy from her bench as she peered toward me. Across the bench, I noticed Matthew peering up at me. He smiled and offered me a little smile and a wave. I tried to wave back but I was dunked again!
“Doing good Maddy!” I heard voice call out as I was lifted again. My chest was starting to rise and fall with each breath I took. The water was freezing cold and the wind was starting to blow now. Smiling I looked down, my outfit was soaking wet and the chilly late October wind was blowing around me. I closed my eyes as I felt the chair move downward again and felt the water wash over me once more.
“We love you Maddy!” Another voice cried out. Through the dripping water I noticed Robin and Lily standing in there on the shore. Both where clapping there hands and shouting there support. I offered them a little smile before being dunked again! This time they only got my feet a little wet.. A sigh of relief escaped my lips. It seems they save a gentle one for last. But I spoke too soon as the raised me up again, higher than before this time and brought me down again! A big splash followed.
“Aright! Aright!” Called out Mrs. Fox. “I think she had enough.” She waving her arms. The guards nodded there head and turned me toward the shore. Slowly they eased me down and slowly they removed the straps. Once the straps where removed I was helped up and greeted by a smiling Lily and Robin. Standing behind them was Mrs. Fox a women with stunning red hair and to the side stood Matthew.
“You were so cool!” Said Lily said to me as she rushed up to me. “See, she would be perfect for are little project.” She said grinning softy.
“Totally, she could be are first ‘Petite’. This is going to be so cool, think of it Robin, you and I business partners in the first maid inspired café in Mississippi!” Robin said smiling softy. She then gave me a slide glance.
“And this cutie will be are first student!” Lily chimed in.
“Okay everybody! Let's give the girl some room here. Madeline thank you for being such a good sport. I still have some duties to attend, so go get warm by the fire and enjoy some hot chocolate and some soup.” Mrs. Fox said as she gave me a wink and vanished into the darkness.
“Right, go enjoy yourself!” Lily said smiling. “Don’t want are first student coming down with a bad chest cold.” She said before vanishing too.
“Madeline.. We’ll be getting in touch with you soon. Keep your grades up and keep pushing forward.” She said with a wink. She then vanished too, that left me with only Matthew who walked up to me and wrapped a warm blanket around my shivering shoulders and placed some hot chocolate into my hand, He leaned in and I could smell his old spice body spray.
“Madeline.” Is all said, and that all he needed to say as I wrapped my arms around him and he wrapped his arms around me. We stood there for a good minute squeezing on each other. After a minute of hugging we walked over and sat down by one of the bonfires, and for what seemed like hours we toasted marshmallows, feed each other S’mores and cuddled. We then became a pair.. Or so I think we did. That night we moved beyond talking.. We been talking all summer. Yes that night we started official dating I believe.
So, you know that ‘Cookie Cutter Princess’ princess comment. It came back to bite me right in the bottom. A few days after the event. Little Cindy spotted me running late for class. And being the ‘Girls Freshman Prefect’ she slapped a Saturday detention on me faster than you can blink. So it seems I’m looking at spending next Saturday at school from seven in the morning till around noon. Or something like that. Oh well, such is life.
To be continued in Madeline’s Saturday Detention
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