Where the Dead Fern Grows

Today’s classic A&J from ten years ago is a scene playing out over much of the country, right down to the lizards. Today is Halloween, my father’s birthday. When I was a boy, our house had two front doors, one to the den, where everyone lived their waking moments, and one to the living room, where no one ventured. On Halloween, trick-or-treaters would be lured straight down the front walk to the lights of the den, ignoring the dark fork in the walk that veered right and led to the other front door. That part was shielded from the street by a tall boxwood hedge. My father would sit behind the hedge in a lawn chair, just out of the light, invisible to the hordes of little extortionists. When they rang the bell and waited, my father would speak softly, in his baritone voice, “Hey.” If any remained, he would give them candy. To his son the budding writer, it was a lesson in the power of understatement. Happy Birthday, you ol’ ghoul! You haunt me every day.

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