Ed's Halloween Hallucination ( A Chico and the Man story) by Mariposa
The Comfortable Couch
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Ed Brown stood at the window of his ramshackle apartment-over his equally ramshackle garage business-and shook his head at the torrents of rain pouring down outside. "Even in East L. A. the weather can be horrible for Halloween," he muttered to himself, shivering in his threadbare nightshirt, "I think I will just hunker down in bed and watch the football game from between my toes." He shuffled across the splintered hardwood floor and eased his rickety frame under the covers. On the bedside table was a bottle of his favorite bourbon and a shot glass. Ed reached for them and, looking from one to the other, said with a smile, "You two should help me warm up!" As the game blared from a small black and white TV on a metal stand across the room, he poured one shot after another and, following a heavenward glance and silent toast to his deceased wife Margaret, downed each one in a single gulp.

Meanwhile, sauntering around his colorfully decorated apartment downstairs in the garages former storage room, Chico Rodriguez was putting the finishing touches on his costume for a Halloween party. "Gotta pick up Lisa in twenty minutes," he thought with a glance at the alarm clock on the dresser. "I just know shes gonna be loooooking gooood!" Chuckling as he dashed out the door, he stopped long enough to yell up the stairs, "Hey Ed, Im leavin-gonna be back real late! Dontcha be waitin up!" When he got no answer, Chico just shrugged and hurried through the side door out of the garage.

Ed had nodded off, but woke with a start at the sound of someone coming up the stairs to his room. His eyes bleary from bourbon, the only light issuing from the TV, Ed heard rather than saw as the door creaked open. When he had become accustomed to the dimness, Ed saw a shimmering shade of familiar lavender-blue framed in the doorway. He could have sworn it was the same color as Margarets favorite dress, which had just recently been sold at auction to benefit a neighborhood arts program for poor Chicano children. "Oh no," he thought in a panic, "I hope Margie isnt angry that I let her dress be sold to a transvestite!"

"Noooo, Ed dear," a voice answered his thoughts as the pale, sparkling figure came slowly closer, "I dont mind-Ive watched the young man perform, and I assure you he does the dress justice!" Suddenly completely awake and sober, Ed realized that the person (if one could call it a person) coming toward him was his wife! "Butbut" he began to stammer, pulling the covers up to his chin and cowering against the headboard, "Butyoureyoure" Now the figure raised its head and Ed saw that it was smiling sweetly. "Dead?" she asked. Ed nodded, gasping for air. "Yes, Ed dear," Margaret answered, still smiling, "But you know that on this night the spirits are permitted to walk about among the living." Ed nodded again, unable for once in his life to say anything. Finally he mustered up his courage and asked, "But why now? Why never before in all the years since youve been gone?"

Margaret sat down on the bed and reached out as if to take Eds hand. He felt nothing, but could see that her smile never wavered as she explained, "Its because this All Hallows Eve is very different, dear. Until now, you have managed to take care of things." She paused and looked with distaste at the empty bourbon bottle that lay between them on the bed. "Except for your drinking-but that was one of the reasons I sent you that sweet young man, Chico-and he has almost fulfilled that part of his mission. You have cut down quite I bit, I have noticed."

Ed was even more astounded now. "You sent Chico to me?" Margarets smile became more faint. "Well, I didnt myself, but I did ask God as soon as I saw Him to send someone to look after you. Of course, everything must be in Gods timing" she seemed to sigh, "so although Chico was the perfect person for the job because he had grown up around you and was blessed with the gift of compassion, God didnt want to send him until he had been to Viet Nam." Ed nodded yet again-as a veteran, it made sense to him that even a young man with Chicos friendliness and warmth, who had known the pain of losing his parents, would have needed to experience real suffering in war to truly care for a curmudgeon like himself!

His thoughts were interrupted by Margarets soft voice going on with her story. "Until now you and Chico have been doing a wonderful job of looking out for each other. But what you dont know is that tonight, Chico plans to propose marriage to the young lady he is taking to the party." Ed was stunned-he knew Chico was crazy about Lisa, but he had seen no sign that the relationship was more serious than any of his other "engagements". "What does that have to do with me?" he wondered aloud, "And why were you sent to tell me?" Margaret gazed indulgently upon the man she had loved for so many years in spite of his difficult personality. "I was sent because it is not in Gods plan for Chico to marry this girl. It is His wish that Chico marry our daughter, Sharon." Even more incredulous now, Ed began to stammer once again, "Butbuteven if that is true, how can I do anything about it? If Chico is gonna ask Lisa to marry him tonight, it might be too late already!"

"No, Ed dear," Margaret shook her head, "You just go back to sleep now, and when you wake up, everything will work out." She stood up and floated across the room and out the open door, which creaked shut behind her. Shaking his head also, in utter disbelief, Ed settled back down on his pillow and was soon snoring. The next thing he knew, he was hearing footsteps on the stairs again. They were heavier this time, as if the person making them were larger (and more alive) than Margaret, and perhaps carrying a burden. It was still dark in his room, and the TV was still glowing-though now with the test pattern that came on in the wee hours of the morning. So when the door opened, Ed was even less sure what he was seeing this time than when his wife had visited him. There stood a tall figure that seemed to be dressed all in black, with black hair pulled straight back, deep dark eyes, and a starkly white face. In its arms was what appeared to be a blonde woman, pale and limp, in a flowing white dress that was in danger of falling off.

Terrified, Ed recoiled and cried out, "No, dont come any closer!" The figure kept advancing, however, and Ed could make out what looked like fangs hanging out of its mouth and blood on its chin. Stifling a scream, he turned away and hid under the covers, the bourbon bottle clattering to the floor. He heard what sounded like the vampire laying its victim down in the easy chair, and a moment later felt a hand on his shoulder. Shaking and whimpering, Ed moaned, "No, please, please, dont bite me! Dont suck my blood!" But then he noticed the hand touching him was warm, and something told him that if this were really a vampire, he would have felt cold.

"Hey Ed, man, why would I wanna suck YOUR blood? Judging by that empty bottle--" Chico kicked it out of his way as he sat down on the bed, "--its gotta be about 90 proof!" Enormously relieved, Ed sat up and hugged Chico as they both had a good laugh. Breaking the hug a few moments later, Chico reached into the inside pocket of his tuxedo jacket (he had rented it especially to create his suave Dracula look) and handed a small velvet box to Ed. "Wouldja take care of this for me, man? Lisa had way too much to drink tonight and I gotta take her home. I just brought her up here so that if she woke up, she wouldnt be alone while I stashed this. Watching her get so completely bombed, coming on to every other guy there, made me change my mind about asking her to marry me!"

Ed nodded, understanding far better than Chico could have imagined. When his young partner had retrieved the still-unconscious girl from the reclining chair and left the room, Ed got out of bed and hid the little box in a cabinet in his tiny kitchen. Stumbling to the TV and shutting it off, he returned to his bed. Just before drifting back to sleep, Ed whispered to heaven, "Now, Margie, if you could just tell me how to get Chico and Sharon together" He thought he heard her answer, "All in Gods good time, Ed dear! Christmas is a much better time for an engagement, dont you think?"