I needed a costume for Halloween. Sure, I am 45 years old with teenage daughters and another daughter, just 9 years old, terrified of my boorish behavior without costumes, so certainly I would never embarrass anybody by wearing fake blood - or real blood - on my face.
No makeup shall ever sully this beautiful face - that's for insecure old geezers who, even without makeup, look like warthogs.
No self-respecting grown man wears a full-fledged costume anyway. That's for 20-somethings who drive cars fueled by used cooking oil or save mice or drink smart water, not guys who gamble and drink and cuss and those are their best qualities, because the bad ones are too rude to mention.
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"No, your nose is too big," said the lady at the Spirit Halloween store in Rock Hill. "It would stick out like an awning from a house."
"Go as a bum," said the wife. "You can just act natural like any other day. Your clothes never match anyway, and your shoes have holes in them. I know hoboes with better style."
From the deepest reaches of Halloween came the answer. It came from the only place such ideas come from: the mother-in-law.
"Go as the devil," she said. Her sneer was so clear and strong it had sound. "Just be yourself - rotten."
So at the Spirit Halloween store, I was given a red cape, devil horns and a pitchfork, and sent to wave at rush-hour traffic at one of the city's busiest intersections, Dave Lyle Boulevard at Manchester Village shopping center. Alongside me stood Mr. Potato Head.
I waved my pitchfork and yelled out, "Happy Halloween!" for about five minutes to each car.
"What's so nice about it?" yelled one guy. "You dork. You look like a clown."
The weather, nice, became frigid as hundreds of people rolled up windows and locked doors. Adults told kids to duck.
"Maybe it's because you are kinda loud," Mr. Potato Head told me. "They can hear you - in Florida."
Mr. Potato Head is a veteran waver, a paid sign-holder for the store whose real name is Jamie Hines. He is 38 years old, and to make a dollar in this rotten economy, he took a job holding the sign to lure in customers.
He was a train with a spotlight on it, waving his sign.
I was a train wreck.
"Hey, that guy waved at me," I said to Mr. Potato Head after about 15 minutes.
"One finger is not a wave," Mr. Potato Head told me. "Especially that finger."
Finally, the tide started to turn. Old ladies waved. They clearly were half-blind. Old men waved - they were more than half-blind. Teenagers honked and yelled, "Get a job!"
At the stoplight, here pulls up an off-duty Rock Hill firefighter named Chris Channell. In the cab of the pickup truck is son Carson and daughter Brooklyn. Brooklyn is 9 years old and battling ovarian cancer. She is the toughest, sweetest, most beautiful 9-year-old in the world without a single hair on her head because of chemotherapy.
Her father shook his head and said to himself: "Thank God the fire department doesn't hire guys like that."
Brooklyn waved and smiled.
"Thank you, Brooklyn!" I yelled. "Am I like the devil?"
"No way," Brooklyn said. "Too short."
I take any good cheer I can get. The cars and trucks streamed by. I pointed my pitchfork at a lady, and she grabbed her cell phone - clearly to call the cops.
"Take it easy," said Mr. Potato head. "Don't scare people. Relax."
I tried to relax. But the devil, even a fake, phony, poor excuse for a devil, should at least be able to get a laugh from somebody.
Finally, the cavalry came in the form of a pair of wonderful, nice, beautiful and brilliant ladies. I say that because Zanna Ratliff, 20, and Brittany Good, 21, recognized me from the front page of the newspaper every day, and had the graciousness not to throw eggs at me.
"You are no devil," said Brittany.
Zanna laughed. I had made her day. A guy dressed up as the devil standing on the corner.
"Great costume," she said. "You little devil."
After about 45 minutes, I was done. Mr. Potato Head did not complain that I was leaving him to his job, alone.
He did not ask if I was coming back, either.
"The devil - nobody likes the devil," Mr. Potato Head said. "Even for Halloween."