Near dismissal at Washington Township High School, the students gleefully prepared for Halloween, only two days away. The Patel’s over on Nancy Lane are celebrating Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. Hari Patel invited his classmates and neighborhood friends over to see the fireworks. Among Hari’s best friends are Mark, Bob, and Luke Nigel, who live on Wilson Road; and Courtney Long and Bianca Russo, who live in Wedgewood. They are typical teenagers, who hang out at the Mall together, play computer games, and always get into mischief.Hari is from India, but he is also fluent in Egyptian Arabic, often teaching his friends and classmates new words to use. His parents have an entire classic collection of Egyptian movies that he watches, and he says things like “Go ahead, make my day!” in Egyptian, which reduces the kids to howling. “Hari, how do you say ’thank you’ in Egyptian Arabic?” Bob asked.“You say Shukran,” Hari answered. “It is pronounced ‘SHOOK-RON’ he stressed.“Okay, shukran, Hari, fireworks are sick.”The last bell rang at school and everyone formed a line to leave. Courtney caught up with Bianca on the way home and asked her to stop over for snacks. Bob went home to gather some things for his Halloween outfit. Mark and Luke went to the Mall.Mr. Nigel has a large lot next to his home on Wilson Road with several garages that he rents to neighbors. Since his back lot is hidden from the street, he was on the phone offering parking spaces to some of them for Mischief Night, when Bob got home.“No, I have no idea, the local farmers have been reporting chicken coop raids for a few weeks now, and I sure hope it’s not a wolf. Yes, fine, Hank, just park your car behind McHill’s garage before dusk. I’m sure the young ones bearing soap won’t find it.” Bob heard his father say, as he tip-toed up to his room. I can’t wait to tell Mark, Luke, and the girls, he thought, we’ve been hording soap slivers for months.“So, Bianca, what are you going to be for Halloween?” Courtney asked, as they husked the dried ears of corn for Mischief Night out on her back porch and dropped the kernels into a paper bag.“An American Idol.” She responded. “Bob is going to be Michael Myers. What about you?”“Mom is making me a Diva outfit, and my little brother wants to be Lightning McQueen.”“What is Diwali, anyway? Hari has invited us all over to watch fireworks tonight and I hope Mrs. Patel doesn’t make us eat anything hot,” Bianca said.“I’m not sure, but Hari told me that his brother, Puru, will tell us all about it. He is home from college with two of his classmates. The Patels celebrate Diwali with candles and lights for days and days.”Mark got home just before dinner. Bob motioned for him to go upstairs.“What?” Mark asked, as they entered their room.“You will never guess!” Bob said excitedly.“OK, you found out that Luke is getting dressed up like a horse’s patootie for Halloween exposing his true alter ego?”“No!” they both laughed.“Dad is letting all of our neighbors park in the back lot on Mischief Night. We’ll have them all in one fell swoop! Isn’t that a kick?”“You’re kidding!” Mark grinned.“Nope, I heard him on the phone.”“Wow!” Mark's face lit up like a Jack-Jack Attack.“Our soap stash is in the attic, inside Grandma Nigel’s hope chest.” Bob said. “We can get it later; I wrapped them up in an old Army blanket.“Are you ready for fireworks?”“Yes, but Mrs. Patel called mom and said that we should eat dinner here and then go there for sweets and fireworks. She said that we would not like the spicy food that she is making.”“Whew!” Mark breathed a sigh of relief. “I was hoping we wouldn’t have to suck on a fire extinguisher. She does make good garlic bread, though.”When they arrived at Hari’s house, Courtney and Bianca were already there. Of course, the girls made sure that Luke didn’t sit anywhere near Bianca. The last time he did that at a Christmas party, he acted like a jerk and kissed her right on the lips, muttering something stupid, and she had to hit him.“Look,” she jumped up from the sofa, “go over there and kiss Sparky, he has mistletoe on his tail, its sticking straight up, see?” She said pointing to the Dalmatian’s butt. Luke has been banned from her immediate vicinity ever since. Luckily, Hari doesn’t have a dog. He has a Persian cat named “Habipti.” He said that “habipti” means something like “dear one” in Egyptian Arabic. Mrs. Patel is more protective of that cat than she is with the baby. The spoiled feline ways sits in the middle of the sofa on a fluffy pillow pampered like an incarnated Egyptian Pharaoh.The fireworks started around 9:00 p.m. The kids ate sweets, Habipti disappeared, then old Mrs. Craig, whom all the kids had nicknamed “Elvira Gulch,” called the police and the fireworks ended abruptly ten minutes later. Courtney and Bianca always hum the music from “The Wizard of Oz” during the scene where Miss Gulch makes off with Toto on her bicycle … “dum de dum de dumdum, dum de dum de dumdum,” they chant that every time they passed by the Craig’s house.“If I wasn’t afraid of getting a lashing…” Bianca whispered to Courtney.“Shhh, calm down,” Courtney said with an evil grin. “We’ll get her on Mischief Night. Maybe I’ll put several of Habipti’s turds in a brown paper bag and we can set it on fire at her doorstep. I sure hope she’s barefooted when we do it.”The police didn’t have a problem with the lit candles and lights out in Hari’s yard, just the fireworks. So, after they left, people hung around for a while and Hari’s brother explained the meaning of Diwali.“Diwali symbolizes the victory of good over evil and commemorates the death of a demon,” he said. “The lights and fireworks symbolize hope for mankind.” Then, he told the kids that his ancestors came from Northern India and that the celebration usually begins at the no moon (new moon) and lasts for about three days.This year, Diwali coincides with Halloween, so everyone has reason to be excited and happy. Of course, Hari is not permitted to dress like a ghoul for Halloween, but the children promised to share some of their trick or treat candy with him.They all thanked the Patel’s for inviting them, and left before curfew.As they walked down Nancy Lane, the kids made plans for Mischief Night. Courtney handed Bob the corn kernels.“No way!” Courtney shouted, as Bob told them about all the cars behind the garages. Everyone was giggling and discussed slogans to soap on the car windows.“Hey, if old Mr. Craig parks his mutilated sedan back there we can put ‘Can Opener For sale $5 bucks’ or ‘Please steal,” Mark said. Everyone laughed and added more ideas into the mix.“Okay,” Bob said, “let’s all meet behind the garages at 7:30. Mark, Luke, and I will bring the soap. Wait a minute, before we do that, let’s meet at the corner and toss the corn kernels in the Craig’s front yard, and then go back there, okay?“Yep,” Courtney answered and got a thumbs-up from everyone else. Then, they all went home.The following night, they met at the corner with the brown bag of corn. They littered the Craig’s front yard with it. Mark and Bob had a sack of dog poop, set it on fire, and rang the door bell. Everyone ran. Mrs. Craig went outside screaming and yelling and stomped on the sack.“Yuk!” they heard her yell. “I’m calling the police on you kids. You’ll all go to reform school!” She hollered. Luke was hiding next door to her house behind a lilac bush. He caught up with the others a few minutes later.“You can smell molten dog poop 10 houses down,” He laughed. “Too bad, we couldn’t have used elephant dung.”They heard sirens in the distance and ran out of sight behind the garages. They stayed quiet until the police left and then went to work on the car windows.“Holy cow,” Luke said. “Everybody’s car is back here, even Dad’s new Chrysler 300.”“Don’t touch dad’s car,” Mark said in a low tone of voice. “He’ll kill us.”“How will he know?” Luke responded.“Think about it stupid,” he said. “You touch that car and I’ll fire a red paint ball on your bike.” “Yeah, then he’ll know who did it smart mouth.”“Shut-up, Luke,” Courtney said. “All the grown-ups are over at your house watching Legends of the Fall. I can clearly hear your Dad mimicking Anthony Hopkins saying ‘Screw the government!’ and we don’t want THEM to hear US back here.”“Yeah, stupid,” Mark interjected.Amid muffled giggles, the kids finished the cars and marveled at their creativity. Bob, who is a good artist, soaped an image of Darth Vader on a windshield, Spiderman was on a back window, and real dog poop graced the side window of Mr. Craig’s sedan. They could hardly contain themselves. Of course, Bianca had already wet her pants when they first heard the sirens.All the children went home, except Mark and Bob. They ditched the left over soap in a nearby drain and started walking through the woods adjacent to their back yard. The quiet eerie woods echoed the sounds of an owl and a breeze rustling through the trees. Some tall trees with faces and bare zigzag branches, cast their spirit shadows across the boy’s path. The owl swooped down to grab a rodent that was scurrying around and the boys began to walk faster. Then, someone in a Halloween costume appeared. It was half bat with wings, a long tail, and a horse face with horns. It was the strangest costume the boys had ever seen.“Hey, that’s a good costume, what kind of a ghoul are you?“I’m not a ghoul at all,” the creature responded.“What’s your name?”“Leeds”“Do you live around here?”“You might say that.” “Secretive aren’t you? You shouldn’t be out here by yourself; wanna go trick or treating with us tomorrow night?”“Not unless they’re giving out ham and eggs.” Then, Leeds let out a horrible screech and disappeared into the woods behind Nigel’s property.“What the heck was THAT?” Bob asked nervously, as they went running home.“I dunno, maybe it was a burglar. Hurry up!” Mark said frantically.The boys got home and into bed before their parents arrived.“Do you think we’ll get caught?” Bob asked.“No,” Mark answered, “We’ll deny everything and blame it on Luke.” The next morning was a total nightmare, Mr. Nigel was furious about the cars, the neighbors were furious with Nigel, and Mrs. Craig was being herself – Death Eater. Mr. Nigel put the boys on the carpet and badgered them with questions about the night before. “Dad, there was this strange kid in the neighborhood last night; he said his name was Leeds and he was dressed up in a bat and horse costume. Mark and I saw him when we came back from Hari’s house.”“Leeds?” Mr. Nigel said, “What exactly did he look like?”The boys described the costume and Leeds’ exact comments about ham and eggs. Mr. Nigel was skeptical, but gave them the benefit of a doubt. The morning paper was sitting on the front porch “JERSEY DEVIL SPOTTED IN WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP” the headlines read. Mr. Nigel read the article and with a look of shock, told the boys what had happened. The creature in the article was spotted about a quarter-mile away from the Nigel’s home and was described almost exactly as the boys had told their father. It was seen raiding a chicken coop.“Gee dad, do you think he did it?” Mark asked.Mr. Nigel’s eyebrows narrowed.“He missed my Chrysler,” he clenched his teeth. “However, I will look into this further. Go to your room for a while.”The boys went upstairs feeling a little apprehensive about what lay ahead for the rest of their day.“Hey, that was close,” Bob breathed a sigh of relief.“Yeah, for a minute there, I thought we would get punished on Halloween.”“I don’t believe that we actually saw that Jersey Devil!” Mark said, “Awesome!”Mr. Nigel finished reading the paper and called his friend over at the police station to find out what happened.“We’ve had news reporters outside since early this morning, Howard,” his friend said. “In addition to the sightings, someone started a fire over at the Craig’s. Mrs. Craig could not positively identify the perpetrator, so she blamed all the kids within a 3-mile radius, including your boys. I told her that high school students usually don’t set fire to bags of dog feces and that if she didn’t see who did it, we couldn’t do anything, except file an incident report.” The hairs on the back of Mr. Nigel’s neck stood up when the fire was mentioned, as he was aware of the fireworks fiasco the night before. “In case you were not aware of the history of the Jersey Devil,” his friend continued, “It allegedly originated in Leeds Point and has been spotted throughout three counties for over 200 years. Sounds like a local myth to me, though.”“Leeds?” Mr. Nigel responded.“Yes, legend has it that a Mrs. Leeds over in the Pine Barrens gave birth to the devil 200 years ago. It was her 13th child. It was cursed from conception, as the lady didn’t want the child. When it was born, it looked just as it does in reported sightings, half bat and half horse with a long tail. It flew out the window scaring the midwife, and has been on the loose ever since.”Mr. Nigel thanked his friend, and hung up.“Poppy cock!” He commented, as he sat in the kitchen munching on his cold pizza crust like a dog on a bone. The family dog, an overweight Golden Retriever named Snape, was sitting patiently for a crumb of pizza to fall off the table. His eyes were blinking so quickly, it looked like he was anticipating a whole shower of crumbs and he began to drool.“We don’t have to put up with this. You can get that old Jersey Devil anytime, can’t you boy,” Nigel said, petting the dog.“Ruff!” Snape responded, but still no crumb of pizza was forthcoming. He let out a muffled sound of disappointment, belched, and laid back down. His jowls were spread out across the comic section of the newspaper on the floor like lava that had petered out after running down the side of a mountain. They stopped just short of a Mike Peters cartoon of a demented Superhero, who even looked like Howard Nigel.“Howard, do you think we should let the children go out trick or treating tonight with that thing on the loose?” Mrs. Nigel asked.“Don’t worry, I’ll go with them,” he assured her.Later that evening, the boys got into their costumes. Mom bought the little dude a black costume with a glow-in-the-dark skeleton on it. Luke went as himself in a numbered Eagles Jersey, Mark was Captain Jack Sparrow, and Bob was Michael Myers. As they met up with their friends in the neighborhood, they excitedly told how they came face-to-face with that Jersey Devil, who also tried to frame them for soaping cars. Two newspaper reporters interviewed them and took their picture for the next day’s edition of the Courier-Post.Hari and the kids enjoyed reading the article aloud at a neighborhood Snickers party, while Snape licked all the candy wrappers and chewed up the comics.The end
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