“Costumes,” by William Henderson

Oct 31st, 2011 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

He was going to be Batman, and then he was going to be the Lone Ranger, and he even considered being the Man in the Yellow Hat, but his mother was pregnant, and the idea of waiting a year so that his sister could be George was brilliant, so out went the Man in the Yellow Hat, and out went Batman and the Lone Ranger, and one week before Halloween, he asked to be Max.

His mother, my wife, who will one day be my ex-wife, concocted a Max costume: White hoodie and leggings; fake fur from fabric store for tail; pom poms up the front of the hoodie (don’t know why a wolf would have pom poms on his chest); and a crown made of felt to attach to the hoodie’s hood.

In his costume, Avery, my son, became very much a Wild Thing. He scampered and he growled and he clung to legs. He rang doorbells with his nose, and once with his tongue, and he demanded more than his fair share. He said if he didn’t get what he wanted, he would swallow the person whole, and usually these people would look over Avery’s head at me, and these people would smile, and shake their heads, imperceptible nods to acknowledge that this Wild Thing was nothing more than an overactive child embracing Halloween.

He filled one and one-half pillowcases with tootsie rolls and pops and butterscotch discs and peanut butter cups. The peanut butter cups went into the garbage. He is allergic to peanuts. And the pops went in a cupboard above the refrigerator, where he cannot reach, because he is not allergic to pops and would eat several each day, if we let him. Which we don’t. Except when he’s done something remarkable, or when we need him to do something remarkable, and he will eat the pops without remarking on his disinterest in remarkable things.

I’m lying. Of course I’m lying. Avery is three. He did not ask to be Batman or the Lone Ranger. He wouldn’t recognize Max or any of the Wild Things, even though we read him this storybook at least three times each week. He is three, nine weeks beyond turning three, and while he loves pops and is allergic to peanuts, he does not recognize anything in Halloween but the chance to stay up late and put on a costume. He is wild, and he growls, but he is wild and he growls regardless of the day. He’s kind of clumsy, too. His occupational therapist says he will outgrow this tendency to trip over his feet and bump into things, so when we are outside, trick-or-treating, I ring doorbells and I ask for candy and I feel slightly awkward ringing doorbells and asking for candy.

He is three and nine weeks and he has auburn hair and hazel eyes and no freckles on skin that will one day have freckles, no matter the lengths his mother and I take to shield him from the sun. My wife, who will one day be my ex-wife (that was not a lie), and I take turns holding his hand between houses. After one hour, he is tired, and she is tired, and I am not tired but am convinced I can be tired, and we walk home, four blocks, and I kiss Avery goodbye and I do not kiss my wife, Holly, goodbye, because we no longer kiss goodbye or hello or for any reason, and I wait until the door is closed before I walk to my car and drive the two miles to my apartment.

Already, Holly and I have divided things into his and hers, including time with our son.

She is pregnant (that was not a lie), and we found out two months ago that she is pregnant with a girl (that was not a lie), and Holly and I discussed dressing Avery as the Man in the Yellow Hat and our daughter, who we know is named Aurora, as Curious George, but we did not share these plans with Avery. He may already hate his sister; we can’t tell. He talks about her as if she is already here: I will not share toys with her; I will not share a room with her; I will not teach her things.

Or words Holly and I interpret as: I will not share toys with her; I will not share a room with her; I will not teach her things.


William Henderson lives in Boston where he is often tooling around with his children, Avery and Aurora; musing about love and writing and parenting on his blog (hendersonhouseofcards.com); tweeting (@avesdad); practicing yoga; and waiting for his ever-after ending.

He has published nonfiction in Thought Catalog, The Rumpus, The Fix, Annalemma Magazine, Sea Giraffe, Zouch Magazine, Specter Literary Magazine, Revolution House, Dr.Hurley’s Snake-Oil Charm, and Xenith, among others. Also, NAP Literary Magazine will publish Henderson’s first chapbook in January 2012.


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