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Elvira's Not There to Answer the Muse Call

October 25, 2000|CHRIS ERSKINE

So here I am, decorating the frontyard for Halloween, wishing I had a muse, a Halloween muse, a willowy someone in a diaphanous gown to inspire me to do great and wondrous work.

Instead, there are only skeptics. Doubters. The anti-Muse.



"Are you awake?"


I am lying here in the yard, taking a break on the freshly mowed lawn. The grass is cool now, just right for sleeping. Winter is coming up through the ground and into my shoulders. My neck. My bones.

The skeptics stand around me, touching my cheek, feeling the winter in my skin. They shudder, then consider giving me last rites.

"I think he's dead," says the boy.

"He just burped," says the little girl excitedly. "See, he burped."

"Dead people burp all the time," the boy explains.

As a dad, you have to pace yourself. A lot of overeager younger dads shine brightly for a while, then burn out. Successful fathers know that parenthood is a marathon. A grueling 26.2 years. Sprint it, and you're ruined.

So I mow, then rest. I edge the lawn, then rest. I pull out the Halloween boxes, then rest.

"You know, I'm just like Superman," I tell the kids after carrying three boxes from the garage.

"You are?"

"Except for the 'super' part," I explain.

"I think you're Superman," the little girl says.

"Here, have a buck," I say, handing her my last one.

We dig in the boxes, past the snarls of fake spider webs and the snarls of actual spider webs. We dig out skulls and Frankenstein monsters and pumpkin lights. School projects from years ago that smell like wet diapers.

It is the perfect holiday for a dad. You'd never turn Christmas over to a dad, but Halloween is the perfect occasion for a guy to decorate. Besides, we have Elvira.

"Know what we need?" I ask.

"A new dad?" the boy says.

"We need Elvira," I say.

"Yep," he says.

I'll let you in on a few secrets about guys:

* We hate aluminum block engines.

* We hate women who drive with small hamster-like dogs in their laps.

* When we say we're going to get the oil changed, we're usually not getting the oil changed. We're usually going someplace else. (I'm not saying where. I've already told you enough.)

* Last and most important, we all love Elvira.

Elvira is our Mae West, possibly the last of the overt female sex symbols. We make extra trips to the liquor store just to see her cardboard cutout. When her commercials come on, we get extra quiet.

Might be the dress. Might be her Cher hair. Might be her campy attitude. Can't put my finger on it. But we love Elvira, the Druid of our dreams.

"Who's Elvira?" the little girl says.

"She's my muse," I say.

"Your what?"

"My Halloween inspiration," I say.

So we decide to make a witch who looks like Elvira but ends up looking more like Don Zimmer, the porcine New York Yankees coach, which can't be good news for the Mets, not in this season of bad omens.

"Looks good, Daddy," says the little girl.

"Looks like Don Zimmer," I tell the boy.

"Looks good," the boy says.

In truth, it looks like Don Zimmer in drag, which can't be good news for the neighbors. I can see them behind their suburban windows, fingering the expensive curtains, tsk-tsking over what we've gone and done now.

"What's that?" my wife asks when she finally comes out front to inspect our work.

She is a single mom, except that she is married to me. She does the work of two parents. Stays up late making school lunches and helping with homework, dreaming of the day the right person will come along and she can live happily ever after. Until then, my wife keeps me around to entertain her.

"Daddy is Superman," the little girl proudly tells her mother.

"Except for the 'super' part," explains the boy.

My wife examines the Halloween witch. She takes a step forward, then takes a step back. She tilts her pretty head a little and folds her arms. It's as if she's trying to figure out a Picasso, a Picasso made from Clorox bottles and old bedsheets, hanging near our tiny front porch.

"What is it?" she finally asks.

"What do you want it to be?" I ask.

"A witch might be nice," she says.

"Then that's what it is," I tell her cheerfully.

"Daddy says it's Don Zimmer," the little girl says.

This is not a good development. Because my wife, despite all her great traits, is a Yankees fan. We don't tell everybody this. But there's no denying it. She's a Yankees fan. I married her anyway.

"It does look a little like Don Zimmer," she says.

"You noticed," I say.

"Why does he have breasts?" my wife asks.

"Because it's Halloween," explains the little girl.

"Yeah, because it's Halloween," explains the boy.

Happy Halloween.


Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is

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