It was a week before Halloween, 1988. All of us in the class were sitting in a circle on a little piece of carpet in the room of our teacher, Miss Everina Blood. And yes, that was her real name.[i] She was a very, very old woman, so she never got down on the floor with us. She always sat in one of our little chairs. She was so thin and frail and small that the chair actually seemed the right size for her.
Miss Blood always wore black—with long sleeves. Even on the hottest days in September while we were running around the playground at lunch, she would stand there in the sun in her long sleeves—sometimes wearing a thick black sweater—checking her watch, nibbling at an apple, not perspiring in the slightest. It was weird.
“Class,” said Miss Blood that morning, “what holiday is coming up soon?”
“Halloween!” a dozen voices chirped in unison.
“That’s right, boys and girls,” she said. “And what do we do during Halloween?”
“We trick or treat!”
“Right again! And what else do we do?”
“We wear costumes!”
Then Miss Blood went around the room asking everybody what they were going to be for Halloween.
Everyone stopped the shouting and looked at me. For I was the one who had said “Victor Frankenstein.”
Miss Blood was staring at me with surprise. “Victor Frankenstein?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Victor Frankenstein.”
“I didn’t know Frankenstein had a first name!” blurted out some kid. “I thought his name was just Frankenstein.”
“It is!” announced a chubby boy named Blue Boyle who settled every argument by sitting on you. “And I’ll sit on anyone who says it ain’t.” He looked darkly around the room to see if anyone wanted to be sat on. No one did.
Except Miss Blood, I guess, for she said: “Blue … class … you forget one thing.”
“Frankenstein was not the creature’s name, was it, Vickie?”
“No, Miss Blood. It was the name of the man who made the creature. And his first name was Victor.”
“That’s stupid!” announced Boyle. But he didn’t say it too loud. Miss Blood was looking at him with her Death Face, the one she wore when she wanted everyone to do exactly what she said.
Miss Blood went on: “All right, if the scientist’s name was Frankenstein, does anyone know what the creature’s name was?”
“Frankenstein!” declared Boyle.
“BLUE BOYLE!” yelled Miss Blood. “Are you looking for trouble! Because if you are”—she paused for just a minute while we all held our breath—“then … I will”—another long, long pause—“SIT on you!”
And everyone started giggling like crazy, even Boyle, as we tried to picture what it would look like, Miss Blood sitting on him.
After we all settled down, Miss Blood continued. “Vickie, do you know the creature’s name?’
“He didn’t have one, Miss Blood.”
“That’s exactly right, Vickie. Frankenstein never gave his creature a name. Isn’t that sad, class?”
“Maybe he just forgot,” said Lucy, a girl who cracked her gum all the time. “Sometimes people forget.”
“He didn’t forget,” I said. “He didn’t think the creature deserved a name. At least, that’s what I think.”
“I think you’re right,” said Miss Blood. And everyone seemed to think about that for a moment … about how that might feel, not deserving a name.
“Now, class,” Miss Blood said, “since Halloween is coming up, tonight, for a little homework project, I want you all to draw something scary. Tomorrow morning, when it’s still a little dark outside, we’ll take turns showing the class our scary drawings.” Everyone got excited; we all liked Miss Blood’s idea.
Next morning, sure enough, it was pretty dark. The season was turning, and the sun did not rise until nearly eight o’clock. And it was also very, very cloudy—it almost looked as if it might rain … or maybe even snow. Before class started, a lot of the other kids ran around the room showing their drawings to one another. Not me, though. I kept mine—which I had drawn on a large piece of poster board—rolled up. I wanted it to be a surprise.
In the classroom, Miss Blood—wearing black as usual—had us all sit on the circle on the little piece of carpet while she pulled the blinds and turned off the lights. She lit a little candle, and that was the only light in the room. It was spooky. While we weren’t looking, she put on a pointed witch’s hat and cackled so loudly that Harriet and some of the other kids screamed. And that made her laugh a great screeching witch’s laugh. And then we saw that she had blacked out some of her teeth, too. More kids screamed. And then she laughed her normal Miss Blood laugh, and we all relaxed. A little bit, anyway.
“Boys and girls,” she croaked in her witch’s voice, “who would like to be first to show a scary picture?”
“I will!” brayed Boyle, standing and holding his up by the candle. It showed something black that covered almost an entire sheet of paper. But it wasn’t scary at all. In fact, I couldn’t even tell what it was. No one else could, either, because the questions were coming fast and furious:
“What’s that, Boyle?” asked Harriet.
“Didn’t you finish your drawing, Boyle?” asked someone else. And …
“Is yours a secret, Boyle?” asked another.
“Boys and girls!” shrieked Miss Blood-witch. “Let Blue tell us what it is!”
“It’s a witch,” snarled Boyle. “Anyone can see that!” He looked threateningly around the room. “And anyone who says it ain’t a witch ….” But there were no takers. To me, though, it looked like a black shoeprint.
Then other people took turns. Harriet had drawn a ghost. (I didn’t tell her that it looked like a pillowcase.) Someone else, an old haunted house. Someone else, a jack-o’-lantern. Most of them weren’t very good—but then what would you expect? This was kindergarten, after all.
And then it was my turn
When I unrolled it and held it up in the candlelight in front of the class, I didn’t need to explain anything. It was perfectly clear what I had drawn.
Covering practically the entire poster was a drawing of the face of Frankenstein’s creature. His rotting yellow flesh was stitched together; blood oozed from the fresh stitches. His fiery eyes gleamed an angry orange and red. His mouth was wide open, and blood gushed from the sides. Sitting on each huge spiked tooth was a different kid from our class (I had room for almost all of them), all looking so much like themselves that there was no doubt who each one was. The figure of Boyle was saying something. I’d put his words in a little cartoon balloon over his head: “Don’t bite me, Frankie, or I’ll sit on you!” But there was a sharp tooth right through him, and Boyle’s insides—colorful and slippery—were spilling out in wet coils. It was gross. And scary. Kids screamed when they saw it. And screaming the loudest was Boyle.