Halloween Secrets

By Lois I. Fisher

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    A package of sponges plopped onto the floor as Janis dug deeper into the closet. Then an old boot tumbled out. “Aha!” she said, grabbing at something, “here’s the broom!” But when she brought it out into the light, Janis saw that it was only half a broom. The straw part was missing. “Mom! Where’s the rest of the broom? I can’t be a witch without a broom!”

    “You mean that old broom? I let your brother have it.”

    Janis frowned. Why does he want it? she wondered.

    “What am I going to do?” she moaned, walking into the kitchen. She sank into a chair and cupped her chin in her hands.

    “Mom!” came a shout. “Where’s the black crepe pap—”

    Janis whirled as her twin brother skidded to a stop in mid-sentence.

    “Oh, I didn’t know you were here,” he said.

    “But I know that you need black crepe paper,” she declared smugly. She’d used most of the black paper for her cape and hat. The remaining pieces were tucked under her bed.

    “I don’t need it. Forget it!” Jack said irritably, and he turned and left the room.

    “All this secrecy!” Mom said as she rinsed some dishes.

    “There’s a prize for the best costume,” Janis explained. “And I don’t want anyone to know what I’m doing. But I still need a whole broom. Don’t we have another one?”

    “That is the other one. I can’t let you take the good one, Janis, because I need it when I clean. How about a mop?”

    “Mom! Witches never ride mops!”

    “It was just a suggestion,” Mom said.

    Janis went back to the closet and took the sorrowful-looking broom into her room. She was placing it in the corner when she heard footsteps. “Jack! No fair sneaking around.”

    “I’m looking for something, not sneaking.”

    “For black crepe paper?” she teased.

    “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

    It was true, she would like to know. But if she found out about Jack’s costume, it would only be fair that he knew about hers. And he won’t, she decided, not until Halloween.

    During the next few days Janis worked on her costume. She made long string hair by gluing strands of Mom’s knitting yarn onto her witch’s hat. And she painted pieces of cutout cardboard silver and used them as buckles for her black shoes.

    Trying on her costume, she thought, I look just like a witch—except for the broomstick! She glanced sadly at her strawless broom.

    “I wish I could think of something to use for a broom,” she said, showing her costume to her mother.

    “I like your costume, dear,” Mom said. “You managed all the other parts of the outfit. Maybe you can still figure out a way to get a proper broom.”

    Janis’s dark eyes stared at the artificial flower centerpiece her mother was arranging. It looks real if I don’t look very close. It even has fake weeds that remind me of—“Mom! That’s it. Your flowers!” she shouted.

    “Flowers?” Mom asked. “A bouquet for a witch?”

    “No, for my broomstick.”

    With Mom’s help Janis tied some skinny yellow weeds onto the bottom of the broom handle with a piece of twine. Not bad, she thought when they were through, but I still wonder what Jack used the straw from the broom for.

    The night of the Halloween party she found out. She was dressed and waiting for Jack to come out of his room when he walked down the hallway. He had on patched overalls and Mom’s funny fishing cap. A bird was perched on his scarecrow shoulder.

    “A navy blue crow?” Janis asked, pointing to the strange-looking bird.

    “You used all the black crepe paper, Witch Janis,” Jack said, tapping Janis’s tall hat.

    Her gaze fell to the cuffs of his flannel shirt. Bits of yellow straw! “So that’s what happened to the broom!” she declared.

    “What’s that stuff on the bottom of your broom?” he asked.

    Janis told him about the dried flowers.

    “I could’ve used them,” Jack said. “Then you would’ve had a regular broom.”

    “And I hid the leftover crepe paper under my bed. There was enough to make a black crow,” Janis admitted.

    “But you wanted your costumes to be big secrets,” Mom reminded them.

    “Next year let’s tell each other about our costumes. Then we can help each other,” suggested Jack.

    Janis looked at her brother and smiled. Even though the Halloween secrets had been fun, she was sure it would be more fun to plan their costumes together. “I think that’s a great idea,” she agreed.

    Illustrated by Phyllis Luch