This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples comes from Chapter 14, “Happy Halloween,” of The Very First. It’s Halloween 1938, and while Sparky feels a little uneasy about having to wear a costume and take part in an unfamiliar holiday, Cinni is jumping at the opportunity to engage in one of her favorite pastimes, indulging her sweet tooth. Meanwhile, their goody-two-shoes frenemy Adeline is being a spoil-sport and a bit of a hypocrite.
Even though the Filliards had been decorating their house for Halloween over the last few weeks, and their neighbors the Hitchcocks, the Vallis, and the Holidays had also been decorating, Sparky was still a bit surprised to arrive at school on Monday and find the entire school also decorated. Halloween hadn’t even been a concept back in Amsterdam, and the elements of the holiday definitely didn’t seem very Jewish to her. It was bad enough Cinni had gotten her to agree to wearing a cat costume instead of her usual school clothes. It felt ridiculous to walk around school all day in a costume.
“Thank God I’m in junior high and not expected to come to school in costume,” Barry muttered as they got off the bus.
“I take it you ain’t coming to the Halloween dance for older students tonight?” Cinni asked, adjusting her derby hat. “I can’t wait till I’m old enough to go. It’s fun to have a party in class, but it must be even more fun to have a big dance and party for the whole school.”
“I wouldn’t even have a date.” He cast a quick look over Cinni, taking in her beautiful eyes that matched her name. “You wouldn’t have a date either. You’re too young for a boyfriend or going on dates.”
Cinni pointed to Julieanna, dressed as a French milkmaid. “Julie has a practice boyfriend already, Harry Brewster, the boy dressed like a farmer. Perhaps I’ll be old enough for my own practice boyfriend in a few more years.”
“You never know,” he mumbled as he rushed off to the junior high side of the building.
Mr. Robinson stood by the steps near one of the entrance doors, handing out candy and chocolates. Cinni eagerly opened her schoolbag and continued standing there smiling expectantly even after Mr. Robinson closed the large bag of treats.
“Let’s not be greedy, Cinnimin,” the principal said. “I take it you’re using Halloween as an excuse to come to school in pants?”
“What, is it against your rules to dress like the opposite sex for Halloween? I never saw that rule in your current rulebook. Besides, only idiots think a girl or woman in pants is really a guy. They either need to get glasses or quit drinking.”
Mr. Robinson turned to Sparky. “Katherine Brandt, right? Would you like some candy?”
“I don’t know if that’s kosher candy, Sir. I have special rules about what I can and can’t eat.” Sparky looked down the hall at all the Halloween decorations. “I don’t think I should even be celebrating this holiday. It ain’t a Jewish holiday.”
“Only heathens celebrate Halloween,” Adeline whispered smugly. “May I have some candy too, Mr. Robinson?”
“You don’t celebrate Halloween, Adeline. You’re not like your older sister Pansy. You’re as fun-hating and overly religious as your parents. Let the other students who celebrate Halloween have the candy.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t dress like a dragon,” Cinni smirked. “Since your daddy is a Grand Dragon. Do you know if he wants to get promoted to Imperial Wizard or whatever other silly titles the Klan has for higher-ups?”
“My daddy ain’t in the Klan, for the last time,” Adeline seethed.
“Sure he ain’t. But I guess if you wanna be in denial about it forever, that’s your right.” Cinni began eating the largest candybar in her bag as she continued up the stairs.
Their first period art classroom was decorated with jack-o-lanterns, gourds, skeletons, witches, and ghouls. Orange streamers and black and orange balloons were strung up all across the classroom. On their tables, which they used instead of desks in this class, were bowls of candy and smaller decorations. Miss Reinders had hung a few macabre, creepy drawings on the wall as well.
“I know some of those pictures are by Albrecht Dürer, but I don’t recognize the other ones,” Cinni said as she surveyed the new decorations. “I like dark art. It’s more interesting and real than boring stuff like angels, flowers, religious stuff, and landscapes.”
Adeline was already shoving the candy at her seat down her throat as she gave snooty looks to the Halloween decorations. Cinni could only laugh at her blatant, unrealized hypocrisy.
“You can have my candy, Cinni, if some of it’s not kosher,” Sparky said.
“Oh, come on, free candy,” Cinni tried to tempt her. “Your folks don’t have to know, and I’m pretty sure God understands that modern people have to do modern things. Not everyone is lucky enough to live on a mountaintop and have no modern distractions. I’m sure even the people who still live in Israel don’t have it as perfect as they did in ancient days.”