It was Tuesday night, and the boy felt absolutely wretched. He didn't even need to go look at the garden today. He heard grampa talking to mom as soon as he was home from school. The first word he heard used was “Stolen.”
“But who would want to?” His mom's voice.
“Kids. Trouble makers. Hooligans. There's a path smashed right through the garden, right to it. I tell you, somebody had to march right past the house, right out there and snag the thing. Tore it right off the pole!”
The boy felt caught. He was responsible, in a way, wasn't he? He might not have taken the scarecrow, but he did cause it to leave. “Maybe. . . maybe it was the Devil,” he suggested. “Maybe-- I heard he likes to play tricks.”
“Will, that Devil stuff is just talk. And dad, I don't think it was really doing a great job of keeping the crows away. Besides, you were going to tear it down before winter.”
The boy had to admit that was true.
“That isn't the point. It's my property. Our property!”
“Maybe it was Stingy Jack!” The boy interjected. It didn't seem like he was really on the hook for this one, but laying out a little blame couldn't hurt, just in case. His mom looked at him for the briefest moment, slightly confused. Of course, she had no idea who Stingy Jack was.
She continued talking to the other adult. “Dad, you know we don't plan to stay here forever, just until we're back on our feet.”
“C'mon now. Don't end one argument with another.” Grampa said. “You know you have a safe place to stay here as long as I'm alive.”
The boy left the doorway and made his way upstairs. This was a discussion he'd heard enough times. As he ascended the stairs, his thoughts stayed on Jack O' the Lantern. Stingy Jack. Just how stingy was he, anyway? Was he stingy enough to not want to share a friend? The boy had to wonder if his theory of Jack making off with the scarecrow was really that made up after all.
When he reached his bedroom, he took a look out the rear window just in case, but the post was nothing more than a lonely shadow. It was possible that the scarecrow really was just waiting for Jack's arrival all this time, and the two had moved on together. But, then, the scarecrow had called himself a friend, and friends didn't leave without saying goodbye, even if they were mad. Besides, if Jack could trick the Devil, he could trick the scarecrow.
It was all too strange.
The boy flipped on the TV and sat through the usual evening block of cartoons. During breaks, he noticed that the commercials had begun to turn a little more seasonal. He saw his first commercial of the year for costumes, and there was one which featured candy corn heavily. This town didn't have Trick or Treat, or beggar's night, as his grandpa called it. It was true that he would miss the candy, but more than that, he would miss the night itself, and the anticipation of venturing into the darkness with his family. He thought about how he used to walk through the old neighborhood with his mom and dad, the street illuminated only by street lamps and porch lights, and his own swaying Halloween lantern.
TV forgotten, he got up and began to dig through his closet. He dragged out the box of toys, pushed it out of the way, then began to dig through the deeper contents. He came across last year's Frankenstein costume. Then, under that, at last, his lantern. It was small, orange, shaped like a pumpkin, and at the center was a frosted orb that housed a light. The boy flicked it on and was disappointed by the dim glow.
This was no reason to admit defeat, however. He flipped the TV back off, removed the battery cover on the remote, then replaced the batteries in the lantern. With a flick of the switch, his bedroom was illuminated.
He looked out the rear window. The sun was dropping like a rock. He had a lantern of his own now. He was as prepared as old Jack ever was. He knew things would make sense once he found them out there. The scarecrow really was his friend-- he could feel it from the beginning-- and would never hurt him. The boy raised the window and stepped out to begin his search.