Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2014
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place Adult winner is Dante Pappano of Knoxville, Tennessee. Mr. Pappano also won this contest last year.

Not the Hobnobs

Dante Pappano


Wayne pocketed the pack of Kents in the white t-shirt, cognizant that the shirt was non-regulation and that in theory he could be sent home to change, docked the time absent. But they wouldnt do it.

He inhaled deeply of menthol and acrid smoke and sighed in exhalation before setting the brakes on Prestons wheelchair, making sure the steel tabs bit into the rubber wheels satisfactorily.

Preston sat unmoving, surveying the back field: shorn straw-colored cornstalks that ran until they blurred into the umber and ochre foliage that said it was October in New Hampshire. It was the only outdoors view hed had for the last 27 months. If hed enjoyed coming out here to the shipping and receiving platform that doubled as the designated smoking area, he never said so. His cigarette, the new smokeless variety-it was all his family would allow him- was held numbly in his left hand. He did not bring it to his lips. He never did.

 A vee of Canada geese came on overhead, barking their way as though some invisible air traffic need give right of way. Mixed in, some kind of noise came from Prestons direction.

Wayne raised his eyebrows critically.

You say something , Pops

I saidtheyre coming tonight.

Your kids? They didnt call.

NO,NO, NO! Its the thetheyll come right through there. He said indicating the corn field.

Wayne smiled. Preston rarely spoke, but when he did, it could be entertaining. Whos coming, pops, whos coming through that field?

“….the...uhthe hobnobsno thats not rightthehupno Arrhhh Preston waved his arm in frustration.

Cant remember, huh, getting old sucks dont it?

Theyll cometheyll kill us all...right through there. He pointed again.

Well, all right, Ill be on special look out.

NO, NO, NO! IIll need to Ill try see, you need to to uharrhhhhh

Oh, I get it. Wayne took a last drag then flicked the still burning butt down onto the asphalt below the raised receiving platform. Youre going to save ME, is that it , Pops?

Try to.

Wayne released the brakes and guided Preston back inside for three oclock bingo before fouroclock meds and five oclock supper. He passed Carmen , that hot dish of a nurse, in the hallway.

Hobnobs are coming, but Preston is going to save us! He called glad for the witticism provided by his elderly charge. An eventual date was not beyond the range of possibility.


Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!

Wayne watched with incredulity the display of excitement by Lois Franks. It was unfathomable to him that she could generate self-congratulation about winning bingo. Bingo mind you!  Bingo in general, and more specifically about beating the other residents, some whom like Preston, were asleep, chins on chests, sitting at the elongated card tables.

She swung her arms like an incredibly slow racewalker as she maneuvered her velour track-suit-clad body around the last three chairs to make her way to the front. Carmen handed her the prize: a pack of Lorna Doone cookies. She held them up to the other residents before racewalking back to her seat.

Wayne shook his head in disgust but his expression turned to a smile when Carmen looked his way to share the derisive moment. They could do that, he thought, knowing glances and even aloud conversation with carefully chosen words flying over the heads of their residents. We can communicate on a higher level.

Suddenly there was a commotion.  Lois had bumped Preston awake.

The hobnobs! thats no righttheyll kill us all!

There were several gasps and pairs of small, aged eyes peered cautiously down the length of the table.

Aldie, who was quick to anger, went off. The Damn!..Dammit Dammit all to Hell!

Wayne was quick to move towards Aldie. Carmen would notice how he was unfazed by the imagined danger of an angry resident. But Kenny, who was married, got there first. Wayne made an expression like something smelled and slunk around the next table instead and spoke to Preston.

Hey, Pops, lets just keep the Hobnob thing between the two of us…” He said, loudly enough for Carmen to hear . No need to frighten the ladyfolk.”  He was hoping to garner a glance and thus an opportunity to wink. Instead he saw her scurry off to retrieve an inhaler for Gretchen who was not tolerating the excitement well.


The fare was vegetarian lasagna with institutional green beans: meaning the sort that were picked too old, thick and sinewy, but softened by sitting in a can of brine for a year. They looked like dead caterpillars, Wayne thought.  But the bigger problem was that Elio, in a flourish of self-imagined cooking expertise had removed the aluminum covering the lasagna pans  before baking. Hed not anticipated that the top strip of noodle would harden so much; the residents were having difficulty.  

Wayne watched Carmens backside wriggle as she fought to cut away the inedible portions from Melissa  Parkingtons meal.  He was working similarly on Abe Leschwitzs plate, wincing at the nearby sickening sounds of crackling mastication : Aldie Coonts seemed unaware of the pasta mishap.

There was the sharp tinkling of breaking glass. Carmen, Kenny and Wayne all stopped mid-action, finding each others eyes.  The residents continued working at their meals, their subtle smacking sounds, and Aldies more sinister crackling unperturbed. From the kitchen, Elios pot-scraping and banging also continued.  Wayne left Leschwitz to his lasagna difficulties, crossed the dining room and pushed open the swinging kitchen door.

Sumthin break? Wayne called.

Elio looked up, a soapy serving straining spoon in hand.


Nothingby the way youre lasagnas for shit.

Elio proffered  one of five digits before returning to the his bubble-filled sink.

Wayne exited the kitchen only just in time to see Kenny running back into the dining room, then he was down on the ground, a blur of brown fur, a shriek, a bloody, mangled mess, and more brown.

Bounding like weasles , teeth and hair, spectacles and canes and terrible vegetable lasagna. Blood everywhere. He took a few halting steps towards Carmen, then froze. She was down.  A few residents were up trying to escape, Lois Franks racewalking, then on the ground screaming.  Preston trying to stand,  Aldie up, veins bulging in anger :Dammit, all to Hell, Dammit, Dammit…” until his throat exploded in red.

Preston made his feet, tottering, a blur of brown sailing towards him. What was it aa.. wolverineno? Wayne watched disbelieving as Preston caught the thing by its windpipe, crushed it and tossed it aside, then another, then another. The last one, not quite dead was clawing frantically at its own throat arching and flexing its back spasmodically.

Wayne found his voice: Go, Pops!

Preston turned to Waynes voice, when he did, a brown blur tore at his throat. Two others jumped on. Preston teetered and fell.

Wayne dropped down beneath the nearest table.  A resident had dropped a soiled napkin. He couldnt help realizing that there was no point in picking it up.

Continue to the 2nd place story

[home] [up]
Copyright © 2014 & Dante Pappano;
See original rules for an explanation