The Harry Potter Mask
By Theresa Halvorsen
“Mommy,” my son tugged on my purse nearly knocking it from my shoulder. He wiggled his finger at me and I knelt so I was on his level.
“I see Harry Potter,” he whispered and pointed to a wall full of Halloween masks. Sure enough, there was Harry Potter, next to a mask of a chimpanzee and a skull with bits of skin hanging off it.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I should’ve brought my four-year old to the temporary Halloween store. The owner had set up the shop like a haunted house. It was full of costumes, odd lights, creepy decorations, figures that suddenly jumped into motion and said scary things. Masks stared down at us from walls and on tall, posed figures. There were skulls, cartoon characters, half dismembered gory faces, and death dealers. Some of things were simply creepy, while others were blood covered and a little gratuitous.
I loved the store. I thought it was one of the best places I’d been in a long time and wondered how much I could spend on Halloween decorations without destroying my budget. But I wasn’t sure it was appropriate for my son.
I jumped when my son shouted, “Hi Harry.” He squirmed to get away from the hand I kept tightly around his.
“It’s just a mask sweetie. It’s not the real Harry Potter.”
“It’s a costume honey, so people can look like Harry Potter.” It wasn’t a bad mask, but I wondered someone had bothered to create a Harry Potter mask. Didn’t you just need a pair of circular glasses and make-up to make a lightening bolt scar? I guess it would help to have dark hair that was long enough to be mussed up too, sticking up in the back the way Harry’s always did.
“Come on, sweetie.” We wandered through the store and found enough creepy and borderline disgusting things to make me wonder again whether to take my son home and come back for his costume later. But my son didn’t seem scared, at all. Of course, I’d always loved Halloween more than Christmas and maybe he was learning to feel the same way.
“Mommy.” My son tugged on my purse again. He’d come to a complete stop to stare at a figure in front of us. “Hagrid,” he whispered. Sure enough someone had set up a tall figure with a Hagrid mask and wig.
My son ran up to it and stared up.
I got down on one knee next to him. “That’s pretty cool, huh?”
“Hi, Hagrid,” he whispered.
“He’s not real, honey,” I said. “It’s just a mask. Like Harry Potter back there.”
He took the plastic hand of the figure and yanked. The head wobbled and started to slide off the figure. I made a grab for it, but the head slid off and crashed into a display of dancing skeletons. They went off, dancing and singing and sending other figures into motion, predicting dire warnings. My son jumped into my arms and burst into tears.
“You okay, miss?” the cashier came running over. His shirt was covered in dust and a liberal amount was in his hair too, making it look gray.
“Yeah, sorry we knocked it over.” I tried to sooth my son and get up off the floor while still cuddling his 40 pound body.
“It happens.” The cashier helped me to my feet, his hand lingering a little on my elbow. He precariously balanced the Hagrid mask back on top of the figure.
My son continued to sob, his face in my neck, his tears hot and soaking through my shirt.
“I’m sorry,” I said, trying to settle him onto my hip. “I think he’s had enough.”
The cashier nodded. “I think I forgot about kids when I set this place up. I bought and stocked the smaller costumes, but didn’t remember that they might be scared by all this stuff.” He shrugged.
“You’re the owner?”
“During Halloween. I freelance write most of the year. But I like getting out of the house sometimes. Maybe I should take some of this stuff down. You scared, champ?” he said to my son.
My son shook his head, his face still buried in my neck. But his sobs had already lessened.
“You’re not scared of nothing, are you?”
Again my son shook his head, and peeked out at the owner. I patted my son’s back. He took a final sobby gasp and took his head out of my neck. My shirt felt damp with his tears and snot.
“I’m Tom, by the way,” the owner said. He tugged on his hair, knocking out some of the dust and smoothing it a little where it stuck up in the back.
“Beth,” I said. “And this is Alex.”
“Hey, Alex,” Tom said. “Would you like a piece of candy?” Tom pretended to pull it out of Alex’s ear.
“What do you say?”
“Thank you,” my son mumbled.
“Want to get going?” I asked Alex, removing the wrapper from the candy. “We’ll get your pirate costume later.”
“Yes sweetie. I’ll pick it up for you tomorrow.”
“I said, NO.”
Tom coughed and I could tell he was fighting back a smile. “Pirate costume, size small,” he said. “I’ll grab it. Stay here..”
I tucked my son back into my neck and headed back toward the counter. I loved Halloween, loved the decorations, but was worried Alex would have nightmares about what he’d seen in the shop.
“Here it is.” Tom handed me the packaged costume, complete with plastic dagger and eye patch.
“I want Harry Potter.”
“Sweetie, that’s just a mask, not really Harry Potter.”
“I want Harry Potter.” His eyes had widened and I could tell we were seconds away from a temper tantrum. And Alex was rapidly getting too heavy for me to carry out of a store kicking and screaming.
“Tell you what,” I said. “Why don’t we get your pirate costume and you can watch Harry Potter when we get home. And I’ll buy you some candy.”
“NO!” Alex started to wiggle, wanting to be put down.
“You want to be Harry Potter for Halloween?” Tom asked.
“Are you sure you don’t want to be a pirate?” I waved the costume under his nose. You can wear an eye patch and say arrgghh-”
“I want to be Harry Potter.”
The owner winked at me. “I have a kid-sized mask.”
I tried not to make a face. I’d researched pirate costumes on the web and knew his store had the cheapest one. But I’d also learned he carried the most expensive and unique masks. I was sure a mask was out of my budget.
“I’ll give you 20% off.”
I had to smile. “And how much is that?”
“With the discount?”
The owner nodded. “Sorry. My supplier-“
“You have to make a living. There’s nothing to apologize for.” I rubbed Alex’s back. “Okay, son. Harry Potter it is. But I think just glasses and I’ll make a lightening bolt scar. Okay?”
Alex smiled at me and my heart melted. “Yes.”
“I’ll still give you that discount though.” Tom smiled. “Stay put, don’t go anywhere.”
I put my son down and he fished through a large bin full of black, plastic spiders.
“I really don’t need the discount,” I said when the owner came back with his arms full.
“Too bad,” he said. “Do you want the wand too?”
“Want to hold onto that, champ?” he said handing it to my son. My son pointed it at a display and muttered something that he probably thought was a spell.
Tom laughed. “How many times has he watched the movies?”
“Just the first two and probably too many times. You must have kids.”
“Nieces and nephews.”
I handed him my credit card.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked his eyes on the card reader. He ripped off the receipt and handed me a pen.
“Sure.” I signed the receipt and handed the bag to my son.
“Are you attached right now? You’re not wearing a wedding ring. And if you’re not married or anything, we could have dinner some time.”
I had to laugh. This man was asking out a woman with a snot stain on her shoulder and a slightly hiccupping child sneaking candy into his pocket. I handed the wrapped candy back to the owner. I looked around the store. It was a little overdone, a little too gruesome for me, but I loved Halloween.
“I’ll give you my phone number.”