Book in the Collection: Halloween Humbug
Tell us about your characters in this story: There are three main characters, a single mother and her precocious son, and their new neighbor, an uptight data guy who understands numbers a lot better than he understands people.
What made you decide to join this set? You had me at “Halloween.”
What is your favorite thing about Halloween? My memories of being a little kid trick or treating on a crispy fall night with a big moon and the wind blowing autumn leaves around. Also, I love mounds bars and would trade my brother my Butterfingers for his Mounds.
What can readers expect from this collection? I hope they’ll get a really good reading experience. I like my story, which is set in the mythical Pacific Northwest town I call “Silver Birch, Washington.” I set a lot of my cozy romances there.
Okay, I admit my neighbor had a point about me overfilling my trash can, which meant that if I didn’t close the can really really hard, the lid sometimes flew open when it was windy and strewed trash all over my front yard.
I always picked it up, but the morning I woke to find crows and seagulls fighting over the trash like the cover of an apocalyptic Stephen King novel come to life, he stormed out of the house to yell at me.
Well, not really yell, but his voice was raised and he was making large gestures in the direction of the street and my open garbage can.
The thing is, the city doesn’t pay for garbage collecting, individual home owners and renters do. And if you pay for four collections a month, it costs nearly two hundred dollars, and I just can’t afford it. A lot of my neighbors can’t, which is why they burn their trash when they think no one is looking, like no one is going to smell the putrid stench that wafts over the whole neighborhood.
My son and I don’t generate that much garbage—we are careful about packaging, recycle everything, and don’t eat that many processed foods. But sometimes, we stuff that city-supplied green can until it’s so heavy I can barely wheel it out onto the street without it falling over.
And before you say—then maybe you should be renting an apartment—I have a really good deal on rent. My landlady is my ex-husband’s widow, and the home is the one she grew up in, a little two-bedroom, one bathroom bungalow that’s walking distance to Owen’s school, a tiny shopping mall with a grocery store, drug store, nail salon and a tiny bookstore that also sold greeting cards. You know, all the basic necessities of life.
Cinda had held onto the place through the frenzied real estate market during Covid because she didn’t want to sell it to some developer or a corporation that would turn it into an Airbnb. When she and her new husband decided to relocate to Phoenix, she didn’t want to turn it over to a rental agency, so she made me an offer. I could rent it for a thousand a month and take care of any repairs that cost less than $500 myself. Since over the years I’ve acquired basic maintenance skills, I jumped at the chance. A thousand dollars was right on the edge of my budget, but the house had a backyard with a swing set and a trio of sugar maple trees that turned brilliantly orange in the autumn.
I also loved the skylight in the living room. Even when it was raining, the room got a lot of natural light that kept it from seeming oppressive.
I signed that lease so fast that the ink smoked on the paper.
Owen and I had been living there happily ever since, on nodding acquaintance with the woman next door who let Owen play with her silly little dog as much as he wanted because she had arthritis and sometimes didn’t feel up to taking Phoebe for a walk. I thought it was good for Owen to be around old people. My grandparents lived on the other side of the country and I missed them. My own parents weren’t that old—mid-fifties, and my mother was reluctant to embrace the whole generational concept. She asked everyone to call her Rita and colored her hair every three weeks so no gray hair had a chance to sully her rich brunette mane.
I inherited that hair, but mostly keep it braided and out of my way when I’m working. It’s one of the things I do that annoys her.
I do a lot of things that annoy her.
Getting pregnant with Owen was one of them. To her credit, when he actually showed up, she showered him with affection, thrilled that her first grandchild was a boy. But she still wanted him to call her Rita.
I’m convinced the house on the other side of us was haunted. Or had some underlying flaw that the contractor hadn’t admitted to the buyer. I say that because although it was a really cute Craftsman painted dark green with white trimming, the rental of it was a revolving door. I’m sure they were supposed to sign year-long leases, but in the three years Owen and I had lived next door, there had been nine tenants.
The house had been vacant all through the unseasonably warm summer, but some time in September, the “for rent” sign had come down and two weeks later, on a weekend, our neighbor had moved in.
Author Bio: Katherine Moore is the pen name for Katherine Tomlinson, an editor and screenwriter. Moore is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose cozy romance and mysteries are a lot more fun than the dark short fiction she used to write. An inveterate traveler, she is a digital nomad, currently living in Portugal. Sign up for her newsletter here: http://kattomic-energy.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html