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The Mask

THE MASK

Once, when Papa was a little boy, he was invited to a Halloween party. Little Papa had never been to a Halloween party before. Everyone would get dressed up in all kinds of costumes, and you could be anything you wanted.
The day before the party, little Papa’s parents brought him a mask. It was a witch mask, with green skin and ugly warts, with wild gray hair and a long hooked nose. It was the scariest thing little Papa had ever seen in his life. He loved it. He couldn’t wait to go to the party and show off to other kids. He would walk in and cackle in a scary voice: “Heh-heh-heh… I am a mean old witch, and I am going to gobble you all up! Heh-heh-heh.” He practiced this in front of the mirror a few times, until he had it perfect.
Next day, he was brought to the apartment where the party was taking place. Little Papa got ready for his grand entrance. He pulled on the mask, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
The room was bright and filled with princesses and fairies, pirates and goblins, bears and rabbits, soldiers and clowns. They were shouting, running and prancing around the room. Then little Papa stepped in, One by one, they all dropped what they were doing and stared at little Papa. There was total silence. Little Papa stood there with his mouth open, the words he was about to say stuck in his throat.
The first blood-curdling scream came from a little blond princess, who then covered her face with her hands and burst into bitter tears. Then there were other screams and crying. Goblins and pirates, soldiers and bears were scattering every which way, hiding behind their parents. The parents put their arms protectively around the kids and glared at little Papa.
Then little Papa felt his parents pushing him outside and closing the door.
“Listen,” said his dad. “It looks like you’ll have to take off your mask before you go back in…”
“I am a mean old witch,” little Papa finally managed to mumble in a small voice, “and I am going to… to…” He sobbed. It was so unfair, he was so looking forward to this party, and now…
“Look, “said his mom brightly. “I have an idea: you could pretend to be a witch dressed up as a little boy.”
“Nonono!” cried little Papa, stomping his feet. “I’m not taking off this mask!”
“Well, in that case we’ll just have to take you home, young man.”
“Fine,” sobbed little Papa. And they went home.

That night, little Papa had a nightmare. He was standing in front of two rows of people, the front row sitting on chairs, the back row standing, like on a wedding photograph. They were all people he knew – his whole family, relatives, friends. And they were all staring over little Papa’s shoulder at the other side of the room. Little Papa turned to see, and realized that they were all looking at the closet. Then the closet door slowly opened, and a long bony hand with sharp claws crawled out, followed by a long bony arm, and then a face with green skin, hooked nose, wild hair, warts and all. The witch came out of the closet and moved toward little Papa, grinning, reaching out for him with her crooked fingers, coming closer and closer. Little Papa turned back to his family, knowing they would protect him, hide him. But to his horror, he saw his grandmother Fenya and his parents push him away, toward the witch! He opened his mouth to scream – and woke up in his own bed, Grandma Yana stroking his hair softly, saying, “Sh-sh-sh, it’s just a bad dream, it’s all right, mama is here…” And it was all right.

For next Halloween, little Papa was a pirate.

As for the witch mask – well, little Papa never saw it again. Maybe his parents buried it in the ground, or burned it in the fire. He wishes he could have it now. To see if it was as scary as he remembers. He could give it to his own kids. They could wear it for Halloween. He is sure it would be all right. Kids today do not scare so easily.

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