Revenge of the Jedi
By Amanda Rossenrode
Sometimes Halloween sneaks up on you like Leatherface in the night and you don’t have the bones for a smock-like polyester licensed Kylo Ren costume from Target. If you’re an arts and crafts minded person, you can probably whip up something pretty creative from stuff you have lying around the house. If your plans involve dress patterns and yards and yards of fabric, I beg you to think long and hard. Evaluate your skills as a dress maker and your affection for sanity. Allow me to tell you a true tale of horror.
Five years ago we were browsing the Halloween aisle at Target. My dear husband’s eye was caught by a Darth Vader costume. It was seventy dollars and consisted of a Vader mask and a black robe. I balked and uttered the words I lay at night regretting, “That’s ridiculous. You could make that costume for less than twenty bucks.”
What ensued with those two simple sentences would, each October, wreck our lives, drive our marriage to the brink and back and leave us depleted, lying in a fetal position as Monster Mash rollicked and wavered in the background.
My husband looked up Jedi costume patterns on the internet. Between the two of us, I was the more experienced tailor, having sewn several buttons back on to garments thanks to many years of tutelage under my late grandmother. My husband was very skilled at throwing away a perfectly good shirt because it was missing a button. With some handy internet instructions, (home of many handy instructions, like how to whip up cheese dip or repair a roof in a thirty second video) we figured we could start Friday and have the envy of all Jedi costumes by Halloween night. In the time since, we have spent more on that costume than we annually spend on car maintenance. And our car remembers the first Bush administration. We have researched sewing machines, knowing full well that we will never sew again once this pox of a costume is completed. The measurements on the first one were incorrect and would constrict the movements of a small dachshund hound. The second could only be worn by a rather broad-shouldered Yeti. We had to store our Christmas decorations in the backyard to make room for the increasing bags and boxes of material associated with this costume, a costume designed specifically for the active Jedi lifestyle rather than standing by a punchbowl for one night in a lifetime. Every year, around this time, we drag that costume out again and vow that this will be the Halloween that we finish it!
We sew until our fingers bleed; we measure and cut. We make trips to the fabric store until Rhonda the cashier starts giving us school pictures of her grandkids and invites us to Thanksgiving. We take out loans against the car for safety pins and thread. We’re denied the loans because the car is an 89 Buick and still holds the haunting fragrance of Virginia Slims and Exclamation (!) eau de toilette, a mom-cologne from the ‘90s that fades but never goes away. We fall into deep, spiraling depression, reevaluating everything we’ve ever done with our lives. How did it come to this? We moan, suffocating in piles of chestnut and tan fabric, our cat, who we treat as our dear child despite her obvious dislike of us, gleefully shredding the material and batting spools of thread under the stove. We call into work, desperate for a few more hours, just to finish this hem! AMC’s 13 days of Halloween drones on in the background: Friday the 13th, Friday the 13th Part 5, Freddy vs Jason, Jason in Space. We don’t even notice when the cable overlords sever our service due to lack of payment. We are gaunt, malnourished, subsisting on nothing but pumpkin spice lattes and Frankenberry cereal. Fatigue drives us insane and we scream at one another about the complete lack of checkered Vans on Tatooine! Jedis don’t wear slip-ons! Shoe covers! How stupid were we not to think of shoe covers? Or, perhaps boots? Yes, of course boots! Only a child would be caught dead marching around in shoe covers like it’s the elementary school Halloween parade. We scour the thrift stores, searching for authentic Jedi boots. Obviously, we come up empty because the neighborhood isn’t awash with affluent Jedis of the altruistic nature.
Time is running out. I call my mother, for the first time in… time moves so differently now, I don’t know. I rant and plead about hem tape and thimbles and boots. She reminds me that she always bought our clothes at a store, like someone born after polio was a major concern. Like a normal person. She suggests that Wes just go as a doctor again. He was so cute as a doctor. I tell her she doesn’t understand and to stop treating me like a child! She tells me she never got Star Trek and hangs up.
Dawn of Halloween has arrived. The plants are all dead and the cat has moved on to the neighbor’s apartment. Her name is Tinky now and they feed her Fancy Feast for every meal. She already has a Halloween costume. It doesn’t really matter now, they won’t be our neighbors much longer. Our rent money has been converted into working light sabers and measuring tape. We work feverishly, stitching each thread as carefully as our trembling, calloused hands can. The phone buzzes on the littered table, an ominous sign that the hour is approaching. We cast fearful glances at it. We’re supposed to meet our last remaining friend at the bar at eight.
The lights fade and I rise stiffly to illuminate the room, nearly succumbing to weariness as I do. I gaze out at the dying afternoon. “Maybe we should think about it,” I say, so quietly he almost doesn’t hear me. He stops only briefly and then shakes his head.
“If I go now, it will probably be on sale!” I protest.
“No. NO!” he shouts, barely missing gouging an eye out with the needle in his hand as he wipes away a renegade tear.
“But I still have to put on my costume! And you know I always glue my eyes shut trying to apply false lashes!”
This only makes him work harder, faster. The resentment towards me is palpable in each thrust of the gleaming needle into the sandy colored cloth, a reflection of the desert stretches of Tatooine. “You don’t believe in me.”
“I was just going to pick up some face paint, in case, well maybe our only friend would want some for his costume,” I offer.
“I WILL NOT BE A ZOMBIE DOCTOR AGAIN! Not this year. This year, I will be a Jedi,” he declares resolutely.
Night falls and all that can be done has been done. The final assembly is hurried, and mostly safety pin based. In actuality, the costume is ten percent safety pins, but looks good if you squint. The tunic is less of a tunic than a drape, but it’s the robe, the glorious robe that pulls it all together. I (dressed as a generic angel, because I found some bent and crooked wings under the mass of Jedi material in the closet) am brimming with pride, faced with my Jedi knight.
Then unceremoniously, the hood drops off the body amidst the devastating tinkling of safety pins and the robe crumples to the ground.
An hour later, swaddled in trash bags to keep the fake blood of our friend’s car seat, a morose zombie doctor is piloted to the bar. Having little time for online tutorials, the makeup is amateurish and confusing. After a moment, the mad doctor brightens.
“Maybe I can get it done for Thanksgiving.”
A wild laugh starts deep in my throat. Genius. “Yes, maybe we can get it done for Thanksgiving.”
The laughter rises to a cackle and the doctor joins in, a wild insane laugh that frightens our friend the driver. “Yes, Thanksgiving! We only need a little more fabric.” Suddenly, he grabs the wheel and veers the car into a ditch, rendering the driver unconscious with a blow to the steering wheel. He pushes his dear friend out of the driver’s seat, snatching his wallet as he falls limply to the ground.
He rifles quickly through the wallet, counting the bills. “Sixty-three dollars and a Del Taco coupon. How late is the fabric store open?”
I smile. “Midnight.”
“Call Rhonda. Tell her we’ll be there in ten.”
And this curse continues, every year. It may never end. For the life of me I can’t figure out why our friend picks us up every year, only to be knocked unconscious and robbed. I guess it’s hard to meet new people in your thirties.
Happy Halloween! Muhahaha!