How I Learned the Meaning of Executioner
My parents (like all parents) have some oddities. For example, my dad thinks the Harry Potter books drive its readers to witchcraft. My mom is terrified of gargoyles (this came as a result of a bad dream after watching an episode of the Saturday morning cartoon,Gargoyles). And, because it is a pagan ritual, they didn’t allow their kids to go trick-or-treating. In fact, it took years of negotiating before I was even allowed to wear a scary costume to school for the Halloween party. (The common solution from my dad about wearing a costume was to go as a monster dressed up as a kid). But after some pleading and pestering I finally got my wish. I was going to dress scary.
As a kid, the school Halloween party was what I lived for. It was when I could amass large amounts of candy to hoard in my Lego box for the long winter. Moreover, the day’s itinerary was ideal. Everyone dressed up, ate candy, and went home early—without even skipping recess. Even better was the fact that the teachers would put on crazy costumes! I remember Mrs. Berry would dress up as a strawberry, Mrs. Carpenter would dress up as a carpenter, and Mrs. Fox would dress up as some strange looking animal I could never figure out. Regardless, I was finally allowed to join them and dress scary. All I needed was a costume.
As well as being a bit quirky my parents (like all parents) are sometimes strangely thrifty. For example, as I recall my dad only took me to the dentist once. My mom bought futon beds that doubled as couches. And, because it wasn’t necessary for survival, they agreed that it would be stupid to spend money on an actual costume. Consequently, my options were limited to what could be found in the house. (My dad’s idea for a costume involved my two older sisters and their makeup—he was not actually trying to help). However, I wasn’t left completely without options. Thanks to my older brother, our rural Idaho home had an abundance of paraphernalia from the Army Navy Store. Thus, after some careful consideration of what would be scariest I had my outfit—a pair of faded black camouflage paints with a black shirt and a black ski mask. (As a kid, I thought black was the color of scary things). But the pinnacle of my costume was my prop—a dark misshapen toy that looked like an ax. With this outfit I knew I was ready—I just didn’t know what I was.
The next day at school everyone came to school dressed up. Some kids’ outfits were predictable (i.e. ninja, princess, ghost, etc.). Other kids came in style sporting demon masks, fake blood, or popular superhero costumes. (One kid, Mark, had a red Power Rangers costume—Mark was always trendy). And then there was me, a kid dressed in all black with a toy ax. Know one knew what I was, not even me. I was having a Halloween identity crisis.
The day’s festivities went on but I felt out of place. How could I be scary if I didn’t even exist? The question troubled my third-grader heart. Not even the outstanding amounts of high-fructose corn syrup could cheer me up. Then came the main event, the parade of costumes—the moment for everyone to admire your scariness and covet your costume. I looked for a place in the line and after retreating from the questions about who I was found myself next to Mrs. Fox. (I didn’t feel bad standing next to Mrs. Fox since no one knew what she was dressed as).
“What’s wrong, Matt,” she asked.
“I’m not scary.”
“Sure you are. You’re an executioner. That’s very scary.”
“An executioner. You know—the guy who chops off heads.”
I will never forget those beautiful words that came from an oddly dressed elementary school teacher. “The guy who chops off heads.” Although I couldn’t pronounce it, I embraced my newfound identity and quickly explained to those around me who I was. “I’m the guy who chops off heads!” My peers were content with the explanation. It is surprising at how understanding a group of monsters can be.
- Matt Moen
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