Mrs. Stewart hurried down the hall to her 10-year-old’s bedroom. She flung open the door and flipped on the light switch. Jeremy’s hand flew to his eyes. He squinted into the bright light, even as he lurched forward in his bed toward his mother.
“What is it?” she asked as she moved toward her son. Jeremy wrapped his arms tightly around his mother. She hugged him back and then gently pushed him back at arm’s length so that she could see his face. She involuntarily felt his forehead. It was cool. His anguish wasn’t caused by fever.
“Mom! I saw him! The Boogeyman!”
Mrs. Stewart’s shoulders relaxed. She’d worried there was something terribly wrong, but it had just been a nightmare.
“You were having a bad dream,” she told Jeremy as she smoothed his hair back from his forehead. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. There’s no Boogeyman. Now get back to sleep.”
“Yes there is! I saw him!” Jeremy insisted. He whipped the blankets off his legs and pulled his mother toward the window. “Look!”
Mrs. Stewart made a show of peering out the window, searching the street for the Boogeyman. “I don’t see him. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Now get back to bed.”
“Look at the pumpkins,” Jeremy insisted. “They’re all lit up.”
“We blew them out. Remember?”
Mrs. Stewart gazed down at the pumpkins guarding the front stoop. “We must not have blown them all the way out. I’ll take care of that. You need to get back to sleep.” Mrs. Stewart started to guide Jeremy back to bed but he pulled his arm away from her and stood firmly at the window.
“No, Mom. We did blow them out. They were out. But then the Boogeyman came and the pumpkins lit up again and scared him off.”
“Jeremy, you were just having a dream.”
“No, I wasn’t! I saw it! He came up through the grass, all black and scary-looking. He was almost to the porch when the pumpkins lit up like they were on fire and scared him away! He ran down the street to the O’Briens. Their pumpkins lit up and scared him off, too. I don’t know where he is now.”
“Okay. Well, the Boogeyman is gone now, and I’m going to go blow out the candles in the pumpkins. It’s getting late. You need to sleep.”
“You don’t believe me,” Jeremy said.
“Of course I do. Now get to bed.”
“Lock the door, Mom.”
“I will. Good night.”
Jeremy waited until she closed the door, then he jumped out of bed again and watched at the window. His mother pulled the tops off the pumpkins and blew out their lights. Jeremy saw the small wisps of smoke evaporate as his mother went back inside the house.
Jeremy waited there a moment longer. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a black shadow move across the yard where no shadow should be. He sucked in his breath and ducked to the side of the window, out of sight. The Boogeyman was back. He inched across the lawn toward the front porch. Suddenly, the stoop was awash in light. The jack-o-lanterns grinned their triangular grins and the Boogeyman jumped back into the darkness.
Jeremy watched a while longer as pumpkins up and down the street suddenly glowed orange. The Boogeyman was nowhere to be seen. Satisfied the neighborhood was safe, he went back to bed.