If you like this story, please check out my completed book, “Butts in the Seat”; one reviewer said it was “amusing, entertaining, and provides therapeutic value.”


It’s the second Halloween that Steve and Lenny have owned Stenny’s. Last week, they gave instructions to all staff which boiled down to Go all out but don’t spend any money.

The staff is fairly representative of the adult population as a whole, in that 25% love Halloween, 25% hate it (or think it should be left to those under 10 years old), and 50% are indifferent.

Ryan, the nice young server, loves Halloween and asked to be put in charge of the plans. He was delighted when no one objected. His enthusiasm made Tara sad.

“His enthusiasm makes me sad,” she had said to Melissa.

“That’s just because you’re old and cynical,” Melissa responded.

“I’m all of six months older than you, you twat,” Tara said affectionately. “And you’re just as cynical as I am.”

“Hard not to be, in this business,” Melissa said. “Anyone who has done this as long as we have is either cynical or very non-observant.”

“Agreed,” Tara said. “But let’s try not to stomp on Ryan’s plans, even if they’re stupid.”

Ryan took a few days to formulate and document a plan. In one of their efficiency initiatives, Stenny had created the email address allstaff@stennys.com, so Ryan emailed his plan to that address. He also printed out a bunch of copies and put them by the time clock, because he knew no one ever checked their Stenny’s email account.

Tara picked up the plan three days before Halloween and hands it to Leigh later that evening.

“Read this,” she says. “It’s Ryan’s Halloween plan.”

“Oh he’s a darling boy,” Leigh says, as she does almost every time his name is mentioned. She begins to read, silently.

Tara says, “Out loud, please.”

Leigh clears her throat and begins to read, in her lovely tinkly voice.

It’s been raining hard in Philly
But it’s warm and dry inside the bar
Halloween is a time for revelry
You can dress up or come as you are

Stenny’s staff will all be in costume
You’ll vote on who did it best
There will be a bunch of categories
Including the scariest vest

If you vote, you’ll be a winner
And be served free pizza and wings
The pizza will be very spooky
With cobwebs, spiders, and dark scary things

“Scariest vest?” Leigh says. “Is that a thing?”

“It is now,” Tara says.

“It has a familiar cadence,” Leigh says.

“Yeah, he patterned it on Taxi, the Harry Chapin song. He said it’s his mother’s favorite song.”

“What a darling. It sounds like fun. Not too over the top. But I thought I heard Stenny didn’t want to spend any money.”

“They don’t. We give out free pizza and wings once in a while. We’ll do it on Halloween and then probably not again until Christmas.”

“What are you going to use for cobwebs and spiders?”

“Cotton candy, and chocolate chips with piped-on legs. Jordan is looking forward to the change of pace.” Jordan is the pizza cook, known for his Johnny Depp good looks and ability to mix ingredients that sound awful but make for delicious pizza, like his famous spinach, bacon, cranberry, and honey mustard creation.

“Ahh good. And dark scary things?”

“Squid ink penne, all chopped up.”

“Very good. Why that was ever in vogue? Ugly stuff.”

“Agreed,” Tara says. “I’ll tell Stenny they should approve it and we’ll post it on Facebook.”

“Jim and I will be here, and I’ll make sure Joanna and Matt know,” Leigh says. Based on her furrowed brow, Tara can tell a thought has just occurred to her.

“Wait,” Leigh says. “How are you going to make the wings scary?”

“That I don’t know,” Tara says. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”


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