The Mask

Phantom of the Opera mask

by Lugnutz

(November 17 1966 – November 17 2021)

“Mom!” Jeremy cried from the closet. He needed to find the right costume for the contest next week but couldn’t find the right thing and it was driving him nuts. He’d tried on most of the promising attire by this time.

“What is it, honey? And why aren’t you wearing anything?” she asked once she got to his room, finding him in his underwear.

“I can’t find anything right. I want to win this contest,” he said while going through his closet for the twentieth time and coming out with nothing.

“Let me look. I swear, you could hide the Titanic in here. Any idea what you want to go as? Something spooky, or something fun or serious?” She started over his closet, going through his clothes hung there.

Jeremy thought about it for a minute. “Something impressive. I just don’t know what.”

Marge continued to look, changing her mind a couple of times and she came across a box above the clothes rack. She pulled the box down, blew the dust off of the top and opened it. ‘Perfect,’ she thought and brought the box back out into Jeremy’s room, setting it on an open area on his desk.

She pulled a few pieces from the box. “Jeremy, what do you think of this? It might need to be altered to fit you, but I think it’s great and you don’t see this anymore.” She waved an odd-looking mask, beckoning him closer.

He looked at the clothes, cocked his head and looked at his mother, confused at what he was seeing.

“Your father must have put this there before he died. I forgot all about it. The one time he used this, that was a nice night for us.” She looked at the clothes, smiled, and thought back to when he wore this to the costume party. Stunning.

“Mom, Dad died when I was little. Do you have any pictures of him, maybe one in this?” Jeremy asked. “I would like to see them. I have a hard time remembering him.” He was not quite sure how he should feel. His fifteen-year-old brain couldn’t process it.

“Let me look, I think I do, and I know where they are. And put something on, please,” she said, walking to her room while Jeremy put on a pair of sweat pants.

He didn’t feel right following her into her room, so he sat in the living room until she came back.

“Found them. Come look at these with me,” Jeremy heard her call out. He went to her room and sat on the end of the bed with her. She had a box in front of her feet on the floor, full of pictures. Some were in frames and others were loose.

“Here is the one you were asking about. Quite dashing if you ask me,” she said, and handed the picture to Jeremy while waving her face like it had suddenly become hot in there.

Jeremy stared at the picture for a couple of minutes. He often wondered where he’d got his blond hair and expressive eyes. He was still shorter than his father at five foot seven, but his body had the same slim build. There was the source in front of him. Great costume too, it was different enough to be cool. He handed the picture back and looked at his mom. She gave the ‘go ahead and look’ gesture and he pulled out many pictures over the next two hours, asking her about where they were taken and what the people in them were doing at the time.

“You look so much like your father and have a lot of his mannerisms; they remind me of him,” she said, wiping her eyes and giving Jeremy a hug.

He returned to his room and looked at the costume. His father wore this last. He needed to do this right. He picked up the shirt and shook it out, planning to see how well it fit. He put it on and buttoned it up to find it did need to be altered to fit his slightly smaller body. He tried the pants next. After pulling the sweat pants off, he slid the dress pants on and declared them to be very baggy but a decent fit otherwise. These would definitely need to be altered. He held the front of them to keep them from falling to his ankles and went to see what his mom thought.

Jeremy stumbled to the living room, where his mother was sitting on the recliner reading a magazine. When she saw him, she gasped and put her hand in front of her mouth. A smaller version of Daniel had just walked in and it had surprised her.

“I think it needs a little help, but not a lot. It should be a winner. How long will it take to get it altered?” Jeremy asked, modeling the outfit.

“Well, we have a few days and it should be done soon so it will be ready. Get everything on hangers and I’ll make a call in the morning to the tailor’s to see when they can fit us in.”

She got up and adjusted the shirt. ”The tie goes with it, it brings it all together.” She turned him this way and that looking at him from all angles then shooed him off to his room giving him a playful shove in that direction.

‘I wonder what Josh is going to be wearing,’ Jeremy thought as he took the clothes off and returned to his sweat pants. He put everything on hangers and laid them over his desk chair.

Josh was one Joshua Andrew Mitchell, a very game-oriented and smart individual. He was a portly fellow who had yet to grow into his body of five foot three inches. His bright red hair had attracted Jeremy and his glowing personality sealed the friendship between the two boys in elementary school.

Jeremy finished his homework that night and did what he could to get ready for school the next day.

“Honey, I’ll call you after school and let you know what I found out. It shouldn’t be too bad,” she told him as he had his after-dinner snack. At the table no less. Saints be praised.

The next day at school, Josh ran up to Jeremy’s locker before lunch to ask about costumes, but had to catch his breath after running from his last class.

“My mom found something perfect for me last night. I never heard of where it came from before, but it was supposed to be popular way back when. She explained all about it to me. I should be a shoo-in for a prize with this. No, I can’t say what it is, but it’s fancy.” Jeremy put his arm over Josh’s shoulder and guided them to the lunch room.

They were glad that they’d brought their own lunches after seeing what was coming out of the kitchen. They thought dogs wouldn’t even lift their legs to it.

Checking his phone after school, Jeremy found that he had a text message from his Mom to go home and gather the costume and meet her at the tailor’s two blocks away, when she got out of work.

After he arrived home, he looked in his closet for a garment bag he had seen there earlier. Hopefully the tailor would get the fit right. He’d had a hard time not telling Josh what his costume was, but he’d had a hard time grasping its story as his mother had explained it to him, let alone trying to explain it to someone else.

After attacking the refrigerator like only a fifteen-year-old could, he settled to the table and set his homework out. English was a pain in the neck, but it was one of his better classes. Math was next, followed by science. Phys-ed was at the bottom of the pile but there was no homework there.

He was glad his phone dinged an hour later. It was a message from his mom to get moving. He had got most of his homework done, and after her call, quickly headed for the door. He grabbed the garment bag on his way out and walked to the tailor shop.

After he met his mom there, he had to suffer while several measurements were taken. Then Jeremy put the clothes on so they could be marked for adjustments. After everything was done, Jeremy got back into his street clothes and the tailor promised that in two days the costume would be ready to be picked up.

They went back to his mom’s car and drove home. His mom started to get dinner ready. Jeremy still had homework left to do, so he got started on that and worked until it was done. By then, dinner was ready.

After a filling dinner of beef stew, he decided to research his costume. He got online and followed a few links and read all that was there and then found several videos on YouTube, and that brought it to life.

He called Josh to tell him what was going on.

“Hey, Red. What’s crappening?” Jeremy asked with a grin once Josh picked the phone up.

“Not a lot, Snow White.” Josh got his own dig in.

“Snow White?!? You have got to be kidding!” Jeremy sounded hurt, but it came out as a laugh.

“Yes. Or would you prefer Blondie?” Josh asked in all seriousness. “I’m flexible on this.”

“I would prefer it if you were here, I could harass you to your face. You could then harass me, we hug and kiss, then cheat on our homework. Sounds like a win-win to me.” Jeremy said, combining mirth and seriousness.

“It might take a while since you live so far away. I can almost see your front yard from here. And hug and kiss? Nice. You had to ruin it with homework. What other dirty thoughts are rolling in that head of yours?” Josh asked, humming on the phone.

“You never complained about my dirty thoughts before. They’re tame compared to yours,” Jeremy said, pure as the driven snow.

“True. I gotta roll. My mom is looking at me funny. See ya in the AM buddy.” Josh rang off.

“Dammit. I forgot to tell him about the costume,” Jeremy said , smacking his forehead.

“Language, young man,” Marge said from the living room.

“Chinese,” he said back, and went to his room to get ready for the next day.


The night of the dance finally came. There were costumes of all kinds entering the gymnasium. Quite a few were easily identifiable and others left one scratching his head if he wasn’t some sort of gamer geek. Dorothy and her crew from The Wizard Of Oz were different. She had a real dog, too. It was a good thing they turned the five-foot-tall penis away at the door. This wasn’t that kind of costume party.

There was a guy with a trench coat walking around the gym randomly flashing people. The funny part was that it was the bunch of bright green LED’s that lit up when he opened his coat. He was wearing black shorts underneath the coat.

There was a short Devil making his rounds at the refreshment table when a young gentleman in a stunning suit and half of a mask came up to him.

“The Devil costume suits you. I see you spiked your hair up and have the Angus Young horns on your melon, but isn’t the pitchfork a bit much?” Jeremy said to Josh. “That outfit does bring out the devil in me,” he added, as he handed Josh a glass of punch.

“No sense stating the obvious like this. Like the cape? The tall collar was a bitch to find,” Josh said. “Your costume is out of sight. Now, are you going to tell me what I’m looking at, or do I have to tickle it out of you?” he asked, looking Jeremy up and down, from the slicked-back blond hair to the shined up dress shoes. And of course, the mask.

“It’s from The Phantom Of The Opera. My mom came up with the idea when she found this suit,” Jeremy said, modeling the suit in all its finery. “You like?”

Jeremy handed Josh a single red rose. “Before I forget, this is for you.” He kissed his friend’s red cheek, wiping the extra makeup off his lips.

Josh found an empty buttonhole in his cape and slid the rose into it, holding it in place with a pin. He admired it for a minute before grabbing Jeremy’s hand and pulling him to a nearby empty table. They sat down with their drinks.

“I think you’re going to be a contender for the prize this year,” Josh told Jeremy as they looked at the other people circulating around them.

“I hope so, but I figured something out too. I don’t need a prize that tells me I won. In my mind, I’ve already won and any prize is secondary. Here I am chatting with the Devil and neither of us has melted,” Jeremy said tipping his nearly empty punch glass to Josh.

Josh raised his glass, drained what was left and put it back on the table. He then grabbed Jeremy’s hand, pulled him up and said, ”Let’s boogie.”

And boogie they did. Three hours of dancing and eating between songs. Some of the songs were slow. Jeremy and Josh used the opportunity to hold on to each other tightly. Some of the songs were fast, and people had to duck out of the way, laughing, so they didn’t get hit by the pitchfork. The rest of the time they spent talking with friends. They had a great night. Then it was time to be recognized.

The master of ceremonies took the stage microphone and announced the voters’ picks.

“The most scarey costume goes to the Devil — Josh Mitchell. The most original goes to the flasher — Gary Anderson. The most unique, and this is a bit before my time, but it goes to the half-masked gentleman — Jeremy Pivens. Would you come up here, Jeremy, and tell us what your costume is?”

Jeremy started moving to the stage after Josh gave him a gentle poke to his backside in that direction with his pitchfork.

Jeremy wiggled away from the pitchfork, then stepped up onto the stage and went over to the MC.

“What does your costume represent, since I’m drawing a blank here?” the MC asked Jeremy.

“It’s from The Phantom Of The Opera. There is supposed to be a red rose, and I did bring it but it’s now in Josh’s cape.” Everyone looked to Josh who blushed with the sudden attention but no one could tell because of the red makeup, for which he was grateful.

Jeremy left the stage and went to Josh and gave him a hug that lifted him off of the floor, then he kissed his cheek, which again gave him red lips.

“Great. I look like Marilyn Monroe now,” Jeremy said, showing off his very red lips.

“Give that back!” Josh said, kissing Jeremy on the lips and transferring some of the black lipstick he was wearing to him.

“There. Happy now? It’s black face,” Josh announced, laughing. Jeremy was now blushing.

The MC made a few more announcements then closed the event. ”This brings us to the end of our annual Halloween costume dance. I can say that this event had the best turnout we’ve ever had. On behalf of the people who run this fine establishment, the Outlook House, and all of the attendees, I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.”

The crowd gave a great round of applause and gathered up their things and filed out to their rides home.


“Mom, I won! I can’t believe it,” Jeremy announced with both of his hands in the air in triumph as he walked into the house.

“That’s great! Did you get an overall victory or a best in show prize? Egads, that sounded like a dog show,” Marge said, smiling with more questions on her mind.

“Probably an honorable mention like a few of the others there. Josh won for the scariest costume if you can believe that,” Jeremy said, looking over the open refrigerator door as he looked to replenish his belly.

“That makes sense since he has that bright red hair you can’t hide. You also still have some of his red makeup on your lips if you didn’t know it already,” Marge said with a snicker, smiling and winking at Jeremy.

He looked into the mirror in the kitchen to confirm this. He wiped his lips again with a dish towel to get them back to their natural color.

“Better? I don’t need to advertise it. By the way, Josh will be over tomorrow to go over our homework and goof off,” Jeremy said after grabbing his goodies and going to the table.

“No problem. I need to go to work for a while to check on a couple of things I started today. You guys need anything?” Marge asked, ready to go off to bed.

“Nope. All set. Thanks for getting the costume ready for me. It was a winner.” Jeremy put his snack down, got up and gave his mother a hug.

She gave him a smile, patted his shoulder and said goodnight.

Jeremy finished his snack, then went to his room to get out of the costume and get into his sweat pants and mellow out from the tiring evening.

With the costume hung up and ready to go to the cleaners, he spread out on the couch and grabbed the TV remote to see if there anything good on, then promptly nodded off.

He awoke when the sun was up and found that his mother had left already and the clock read eight-thirty.

Jeremy adjourned to the bathroom where he did his morning ablutions, rubbing his chin yet again, wishing for whiskers while he stared into the mirror.

He was startled by the pounding at the door. After he looked out the bathroom window to see who it was, he got dressed.

“You’re pretty enough already, let me in,” Josh shouted through the front door while continuing his pounding.

“I’m here already, quit with the pounding,” Jeremy told Josh as he opened the door and grabbed his arm and dragged him inside.

“It’s about time. I almost had to wait. This is a rough neighborhood,” Josh told Jeremy before kissing his cheek.

“Liar. See the manicured lawns and the Santa in the Bangors’ yard already?” Jeremy said.

“That reminds me, we’re supposed to get dumped on this year. Do you have your snow-shoveling gear ready?” While asking, Jeremy was rummaging through the pile of footwear by the door, looking for his own boots.

“Now who’s calling who a liar? We got dumped on in February, not November. But I do have my stuff ready, even got the shovels and snow-blower set for the season.” Josh gave Jeremy a faked look of disappointment when saying this, wanting it to appear he was upset that Jeremy wouldn’t have trusted him on this. What he didn’t say was he had merely blown the dust off everything and his dad had got the blower ready.

When Jeremy simply gave Josh a look that said ‘who’re you trying to bullshit here?’ Josh responded with mock outrage. ”What, I can’t be prepared? No sense in rushing this crap.”

Jeremy grabbed the remote off the end table, started the TV up and joined Josh on the couch. Unconsciously, he slid closer to Josh who was too enamored with what was on the screen to notice. Jeremy took his hand, which startled Josh, but he recovered quickly.

“That costume of yours was a trip, I didn’t know what it was. Mine was just a plain Devil, but yours — wow!” Josh gushed. Jeremy had looked so good in that outfit. His half mask had been held on by some light colored elastic that was almost invisible from a distance.

Josh turned around and set his head down so his it was on Jeremy’s lap looking up to him. They stayed like that until they suddenly heard the door open.

“Josh, no shoes on the couch. And get off the floor. I’m not going to shoot you, blood is murder to get out of the carpet.” Marge loved teasing the boys and said that while repressing a chuckle.

“You two need to get over it. I know what’s going on between you. I’ve known for quite a while. You like him, he likes you. Now, the big question…” Marge drew the last bit out with a hint of the Devil in her eyes.

“What do you want for lunch?”


Didn’t think this type of story was in me. Surprise, surprise. No cars or anything blowing up.

I want to thank my crack editorial staff for their eyes. And Dude for having this up there.

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