The Friday before Halloween, five days before. I haven't thought about it being holiday time, I've just gotten used to it being October and it's over. I have no idea what day it is anyway. So I am surprised when Anna calls and asks me to chaperone some Halloween thing at Shaymus's school. She can't go because of the baby. Of course I say Yes yes yes.

I think I am walking into the front lobby of the school but I am walking into chaos. Kids of all heights, frantic, orderless, gleeful, all in costume. Some of them recognize me from previous visits but I have no idea who is the ghost or princess or Superman, with some I can blame this on a mask but more often I am just too distracted by their costumes to figure out names for faces. But I recognize Shaymus, even though he is a daisy.

A brown-eyed-susan, rather, kind of, inverted, he's in an orange jumpsuit with a fringe of black petals round his face. I scoop him up and he shrieks AUNTIE'S HERE and everyone turns to look which does not embarrass either of us one bit.

Why are you a daisy, Shaymus? He is indignant and delighted all at once. I am not! A daisy! William she thought I was a daisy! As it turns out, he is some sort of pokemon type thing whose name I make him repeat twice, but keep forgetting. To me he is a daisy and I keep trying to count his petals, you know, just for poetic value, but he's fast and wiggly as a fish.

Some teacher with a pointy but pleasant face claps her hands and gets them sitting in a line. She is no nonsense but they all seem to love her; a balance I envy. We are waiting for the bus to shuttle us down the street to the neighborhood carnival-slash- way too early trick-or-treating thing. These kids are several crucial steps past "excited." The older ones have been to the carnival before and they spread the word to the younger kids - this will be a land of chocolate and nougat, where candy flows free and abundant. Shaymus looks into his candy bag several times - I don't know if he is calculating how much candy will fit in it, or expecting it to magically fill with pure cane sugar before his very eyes.

I leave for a second to find someone in charge, assure them that I am in fact an adult they requested, not some loony off the street. I go back to the lobby - the kids are chanting BUS BUS BUS! and where is Shaymus? Not here. No-nonsense teacher shouts to me, above the impressive noise of organized children with a common goal, that Shaymus can't go. His mom forgot to send the permission slip.

I tell her I am the aunt, try to convince her to take my signature or call Anna. Nope. Shit. I walk away from her half-heard sentence and head for the boys' bathroom, where, all his helpful classmates have informed me, Shaymus is crying.

He is leaning, sobbing, against the outside of a stall and there are tear tracks streaked down it; this boy has sprung a leak. I scoop him up and talk sense but I know it won't work. He is so upset he does not notice I have come into sacred boy territory. I am of course enraged by anyone and anything that makes Shaymus cry and this one is just dumb. This is enough.

Through logic and good posture and perseverance I convince Shaymus's teacher to call Anna. She mutters about making exceptions but she does it. Anna swears not to sue the school if her boy is damaged. The teacher is visibly displeased with me; doesn't matter; we're in. I sit with the kids in the line in the lobby; we misssed one bus but there are more. Crosslegged with Shaymus in my lap, his face a little smudged, grinning, waving his candy bag, still empty but not for long. It's not about the candy it is mostly about the fun of getting to go. He is such a good kid.

At the carnival I am supposed to walk around and, I don't know, chaperone things. Whatever. I cannot get enough of Shaymus, we walk hand in hand around the carnival, we trick or treat, we go fishing for plastic crap in a kiddie pool, we win prizes - we are very good at winning the prizes. Mostly I retie his petals under his chin   (Is this too tight? Not tight enough. How's this? TOO TIGHT TOO TIGHT aaackckckchh he pretends to asphyxiate; he falls over.)   Mostly I watch my nephew being delighted by everything around him. When I say he is all smiles I mean every part of his body is happy.

We're walking toward pin the tail on the goblin, swinging hands and eating tiny tiny m&ms when Shaymus looks up at me from under his daisy fringe and says You like hanging out with me. Dontcha. It's not a question, he is sly.

I laugh. Yes I do, Shaymus. As a matter of fact I think you are my favorite today. Is that ok? Will you be my favorite?

He does not say anything.   Here is what he does.   He stops skipping.   He takes his hand out of mine.   And he salutes me.   Beaming.   He grabs my hand again.   And we're off.

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