It wasn't long after young Patrick Connelly moved to Tenth Avenue from the crowded tenement on Mott Street that he heard the scary story of "The Terrible Headless Robber of Tenth Avenue". When he first heard it behind the Church near Fourteenth Street, it amused him and he hid his giggle behind his covering hand. Of course, it was only a few weeks before Halloween and he suspected the two boys in the dreaded eighth grade were trying to scare him in front of the eighth grade girls so show how capable they were in dealing with headless thieves.
When he and his twin sister Patricia transferred in from the Public School on the East side, he was a bit intimidated by the way the seventh and eighth grade boys and girls all sat in the same classroom. He was in the seventh grade and had expected to be only with boys because that was the way they did it in his old school.
Like with everything else, there were pros and cons to the co-educational classroom. The biggest plus would be that his twin sister would be able to pass him hints and signal clues about almost any subject because she remembered anything she read in a book. On the other hand, being forced to spend all day behind some red-headed girl with freckles on her arms and legs made him feel a bit funny like there was something she knew that he didn't.
He hated the fact that the girls tended to form into little packs and laughed and giggled at a bunch of stuff that absolutely bored him to death. He wanted to put their silly pig-tails in the inkwell but was afraid of getting into trouble and causing a problem for his mother who had plenty of problems of her own.
The two boys, who were getting a lot of enjoyment out of telling the story slowly and with dramatic pauses, were on the part where the young man leaned forward onto the rail track to retrieve a single thin dime that was in a crack between the cobblestones. The girls close-by opened their eyes wide and held their breaths to hear the fatal words.
"Young Timothy Leary wanted that dime so badly that he never saw the tram rolling down the track. It sliced through his stretched out neck like a knife through butter. The funny part was he was still trying to get the dime when his head was rolling down the hill with his eyes wide open in surprise."
Patrick had no doubt that something similar to that had occurred right there where the tram tracks turned and headed across town past the department stores with vast piles of merchandise for people to buy with hard-earned wages. He even heard the rumor of the reputed "Mrs. Leary" who lived behind the church and kept a light in her window on Halloween just in case her poor son's head wanted to find its way home.
The two older boys called Donald and James were tired of bothering him and moved on to annoy young Lois who didn't seem to mind at all from the way she kept smiling and twirling her shining blond hair. The teacher was looking out the window at the blowing leaves from the trees that lined the sidewalk right outside the small school on the smallest street in the city. It went one short block before becoming a street of another name which was totally confusing to pedestrians and drivers looking for a destination on one or the other.
It was the trickster Donald who drew the outline of a headless young lad on the blackboard to scare the girls and make them cry. Little Mary Jones was so upset that she wet her undies and had to go to the principal's office for an embarrassing interview.
Whenever Halloween drew close, all kinds of shenanigans started happening regularly. It was in almost all cases driven by the common human delight in scaring each other. Some of the boys devised costumes that made it appear they had no heads and they chased the girls down the street waving their arms and making weird noises.
It was with this background of play-acting that Patrick shrugged off the appearance of an apparently headless person following him on the way to school the day before Halloween. He had forgotten his homework as usual and he trying his best to devise a suitable excuse that would mollify the teacher.
When the trickster caught up with him and reached out to grasp his shoulder, Patrick merely said,
"Cut it out, will you! Can't you see I am trying to get something done?"
The hand was heavy on his slender frame and he shrugged it off and shouted.
"Don't you guys have homework to do? Quit bothering me or I will report you to the principal."
Of course, the apparition could not form any words because it had no head but the fingers grabbed hold of Patrick's hair and pulled him around the corner to the empty lot right next to the school. It made him look down by pushing the back of his head.
There right on the ground in front of him looked very much like a human skull. It was too real looking to be one of things you buy in a magic store. Patrick knew right away this was all that remained of young Timothy Leary and that his ghost was trying to get him to secure it so it could be rejoined with his long dead body.
Young Patrick shoved the thing into his book-bag and hoped nobody could see the gleaming whiteness of the stark naked bone. The tall thing with no head let him go and ran down the street that led to the shoreline and the watery grave beyond. It seemed to be navigating quite well for a dead thing with no head to guide it.