I suppose that’s why, when I came to the old covered bridge, I didn’t notice anybody standing inside, until my rock disappeared under the roof of the bridge, and I looked up. Someone about my age or a little older stood facing the other direction. Even in the shadows, I could tell it was a girl—the ponytail and puffy sleeves made that obvious.
She turned around. There was nothing female about the face that grinned at me, or the gruff voice. “Nay, you missed me by a furlong.”
I was astonished. This was a boy all right, but he was wearing the weirdest clothes I’d ever seen. Besides the white shirt with billowy sleeves, he had on pants that ended at his knees, long white socks, and black shoes with big buckles. In his hand was a hat—a three-cornered hat.
Boy, Pennsylvania kids really go all out for Halloween, I thought. And do they talk funny. “Furlong?” I echoed, wondering if it meant far or long or whatever.
“Want to join me in a game of huzzlecap?” the boy said.
We fell into step and crossed the bridge. There we stopped. The kid put his hat down on the ground and took some coins from his pocket. “Huzzlecap’s easy enough,” he explained. “You need only pitch a farthing into the tricorne.” His accent sounded as foreign as his words.
“Ah,” I said, trying to sound as if I understood.
When the kid threw a coin at the three-cornered hat, I began to get an idea of what he meant, even though the coin didn’t land anywhere near the target. “You . . . um . . . missed it by a furlong,” I said.
“Aye, but it’s a sight trickier than it looks. You try.” He handed me one of the coins. I rubbed my finger over the raised letters: F-A-R-T-H-I-N-G. The rest of the letters were too worn to read, but now I remembered what a farthing was. I also recognized the boy’s clipped accent. “Hey, are you British or something’? My folks have been to England. They brought me back one of each kind of coin—a farthing, sort of like this one, and a tuppence, and even a ha’penny like in the ‘Christmas Is A-Coming’ song.”
The boy looked at me with such an odd expression that I thought I’d put my foot in my mouth again.
“My mother made it—from start to finish. It took her well nigh a fortnight just to weave the linsey-woolsey on her loom.”
Again I was impressed by how much Pennsylvanians did for Halloween. Then I recalled that even in Minnesota, I knew some moms who were into weaving.
“What are you supposed to be?” I asked. My mother’s words about Uncle George’s long-haired phase popped into my head, and I made a wild guess. “A hippie?”
“Nay,” said the boy with a smile and a shake of his head.
“Now, don’t tell me—let me guess. Are you supposed to be George Washington? He wore a funny hat like that
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