Randi Kreiss

Heard any good horror stories lately?


A man walks into a consulate . . .

Actually, the man, a prominent Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident, walks into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. A goon squad, reportedly dispatched from his native Saudi Arabia, attacks him, beats the life out of him and butchers him in a frenzied blood bath. That is a horror story worthy of Halloween, if only it weren’t real.

According to stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, had written too many pieces critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a.k.a. MBS, heir to the Saudi throne and BFF of Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law.

It was quick and dirty. But despite leaks of audiotapes of the murder and a flood of gruesome details from the Turkish government, our president’s response has been slow and mean. According to the Times, Jared urges support of MBS. Hey, what’s a murder between business friends?

Now, as I write, there’s speculation that Saudi Arabia can’t slither out of claiming some responsibility, having been caught with the bone saw in hand. They may give up one of their ministers, lay all the blame on him and try to put out the political fire.

If only there weren’t a butchered journalist, a grieving family and outraged colleagues determined to have full accountability for the murder. Trump, of course, snug in his moral vacuum, reminds us of how much Saudi Arabia means to America as a customer. We can forgive their trespasses, no? Go along to get along?

No. I don’t believe the world press will let go of this story. We can’t trust the president or his administration to do the right thing. But we can rely on relentless research and reporting from Khashoggi’s colleagues around the globe.

As our official celebration of controlled scariness — Halloween — approaches, I recall an easier time, when the perceived threats of being out and about on Oct. 31 were actually quite benign.

It was 1953. Rays of sunlight blinked at me from between the stores along Merrick Road. My mother was pushing my sister in a baby carriage and I was running alongside, trying to keep up and, at the same time, to keep my eye on the white bakery box with the Charlotte russe tucked inside. The sponge cake, the heavy whipped cream, the cherry on top — I could practically smell it through the white cardboard.

The wind blew, and we lowered our heads into the cold as we hurried home. My mother was nervous, urging me to move faster as we turned a corner onto a residential street. Just then, some teenage boys came running around the corner and knocked into us, laughing and screaming and trying to “get” one another with big thick sticks of colored chalk. My mother yelled at them to be careful, and they ran off.

My mother seemed worried about getting home before dark. I asked her what the boys were doing, and she said the big kids sometimes “chalk” people on Halloween, and that seemed about as scary to me as anything could be. I walked faster.

All these years later, although nothing happened to us, I remember the tension of that walk and the relief of getting home and closing the front door behind us. Later, my dad helped me put on my bunny costume and we rang doorbells up and down the block, collecting candy. The mystery of being out after dark on Halloween and the slight tingle of fear down my spine felt delicious, as long as my hand was tucked into my dad’s. No big boys would chalk us on our block!

Looking back, it seemed a fine and fitting Halloween, with just the right amount of fear to spice the afternoon and sugar to sweeten the evening. It was more than 50 years ago, but it seems like 200, for all the ways the world has changed.

Today, the president claims to “love” North Korean madman and nuclear arms cowboy Kim Jong-un. Fierce hurricanes and typhoons roil oceans around the globe, fueled by climate change, and our government doesn’t acknowledge the rising waters. Every day, some 96 Americans are killed by guns, except for the days when shooters take out more than that in mindless sprees of violence.

No Halloween imaginings can possibly compete, for real terror, with what we face every day, as a feckless president and his followers threaten our democracy.

If I had young children, I would preserve Halloween for them. I would make a big deal, let them feel a little scared, but mostly safe, let them dress in costume and walk with me, door to door, gathering all the junk food we could.

I would tell them ghost stories. But I wouldn’t tell the story of the man who went into the consulate.

Copyright 2018 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.