Brian skipped going through the lunch line so he could get out to the playground before everyone else did. He ran to the rocking animals and huddled behind them, watching the cafeteria door. Mr. Fridley was standing there, and for a while he kept an eye on where Brian was since Brian was the only kid out there, but then some more kids came out and he started watching them instead.
As soon as Mr. Fridley wasn't looking anymore, Brian turned around with his back against the rocking tiger and pulled off his coat and t-shirt.
It was really cold, and goose bumps popped up all along his arms right away. Brian ignored them, though, and grinned at himself. The tattoos he had drawn all over his arms and chest and stomach were a little faded, but still there, and they still looked awesome.
He had drawn them in black Sharpie because that was the only marker he could find in the kitchen drawer before school that morning. He'd been upset about having to use the black Sharpie at first, because his mom had promised to get some fake tattoos and then she didn't and then she promised to get him some regular markers and then she didn't, and plain black Sharpie sucked. He told her he couldn't be a real pirate without goddamned color tattoos, but she just slapped his mouth and told him not to cuss, which wasn't fair because daddy and her cussed all the time and so did pirates. At least, he thought pirates probably did.
But now he was glad he had to draw the tattoos on in black Sharpie. When his teacher Mrs. Boise saw all of the knives and skulls and cuss words he'd drawn on she'd marched him straight to the bathroom to wash them off because they were innerpoperat for kinnergarden, she said. Only they wouldn't come off because they were black Sharpie; they only faded a little. She made him wear his jacket all day instead.
That was okay, though, because the other kids who saw them before costume show-and-tell thought they were cool, and he knew they were still there even with his coat on.
"My mommy says only evil pirates have scary tattoos."
Brian looked up and found Pete Wentz crouched beside him. Pete was a pirate too, except he had a real costume with a foofy shirt and boots and an eye patch and a hat with a real feather in it. His hair was all messy and sticking up everywhere, too, but that wasn't a costume, that was just Pete.
Brian wasn't too jealous of Pete's costume; he thought that there were probably some pirates who wore blue jeans and t-shirts. And anyway he had a bandanna for his head, and cool tattoos. And he was thinking about drawing a beard on later.
"That's cos real pirates are evil," Brian said. He wasn't absolutely sure of that, but Captain Hook was evil and kind of scary, right? Even if the other pirates on his ship were stupid and lame.
But it didn't take much convincing for Pete. Pete already looked like he didn't believe his mom, or didn't care if scary tattoos were evil. He grinned really big. He didn't have either of his front teeth, which Brian was kind of jealous of, because that looked super piratey.
"That's what I said, but she didn't believe me. Here."
He dropped to sit in front of Brian, scrounging in a pocket until he could pull out a red marker. He shoved it at Brian and then pushed up his sleeves.
"Draw me some tattoos," he said. "Make there be a lot of blood. And can you draw a mermaid? A mermaid would be cool!"
Brian eyed Pete's arms. "Maybe."
He hesitated, mostly because the wind picked up for a second and made a shiver run through him that was so cold he couldn't move for shaking, but Pete took it differently.
"Oh, right." Dropping his arms Pete scrunched up his face and thought. Then he brightened. "Oh, I know, I'll give you my eye patch if you'll draw my tattoos. Is that okay?"
Brian hadn't thought to ask for anything from Pete in exchange for drawing tattoos, but he wasn't going to say no to the eye patch. Pretending like that was what he'd wanted all along, Brian held out his hand. "Yeah, sure."
He put the eye patch on, but halfway through covering Pete's left arm with tattoos he had to push it up to his forehead so he could see better.
Before he got Pete's right arm finished, Pete jerked away and stood up, waving his arms and bellowing "PATRICK! COME SEE MY TATTOOS!"
It was hard for Brian not to laugh when Patrick Stump came over. Patrick was a Care Bear for Halloween. Brian's dad would have called Patrick a pussy for that, but Brian knew that even though Patrick was the littlest in their class he could be really mean when he got mad. Brian didn't think a kid who was a pussy would punch Gabe Saporta in the stomach and then refuse at the top of his lungs to apologize even when Mrs. Boise threatened to tell his parents and send him to the office.
But the Care Bear costume was way too big for Patrick, and the bear head fell so far forward Patrick couldn't see very well. He kept shoving it up, but it kept falling down again and sometimes he ran into things. He knocked over Andy Hurley on his way over to Brian and Pete, and Pete almost fell down laughing.
Patrick held the bear head back to peer at Pete's tattoos. He made a face. "That's a lot of dead people."
Brian got up on his knees to examine his work, too. He couldn't draw people very well but he'd put big Xs for the eyes and scribbled a lot of blood around them to make them look dead. He was glad it worked.
"I know," Pete said. "Isn't it cool? Hey, let's play pirates!"
Brian agreed to play, but then had to sit and wait for Pete and Patrick to argue about how to play. Patrick said Care Bears wouldn't fight pirates, and also he didn't want Pete to be an evil pirate because Patrick wanted to be on Pete's side but he didn't want to be evil, not even if real pirates were supposed to be evil, and anyway Patrick knew Care Bears weren't evil. Then Brian had to wait while Pete went and got Vicky to be on Brian's team, because Vicky was a vampiress and vampiresses were evil enough to be on the evil pirate team.
Patrick ran after Pete, and while Brian waited for them to come back he started coloring in some of his tattoos with Pete's red marker.
After a second he realized he wasn't the only one hiding back by the rocking animals. There was someone sitting behind the rocking bear, on the side away from Brian. Brian hadn't noticed him and figured the kid must have come over while Brian was working on Pete's tattoos. Brian crawled over enough to look around the bear to see who it was.
"Hi Bob," Brian said. He was surprised Bob wasn't out playing. Bob loved Ninja Turtles and played Turtles even when it wasn't Halloween, but today Bob even got to dress like a Ninja Turtle. Brian figured Bob would have found somebody to play Turtles with today of all days. "What are you doing?"
Bob crossed his arms over his Turtle shell breastplate and stuck out his bottom lip. "Nothing."
Scooting around to sit by him, Brian said, "Why aren't you playing Turtles?"
Bob didn't answer, just crossed his arms tighter and glared harder at the playground fence. Beneath his blue Leonardo eye mask, his nose and cheeks were bright pink from the cold. He wasn't shivering like Brian, though. Bob had green sweatpants and a black hoodie on under his Turtle costume, and ear muffs and mittens and a scarf.
"Wouldn't anybody play?" Brian said.
"Didn't ask," Bob said.
"Why not?" Looking at Bob all bundled up like he was made Brian feel even more cold. If Pete and Patrick and Vicky didn't get back soon Brian thought he would go ahead and put his coat back on.
Brian sighed. Sometimes Bob was really funny and talked so much in class that he got in trouble. But when Bob got mad he didn't like to talk hardly at all. Brian didn't feel like trying to make Bob talk, though, so he just stared at him with the super-impatient face he learned from his mom. Even though Bob refused to look at him, he started to squirm. Then finally he huffed.
"Mrs. Boise took my swords." He switched his glare to Brian, but Brian knew the glare was still for Mrs. Boise. "I can't be Leonardo without swords. That's just stupid. I can't."
"Oh." Brian knew exactly what Bob meant. He couldn't have been a pirate without his tattoos. He didn't want to tell Bob that, though, because he still had his tattoos but Bob didn't have his swords. "Well, I'm a pirate and I don't even have a sword. Pirates are supposed to have swords."
Bob looked at him. "You don't have a sword? Not even at home?"
Brian shook his head. Now that he was thinking about it, he wished he did, but his mom had already said costumes were too expensive and not worth the money, so he knew a sword would be too expensive too. "But I'm still a pirate, see?" He pointed to himself. "I have tattoos." He examined Bob's costume. "And you still have the Turtle shell and the mask, so you're still Leonardo."
Dropping his chin to his chest, Bob looked at his Turtle shell breastplate. His expression got stubborn again.
"But I still can't play Turtles without swords."
Somebody started shouting for Brian; he got on his knees and twisted around, and saw Pete sitting on top of the jungle gym.
"I have a pirate ship and a pirate crew!" Pete yelled. "Come on!"
Pete had Patrick and Vicky and Gabe and Travis and Joe and Greta and Kitty with him. Brian grinned. It was going to be an epic pirate battle, even if the pirate crews were a Care Bear, a vampiress, an Elvis, a lion, a C-3PO, a princess and an astronaut.
Then Brian got an idea. "You should come play pirates," he said to Bob. "We could pretend that Pete's crew works for Shredder and they attacked our ship and stole our swords, and we have to defeat them to get them back."
Bob thought about that, and his face slowly got less grumpy.
"And save the other Turtles?" he said finally.
Brian nodded. "And Master Splinter, if you want."
"Okay." Bob pushed up to his feet and fixed his Turtle shell that had got a little twisted around him. He looked out across the playground to the jungle gym, and this time his glare was a Ninja Turtle glare. "Let's go show Shredder who's boss."
He took off running, yelling at the top of his lungs. Brian dropped the red marker onto his pile of t-shirt and coat and ran after him.
Walking with his line to the bus after school, Brian heard somebody calling his name and turned around. Bob was chugging across the parking lot toward him, a sword in both hands.
Brian flipped his eye patch up and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Looking at things with an eye patch on felt weird after a little while. And his nose had been all full of snot ever since recess, which Mrs. Boise said is what he gets for running around in the cold with no shirt on. "You're blue, Brian Schechter, what on earth were you thinking?" she'd said when they came in from recess. Brian made a face to himself. Teachers got mad at stupid things. Even his mom wouldn't have yelled at him for going outside and turning blue.
When Bob got to him, he thrust a sword at him. "Here."
Brian stared at the sword, confused. "What?"
"You have to have a sword," Bob said. He poked Brian with it. "Here."
"That's your sword," Brian said. "You need it to be Leonardo."
Bob shook his head and sighed impatiently. "You need it to be a pirate. And I can be Leonardo with one sword, specially if I gave my other one to my friend because you don't have one." He pressed the sword against Brian's chest so that Brian had to take it. "Friends are very 'portent to Ninja Turtles."
Brian held up the sword. It didn't look much like he thought a pirate sword would look like, but it was still really cool. And he thought maybe he could be a ninja pirate. That would be even cooler than just a plain pirate. "Okay. Thanks."
"Do you want to come over and play Turtles sometime?" Bob said.
He shifted from foot to foot, looking over his shoulder. Brian figured out why he was so antsy when a red-haired lady got out of a car in the parking lot line and shouted Bob's name. Bob waved and then turned back to Brian, bouncing on his toes.
"I have to go. Ask your mom about coming over, okay?" He waited for Brian to nod and then grinned at him and ran back toward his mom's car. "Bring your sword so we can fight," he shouted.
Brian shouted back, "Okay," and stuck the Ninja Turtle sword in his waistband.
He was really looking forward to trick-or-treating with Bert and Quinn and Quinn's mom now, even more than just for the candy. Now he had a bandanna, tattoos, an eye patch and a sword. This had turned out to be his best Halloween costume ever.