Nice Work Mr. S

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pumpkinJust how tall can you be to still qualify for trick-or-treating, I wondered as I stared at myself in the full-length mirror. It wasn’t strictly an age thing, I had decided. I mean, there wasn’t some Halloween guideline that stated you could no longer trick-or-treat once you were a teenager. I knew that if you could pass for 11 or maybe even 12, you were still in the ballpark. But it was the height thing that got in the way. Once you were above five feet tall, the adults started looking at you with cynicism in their eyes.

I was lucky. At 13 I was still shy of five feet tall and appeared much younger than my years. My best friends were Paige and Kimber and they lived in the lithe and model-tall world of the blessed:  blonde and blue eyed teenagers. Next to them I was nearly invisible. But this one night – this Halloween night – that would play to my advantage. I was sure that if I dressed in the stupid princess costume I had found at Kmart, I’d be able to pull off some successful candy gathering. I know it sounds stupid for a 13-year-old to want to trick-or-treat, but it’s not like any of us would turn down a free Snickers bar.

Kimber and Paige didn’t dress up but I was resplendent in my full-fledged princess costume. Paige had even put sparkles on my face. The three of us looped around the neighborhood for a while, hunting and gathering. We saw only a few of our other friends, mostly boys from our class trying to scare the younger kids. Most every kid out that night was much younger than we and it made our chances of procuring candy much dimmer. Many of the adults pulled up short when they saw three teenagers at their door but a couple of time Kimber said, “Come on, Sis. I’ll buy you a bunch of candy for your 11th birthday,” and before we could leave the porch, the home owner would be overcome with guilt and tell Kimber and Paige how wonderful they were for giving up their night for their kid ‘sister’ and then ply us with chocolate bars and peanut butter cups. We would try not to giggle as we scooted to the next house.

Towards the end of the night we stopped at our neighbor’s house, Mr. Sossa. His porch light had been left on but there was no one home – a hand-written sign told us so.  On the white wicker chair perched on the porch was an empty basket with some ripped candy bar wrappers and a note that declared Please Take One. I laughed out loud at that. No self-respecting trick-or-treater was ever going to take just one if there wasn’t a guardian watching the candy. I would guess that the second or third kid that came upon the candy stash had swooped up the entire contents. But then it occurred to me – what if Mr. Sossa was pulling a fast one? What if he hadn’t put out any candy at all? What if he was sitting in the back of the house, avoiding the hassle and expense of Halloween and everyone who came across the empty basket thought he was some nice dude who left candy even when he wouldn’t be home?

“Nice work, Mr. S,” I whispered under my breath.

“I’m getting tired,” Paige whined. She was always the most wispy of the two blondes and I felt overly protective of her.

“I think we can head home,” I answered as I looked inside my plastic pumpkin. I was thrilled to see it was nearly full of chocolate bars and caramels, sweets that would carry me until the Christmas season when the holiday candy would, again, be free and easy.

The three of us plowed into my house and we dumped our stash together on the floor of the family room. Of course my haul was the largest but we had agreed to pool our wealth and we went about sorting through the candy and bargaining over Milk Duds and Skittles like little girls. I saw my mother beam at us from the kitchen and then a sad smile settled on her face. I think she knew before we did that this was probably our last Halloween trick-or-treating.

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