Tag Archives: Halloween

A Halloween Story

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catI was just six years old the year my brother took me trick-or-treating on Halloween. I had just uncovered the true meaning of the holiday (haul in as much candy as possible). Previous years I had been happy to dress up and attend one of the neighborhood parties and afterwards trick-or-treat at perhaps three or four houses on the block. This year, however, I had heard all about the value of widespread trick-or-treating from my fellow first graders and I wanted in.

I hadn’t realized what I’d been missing.

A few days before Halloween, I approached my parents, indignant. “I don’t want to go to any stupid party on Halloween,” I told them. “I want to trick-or-treat all night long and get lots and lots of candy!”

My parents looked at each other, tired from their long work days, and sighed. They were already getting older then, my father well past 50.

“Ok,” my mother said, “but I can’t take you because I have to be home to hand out candy and your Dad’s working the midnight shift.”

She glanced around. Unfortunately for my 14-year-old brother happened to be in the room and was promptly assigned the duty. He was to take me trick-or-treating on Halloween night for an hour… somewhat limiting my take of goodies but not unreasonably so, I figured.

I wore my Halloween costume to school the next day and when I got home, I stared at myself in the mirror, trying my best to look scary. I thought my witch costume was beautiful: all black and shiny and fierce. When you’re six years old you think that handmade costumes are absolutely the best. For my first Halloween my mother had sewn a spotted puppy outfit, complete with long, floppy ears. I swear I could remember wearing that costume, chewing on the ears, but I was only ten months old at the time so it must have been later. When I was three I came across the puppy costume stuffed in the back of my closet and my mother gave it to me as a stand-in for the dog I requested daily. I dragged that gutless puppy around with me for months and named him Snoopy. A few years later when I was eight or so I discovered that you no longer want to wear costumes sewn by your mother. What you really want – no need — are the plastic, store-bought kind with the suffocating masks that all your friends have. You will probably be quite mean to your mother to get such a costume.

But not this year. This year with my fancy black pointed hat and satiny cape, I thought no one in the world had a better costume.

By the time it was 5:00 on Halloween evening, I could barely sit still, so impatient to start my hunting and gathering of candy. My brother finally came out of his room around 6:00 dressed as a hobo. He had found some ratty old clothes in the shed, and he wore one of my mother’s filthy gardening hats on his head. There was dirt smeared on his face and he carried a long stick with some kind of knapsack attached. He took one look at me and turned to the linen closet.

“Put that stupid plastic pumpkin down,” he said. “Here, take this.”

He tossed a pillow case at me, and I looked at him perplexed.

“If you want to get a bunch of candy, you need something big to carry it all,” he explained.

Brilliant!

I opened the case and looked greedily inside at the vast amount of space available for chocolate bars and caramels. No stupid raisins, please!

“Let’s go,” he said and we were off.

As we left I glanced at the jack-o-lantern we had carved earlier that day, its face reflecting a sinister smile from our porch. My father had lit the candle only minutes before – as dusk had settled into night – and the pumpkin’s face glowed creepily back at me.

At first it was kind of scary approaching houses that were not familiar to me, but my brother was always just a step or two behind and soon I became bold. Halfway through our trek I decided I wanted him to wait on the sidewalk while I sang out my “trick-or-treats” alone. I was rewarded with many, many chocolate bars and was so pleased that I didn’t even frown when Mrs. Harper slipped the bag of raisins into my bag. I would offer those to my brother for helping out!

“Come on,” he said. “It’s been an hour and that’s all you get. I want to get home and go to the party at Doug’s.”

Doug was my brother’s best friend and lived just a block over from us. Sometimes I thought he was actually part of our family, he was at our house that much. I knew his dinner preferences as clearly as I knew my brother’s – hot dogs, spaghetti, chili. I knew the TV shows they liked to watch – Dark Shadows was a favorite. They both had the shaggy hair popular in the mid-sixties, but both seemed to veer away from the true craziness of the time. In fact, my brother would be married in less than five years.

The hour of trick-or-treating flew by and although I really wanted to keep going, I was actually pretty tired and knew the second best thing next to trick-or-treating was getting home, dividing the candy into piles – all the Milky Ways here, all the suckers there – and then eating one from each.

We turned and headed home.

The sky was very dark now and I could hear the shuffling of feet through the leaves. It was both spooky and fun – a perfect autumn night illuminated by the splendid yellow moon overhead. We walked down our block and waved to some of the older neighbor kids who were still heading out, some to trick-or-treat, others to Doug’s party. Tommy Green was dressed as a soldier and he fake stabbed me as he walked by.

Up ahead was our house and I noticed a big kid dressed as a baseball player trick-or-treating there. I could see my mother fill his bag and close the door. The baseball player turned to leave but then paused and turned back towards the door, considering something. Suddenly he pulled out his baseball bat and started to smash our jack-o-lantern, stringy orange bits of pumpkin flying everywhere. My brother stopped in his tracks, unsure what to do. The baseball player was big and definitely older than my brother and he was giving our pumpkin a good thrashing.

“Oh no!” I cried dramatically, tears quickly spreading down my checks. “He’s killing our pumpkin!”

My brother looked down at me, his dirty face strained. I had stuffed my fist in my mouth, whimpering, my perfect Halloween suddenly turning into a horror show right in front of me, ruined. He looked back at our house and made up his mind.

He sprinted towards the pumpkin murderer.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Hey, stop!!”

He was almost upon the guy and I stared in horror. My brother was going to get smashed in the head by the baseball player just like our pumpkin, I was sure. Splat. Instead the kid picked up the pulpy mess of the pumpkin, ran towards my brother and shoved it hard into his stomach. My brother gave a weird “Ouf” sound and fell to the ground. The pumpkin killer ran into the darkness, and I ran to my brother. He got up slowly, stooping over to catch his breath and then began to pick up the remains of our pumpkin. Surprisingly after all that pumpkin abuse, it still had one good eye and most of his mouth.

We walked to our porch together and he carefully placed it back where it belonged. I had to admit, it looked even scarier now all mashed up, and I grinned up at my brother.

“Well, there you go, kid,” he said, “a real-live trick on Halloween.”

He looked down at his ruined hobo costume sadly. I think he later realized that you can’t really ruin a hobo costume; the added pumpkin stains only made it look more real. I grabbed him around the legs and hugged hard. He looked surprised but squeezed me back. As a six-year-old I wasn’t sure if I was hugging him because I was scared or because I was glad he wasn’t splat like the pumpkin or because he took me trick-or-treating. Mostly I think I hugged him because he saved my pumpkin.

The next day when I got home from school there was a small, stuffed pumpkin sitting on my bed. My brother would not admit that it came from him – he told me the Great Pumpkin brought it for me while I was at school.

I believed that for a long time.

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.