Greetings, WYMOP readers!
“Are you going to be around tomorrow?”
I paused on my way out the door. “Huh?”
“Tomorrow,” said my father. “Your mother has to work. Will you be around to hand out candy?”
“Oh!” I said, surprised I had forgotten. “Halloween! Right. Yes, I should be here.” I got the fatherly approving nod (we’ve all seen it, right?), and headed out the door.
And that was how I found myself hustling home after work on October 31, trying to get set up with the treat bowl before the doorbell started ringing. But even though it was only 5:30 pm—more than a half hour before sundown—I had to drive extra carefully in the neighborhood, avoiding fairy princesses, dinosaurs, a Minecraft creeper, and a host of other tiny costumed wanderers wielding plastic bags and pumpkins filled with fun-sized candies, along with their adult chaperones. I thought trick-or-treating started when the sun went down and ran at least through dusk, if not straight into night? Shouldn’t people at least have time to get home from work first?
|That's me on your left, Halloween 2015.|
I slapped the Mini into the driveway and flew through the house, searching out a good bowl for candy and grabbing my costume. It was the same costume I’ve worn for years, so there wasn’t a lot of thought to it—a kind of western skeleton, what I tend to call my Dark Muse (the mask often hangs on a hook where, were it alive, it would be overseeing my writing). I slipped into the costume, snagged the now-full bowl on my way out the door, and started to set up the porch.
The back steps to my parents’ house are bracketed by a pair of tall bushes, forming a somewhat narrow corridor up the stairs. They have a small bench on the porch, and I dragged it over and centered it on those bushes. I took a seat with the bowl in my lap, and looked around. From the street you could look across our darkening front yard, straight between those bushes, and see me sitting on that bench, candy bowl in my hands, waiting for little trick-or-treaters to come along. The porch light was even directly over my head, so though I was well lit, the hat threw a shadow over my skull face.
It was perfect.
There I was, spooky as hell but in full view—no jump-scares necessary. And if any of the little ones were just too scared to make the approach, I could always stroll down onto the walkway or into the yard, talking to them or being silly—still kind of spooky, but making sure they got their candy.
I do love Halloween.
So I sat there on my bench and waited.
We live on a dead-end street in a small neighborhood, but it’s a neighborhood full of children. Had I actually missed all the kids by not getting out there until sunset? Was I going to wind up with a whole bowl of untouched candy in the house for my father and I to fight over?
Suddenly I heard voices. Little, excited voices. I sat still as a stone, not doing anything, just being spooky. It was getting pretty dark by then, and the mask I wore has thin black fabric over the eye holes to simulate empty sockets; I can read a newspaper through that fabric in good light, but this was not good light. Staring all the way across the front yard, all I could see were shapes in the gloom by the street—two large and two small, with one of the larges pushing a stroller. Both of the smalls stopped dead.
“Whoa,” said one.
“There’s a guy!” said the other, and then, filled with excitement: “And he’s got candy!”
This is it, I thought. First trick-or-treaters of the night!
“Is that a—” started one of the large shapes, deep voice questioning. There was a pause—a considering pause—then: “Nope.”
“But—” said one small voice.
“He’s just—” said the other little voice.
But the two large shapes walked on, making discouraging sounds and picking up the pace, forcing the smalls to hurry to keep up. I sat alone beneath the light, staring down into the still-full candy bowl, a sad, sad skeleton.
Strange to think that, though I was the one dressed out in bones, I wasn’t the only walking dead out there. At least I was alive on the inside.
I had a terrific Halloween weekend, doing horror-writer stuff, but that was Friday through Sunday. Monday the 31st was the first I heard of whole towns gathering in parking lots in the middle of the day to allow the kids to go “thunk-or-treating.” It was the day I missed most of the trick-or-treaters by not getting home from work until 5:30. And it was the day someone said “Nope.”
This Halloween, I was a sad, sad skeleton.
What the hell has happened to us?
Talk to you later.