Growing up in Connecticut, Halloween was a big deal.
The air was crisp and smelled of burning leaves. Pumpkins sat on doorsteps with malevolent blocky grins. Ghosts, ghouls, and witches laughed, and danced, and screamed down the sidewalk.
One could wear the most horrible, terrifying costume imaginable, but often my kid brother, Sean, and I ended up as monsters manufactured by our Mom out of paper bags, crepe paper, and wild red cone noses all attached in such a way that made it impossible to see, hear, or move except, perhaps, for a loose free hand to hold a shopping bag full of tooth rotting goodness.
Inevitably, the costumes would erode until my brother and I were left running around in the dark in our puffy winter coats with sad stray bits of crepe paper still taped to our backs.
There was the list of treats we were not allowed to eat: unwrapped, home-made candies obviously dosed with unspeakable toxins, and healthy looking apples that contained secret razor blades.
There was the list of houses we were not allowed to visit, all of which contained benign hippy looking people that our parents reasoned most likely to provide us with unwrapped, home-made poison candy, and razor bearing apples.
The last night I went trick-or-treating, my friends weren’t having any of it. I was on my own. I mean, on my own with Sean, who I was saddled with, as usual.
Toward the end of the night, all the giggling ghosts had drifted off, and we found ourselves lost in a dark neighborhood, alone. The air was cold and we could see our breath.
We decided that we would make one last haul, like bank robbers going for that final score before retirement, and scanned for a house with a porch light still burning.
A peak roofed mansion rose out of the shadows ahead of us with cobwebs draped across the iron railing out front, candlelight flickering inside, and dark silhouettes of cats staring down at us with phantom green eyes from upstairs windows.
My brother and I looked at each other. Sean rang the doorbell. A dark figure moved behind the small window in the front door.
“Trick or treat,” we chorused tunelessly.
The door yawned open and a woman with pale paper white skin, blank eyes, and black lace clothing that buttoned up under her chin and swept down all the way to the floor.
It became colder than the fingers of wind that pushed at our backs; a cold that started inside and spread slowly, inexorably outward.
She stared at us and offered a basket.
Sean reached in and pulled out a perfect Macintosh apple.
I did the same.
“Thank you,” I said, already backing away.
Sean got ahead of me. I followed him and could feel those staring eyes at my back.
We broke into a run.
“Boy,” I said. “That was sure something.”
My brother didn’t answer, but kept loping on ahead of me. He rummaged around in his goody bag while we jogged along.
I heard a crunching sound. “Sean?”
The crunching continued.
“Sean, what are you eating?”
“Give me that apple.” I lunged after him. He tried to get away, but I was too fast for him. I caught him, spun him around, and pulled out what was in his mouth.
That’s when he started to scream.
The blood was everywhere.
It was kind of, I don’t know, sticky, and smelled like that Japanese artificial watermelon flavor.
“You stole my best candy,” my brother cried.
I suspect, to this day, he’s never really forgiven me.
(I know. I know. Probably could use another twist. Let me know if you think of any.)
My friend Gloria is about to have a birthday and one of her famous all-girl dance parties, which my wife is thrilled to attend. This is what I imagine it will be: