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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The First Halloween *

“That house has its porch light turned on. Go ahead, Billy.” The young boy, dressed as a clown, approached the old house looking for a treat. As he walked he flopped his big shoes towards the front porch. He had remembered the rules his mother told him about trick or treating. If there are no lights lit, don’t go to that house and don’t eat any candy before you get home so that we can check it out. This was his first time trick or treating and Billy replayed those rules in his head as he walked. He also remembered his mother telling him that she would stand at the end of the yard, watching him. She wouldn’t let anything happen to him, she said. Feeling somewhat comforted by this, Billy continued to increase the distance between him and his mother.

It was only a few steps up to the door of the house. On the front porch he could see a chair which was being occupied by what resembled a scarecrow. It was a makeshift man made of straw wearing a flannel shirt and jeans. The buttons on the clothes strained to contain the straw which had been overstuffed into the garments. A brown bag, also stuffed with straw had a face scribbled on it with black magic marker. Billy thought the scarecrow looked silly and unreal and he chuckled a bit at its appearance. He looked back to make sure his Mother was still standing at the end of the walk, ready to run to his rescue. She waved at him and motioned for him to continue towards the door.

Billy topped the steps and saw that a bowl of candy sat on the porch, unattended. He looked towards the house and saw that the front door was open wide. He could see people moving around inside of the house and thought that maybe they had left their post briefly to fetch more candy or something else inside. He didn’t want to exhibit bad trick or treating etiquette by just taking a candy bar from the bowl and leaving. He wanted to ring the doorbell and show off his costume. He wanted to be proud of his clown get up and be paid for his cuteness in candy.

As Billy reached his tiny index finger out towards the doorbell, he never noticed the shape moving towards him. He only heard the sound of rustling straw and the stretching of nylon material on a creaky metal lawn chair. Immediately, to his right, the overstuffed straw man in the chair reached towards him and moaned a God awful sound that could only mean that he intended to eat the little boy. The silly face, scribbled with marker suddenly looked like it had sharp teeth and piercing eyes. Eyes that pierced into Billy’s being looking to suck the marrow of his soul.

The exchange took less than two seconds but Billy felt as if he was held captive on that porch for hours. Where was his mother? Why hadn’t she raced up the side walk to bludgeon this evil being with her handbag? Finally, the shock of seeing this seemingly seven foot tall scarecrow lunging at him wore off and Billy’s gelatinous legs solidified with a single purpose, run as far away from this monster as fast as possible. Billy tore off down the steps and up the sidewalk, his huge shoes flapping as if he would soon take flight. He raced towards the street where his mother stood looking at him. He could feel the arms of the scarecrow cutting through the air, continually trying to grasp at his neck, the foul hot breath of hell bearing down on his ears with the rotten smell of brimstone all around him. He dared not look back at his aggressor and shut his eyes and ran faster. At last he had escaped the clutches of the monster on the porch and took refuge behind the polyester pant legs of his mother.

A few minutes later, another young boy came trotting down the same street towards the house. On his way, he passed a mother consoling a little crying clown and he thought “Who dresses their child as Canio?” As he reached the top of the porch he could hear the elevated voices inside the house. Opening the front door, he made his way into the kitchen where a brown bag, stuffed with straw and sporting a silly face sat on the kitchen table as a teenager, a few feet away wearing the rest of the scarecrow costume explained himself to his mother. “Honestly, I never touched the kid.” He said, throwing his straw stuffed arms in the air.

“What happened?” The young boy asked his older brother.

“I dozed off for a minute on the porch. Some kid in a clown costume rang the doorbell and woke me up. When I reached into the bowl and asked if he wanted a candy bar, he freaked out and ran away, screaming. I could hear him crying all the way up the street.”

That was the last time my brother ever dressed up as a scarecrow and gave out candy on Halloween.

* This tale is based on an actual event that occurred when I was a kid. My brother thought it would have been fun to dress up like a scarecrow and pass out candy to trick or treaters. Although, the exchange and dialogue has been altered for dramatic effect, a kid did in fact approach come to our house for candy and was subsequently scared by the sudden movement of what was thought to be an inaminate object sitting in the chair next to him on the porch. I was out trick or treating at the time but heard the scream and saw the kid sobbing as he walked up the street, minutes later.

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