Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Freebie


I was going through some stories on my flashdrive and thought: why not give out a story for free, in the spirit of the season?


Trick or Treat
When I was twelve, I went trick-or-treating with my friends Chris and Andy.  I went as a bed sheet ghost and they went as a pair of hobos.  We started off the night from their house after their mom made us eat Spaghetti O’s and white bread slathered with butter, her attempt to fill us up on good food so we wouldn’t eat so much junk. 
            Back then, trick-or-treat hours were longer and we had pretty much free run of the town, before the weirdos of today that get their kicks lacing candy with drugs or razor blades.  People were more generous then too, dropping fistfuls of candy into our bags, or in our case, pillowcases.  We used pillowcases because they wouldn’t rip open like the ugly plastic bags they sold and if you dropped it, the candy wouldn’t fly out like it did with the plastic pumpkins. 
            We hit all our neighbors, shrieking the old refrain “Trick or treat!” at every door, laughing until we were hoarse.  Anyone that dared give us fruit or raisins or (God forbid) toothbrushes would find the self-same items left in their mailboxes or flower beds.  It was our subtle way of ensuring that they’d give out candy the next year.
            Two hours into it, another group of our friends met up with us and we hit their neighborhood.  If it was safe for them, it was safe for us.  In the dim streetlight and excitement of unsupervised fun, I lost all track of where I even was.  I followed my friends from house to house, growing more tired.  I dragged my pillowcase behind me, barely able to catch up to everyone else. 
            As we neared the middle of the block, I spied a tiny house out of the corner of my eye.  It was wrapped in shadows from tall oak trees and the yard looked more like a wheat field than grass.  As I stared at the house, the porch light flickered then glowed a faint amber.  I stood, transfixed by the house for no good reason at all.  After a moment, I glanced down the street but my friends were nowhere to be seen. 
            So many thoughts filled my head and a tickle of fear shimmied its way up my back as I realized I was lost and alone.  The lone thought that stuck in my head and spurred me on was:  If I get this house, I’ll end up having more candy than they will.  
            Gathering up my courage, I clutched my loot bag to my chest as I crept toward the old porch.  As I stepped into the shadow of the trees, all was darkness except that amber beacon calling me.  I raised my leg up onto the first step and gritted my teeth at the wood creaking under my weight.  Step by step, each creak and groan brought me closer to the candy.  Finally, I made it to the door, a cold sweat dripping down my shrouded brow.  With the last of my courage, I knocked once-twice-three times on the splintery door.
            After the longest, quietest moment, the doorknob turned until I could hear the click of the locking mechanism.  With a moan, the door opened.  I held my breath, unsure what would be on the other side.  A vampire?  A monster?  A zombie?  I squeezed my eyes shut, not wanting to see it, whatever it was, but I managed to whisper, “Trick or treat.”
            A voice that sounded like the wind replied, “Oh, such a scary ghost you are.”
            I opened my eyes and saw an old lady, not much taller than me, but thin as a toothpick standing in the doorway.  Cheeks flushed with relief, I smiled behind my sheet.  “I’m not a scary ghost, I’m a friendly ghost.”
            “Indeed you are.  I haven’t any candy, but perhaps some coins will do?”  She shuffled back behind the door and out of sight then returned with an old velvet pouch clutched in her claw-like hands.  “Open your bag, son.”
            I opened the pillowcase, my courage fully restored when I felt the weight of the pouch land on my other loot.  I knew the guys didn’t get money from anyone, they’d be jealous for sure when I showed them later.  Remembering my manners,  I cleared my throat.  “Thank you ma’am.  I hope you have a happy Halloween.”
            She smiled at me, her wrinkled face bathed in the amber glow of the porch light.  She waved to me and shut the door as I tromped down the steps and back onto the sidewalk.  I turned back for one last look and the porch light crackled and went out, leaving me in darkness again. 
            I made my way to the corner, stopping at each house for candy.  As I turned down the next street I could hear Andy hollering my name.  I hurried toward the sound of his voice, glad to find they hadn’t hit many more houses than me.
            “Bobby!  Where the heck were you?  We looked everywhere for you!  We thought for sure you were lost and your mom would kill us!”  Andy shook his finger at me as he tore into me.
            “Its okay you guys, I’m alright.  I was just at that little old lady’s house around the corner.  She gave me a pouch full of money!”  I couldn’t resist gloating.
            One of the other kids shot me a funny look, like he thought I was lying.  “What old lady?  There aren’t any old people in this neighborhood.”
            “Sure there is.  She lives in that little shack about halfway down the block.  She’s gotta be at least a hundred…”
            His eyes grew large.  “Bobby, nobody lives in that house.  The last lady that lived there died over thirty years ago, my dad told me.  The windows are all boarded-up and there’s ‘Keep Out’ signs and everything.”
            The rest of the night, we said not a word about the house or the lady.  I spent the night at Chris and Andy’s and we decided I had the biggest haul, but we didn’t even open the pouch.  The next day, we rode bikes back to the street and sure enough, the kid was right.  The windows were all boarded-up, there were ‘Keep Out’ signs everywhere, and the bottom step was missing all together. 
                       

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