by Dan Johnston
Halloween, for me, has always been my favorite holiday. You can dress up as pretty much anything you want to, and no one cares. No one judges you and you can be someone else for a night and it’s a completely acceptable thing to do. Over the years, I have been everything from Frankenstein’s monster to Dracula to a Transformer. The story I’m going to share with you is the year I was a transformer. I just didn’t think I would end up transforming into the one thing I would never have wanted to be on Halloween, the kid who was crying because their candy got stolen.
Optimus Prime. That’s what I wanted to go out as that year. I was in fifth grade and I thought for sure I was going to have the coolest costume. My family didn’t have a lot of money when I was young, so we often made costumes out of what we had available to us. My Optimus Prime costume was being made from tin foil, cardboard, and markers. I thought it looked great, but looking back at some old pictures, I just looked ridiculous.
“This will look great, B. Just let me get this last piece set.” My mother pinned the tin foil she was wrapping around my leg to my pants. She took a step back and smiled at her work.
“I only wish I could transform into a truck like Optimus can!” I moved the costume around seeing how well it fit, making the sound of a transformation that only a true Transformers fan would know.
In that moment all attention in the room turned to the person who had just walked in. His hair was black and slicked down against his forehead. A black cape was clasped in the front of a white button-up shirt. From his neck dangled a gold colored cross with a red gem in the center. The color of the gem matched the blood streaks coming from the corner of his mouth, near his elongated canines. My brother smiled, “I’m veddy to go.” His vampire accent was awful. He clutched an empty pillowcase in his hand and started pacing around the room. “Are you ready yet? We have candy to get!”
My mother looked at him disapprovingly, “I need to check your brother’s costume, and then I need to make sure Emily has everything she needs in order to go out tonight.” She turned her gaze back to me, tugging on the last piece of aluminum foil to make sure it didn’t go anywhere, “There you go. All done!” She stood up and walked out of the room, leaving my brother and me alone.
He smiled at me, the kind of smile someone gets only when they have some devious plan. “We should be able to go out by ourselves this year. I’m in fifth grade and you’re in fourth. We could totally go on our own. Mom can take Emily around, because she’s too slow anyway. We’d be done way quicker without her.”
I nodded, thinking more about my sweet future than my sister’s feelings. There wasn’t anything in my world that could sway my feelings more than a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Admittedly, as a kid, I think most other kids probably would have felt the same way.
Moments later, my mom walked back into the room with my sister. Her My Little Pony costume was a bit too large, but it looked good. She wore a white cotton jump suit with a Mohawk of rainbow colored hair sprouting from the top and a few strands of long rainbow hair where her tail was. Her face had black paint on it to make her look like a horse, but it was already smudged from her constant itching of her face. She smiled and held on to my mom’s arm. I knew it would be difficult to get her to go with us, based on how tightly she was clinging to my mother. My mom pried her off and looked at the two of us, “Watch your sister while I go get my jacket.”
She turned to leave the room, but my brother quickly stopped her, realizing the chance for us to go out alone would be all but gone once Mom had her coat on. “Hey, Mom. I was thinking B and I could go out alone tonight. We’re both pretty old now, Mom. We can do this.” He had crossed his fingers behind his back.
“Hmm… I’m pretty sure if I am taking your sister out, we can all go together.” She smiled and turned her back to us again, moving towards the closet. My brother looked at me, visibly worried.
I panicked. My brother really wanted to go out alone, but Mom really wanted us to go as a family. I knew no one was going to win this standoff, so I spoke up, “Mom, we could take Emily around. You know we won’t get into trouble with her there. We wouldn’t let anything bad happen to her.” I held my breath while waiting for her reply. She didn’t say anything for a few moments. Instead, she just stared at the closet door.
Finally, her arms fell to her side, and she looked at us. Her eyes were full of relief and a little bit of worry. “Fine, boys. You can take her. But you can only go down to where the Ramirez’s live. Then you have to turn around and come straight home. If Emily has any issues, you need to get her home as quickly as possible. Then you two can go and finish.” Her voice was raised, but not in a mean way, more stern, as if to get a point across.
Barely able to contain our smiles, my brother and I exchanged glances. My brother’s smile seemed to stretch from ear to ear, almost like the Grinch from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, even with the same amount of deviousness behind it.
My brother and I waited impatiently for my sister to finish getting ready while receiving strict instructions from my mom, each minute ticking by feeling like hours. I was sure by the time she was ready, I would have had the first few whiskers of my beard grow in. After a short time, she was smiling and ready to go, knowing that she was supposed to tattle on Alex and me should anything go wrong, as my mom wanted her to do. We left the house in a rush and were to our neighbor’s door before ours closed behind us.
After an hour of stalking down the street and filling our pillowcases with so much candy, it was guaranteed to make us sick, we reached the point in our journey, where we were supposed to turn around. All three of us looked in our bags, and dreamed of the candy we were going to eat. My elation quickly turned into horror as I noticed the distinct lack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my bag. I turned to my sister, “Hey, Emily, I know you really like Snickers! Want to trade me your peanut butter cups for my Snickers?”
I think the excitement in my voice may have been a little too evident, because her response was to quickly close her bag of candy and put it on the other side of her body, as if I were going to steal the whole bag from her. My brother saw what had just happened, and took that opportunity to tell Emily and me of his master plan.
“I know a way you can get extra peanut butter cups!” the words slithered out of his mouth, as he pulled a square, orange package from his own bag and waved it in front of my face.
“Alright, I’m listening.” My eyes were following the peanut butter cup package go back and forth, as if hypnotizing me to listen.
Before continuing his speech to me, he looked at my sister, “Emily, if you tell Mom and Dad what we’re going to do, I’ll give all of your candy to the May brothers!” Her face turned to stone, but I think anyone’s face would have.
The May brothers, Francise and Donald, were the meanest kids around. They had a reputation as being cruel people and would even hurt animals given the chance. At least that’s what the other kids in the neighborhood said.
The first few houses we went to were pretty normal experiences. We rang the doorbell, shouted trick-or-treat, and had candy dropped into the bags in our outstretched hands. I was beginning to think that my brother was right, and that this was one of the best ideas ever. We were going to have more candy than we would know what to do with, other than get extremely sick from eating too much of it at once.
We rounded the corner of the block we lived on and came to the May’s house. My sister and I both hesitated and turned to walk further down the road toward our house. My brother, grabbing my sister by the tail on the back of her costume, had other plans. “Where are you two going? You know those two are out somewhere causing trouble. We don’t need to worry about going to their house. It’ll just be their parents there. And maybe they’re giving out peanut butter cups.” He winked at me while pulling my sister closer and guiding her toward the dreaded house.
Maybe, as time has gone on, my memory has faded a bit, but I remember even now, that the house looked ominous, almost as if it were straight out of a Halloween special on TV. We approached the front door getting into our normal formation for collecting candy. Emily and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the front, and my brother being taller, stood behind us. Alex reached around and rang the doorbell. It sounded like a normal doorbell, but I expected Toccata and Fugue in D Minor to start playing instead, as if matching the mood of what was going on in my head. The door swung open as we all went into our routine and shouted, “Trick-or-treat!”
Standing there in the doorway were two dark silhouettes, the light behind them obscured their features making it hard for us to tell who they were. As one of them stepped forward, the light form the porch illuminated his face. It was Francise May. Before me or my siblings could react, they were on us. Francise grabbed the bag of candy from my hand, while Donald grabbed the bag from my sisters hand. Francise looked down at me and sneered, “Looks like a treat for us and a trick for you!” And with that, he shut the door.
I stared at the shut door in disbelief. The only sound I could hear was that of my own heart, beating faster and faster. I could feel the liquid in my eyes increasing with each rapid heartbeat, but before the tears began flowing down my own face, my sister started crying. Her face was red as the tears poured from her eyes, cascading onto the concrete at our feet. She grabbed onto me with more strength than I thought possible for a seven year old. I held her close and held my own tears in, trying to be stronger for her sake.
My brother, though, dealt with this in an entirely different manner. He began pounding on the door and screaming, “Hey, that’s not yours. Bring it back! My sister is crying out here! You guys are a bunch of jerks.” He went on for nearly four minutes using language that seemed foreign to most fourth and fifth graders.
After the four minutes were up, Donald opened the window. He pulled is arm back and threw a jawbreaker at my brother. It came spinning through the air and connected with him in the side of his right eye. My brother winced in pain and looked at the window. Donald smiled and looked right at him, “If you want your candy, we’ll bring it back to your place later. But we’ll be using it to trick-or-treat with and get even more candy!” His laughing coincided with someone else’s from inside as the window slammed shut.
My brother, looking defeated, turned back to us. “Well, we should probably get going home. Mom will be pretty mad at us. But, at least I still have my candy.” He hugged his bag of candy to his chest, while I hugged my crying sister closer to mine.
The walk home was quiet, and while it felt like an eternity while we were walking it, we were home within five minutes. My father, sitting in the screen porch waiting for trick-or-treaters, was the first to greet us. He looked unhappy as Emily left my grasp and ran to the door. He glared at us, “What in God’s name happened?”
My brother and I slinked into the house and told him what happened. Once our story had started, my mother came in and began consoling my sister, running her hands through my sister’s hair.
My dad, disappointed, didn’t say a word until we were done with our story. “Give me your bag of candy.” He said as he stretched his hand out toward my brother.
Alex handed him the bag and demanded, “What are you going to do with it?”
Dad shot him a glance that stopped his arguing immediately, “I’m going to give it to your sister since it was your boneheaded idea that got hers stolen.” And with that he handed the bag to my sister. Her tears stopped coming and she ran inside the house to see what she had collected for goods.
My dad turned his gaze back to my brother and me. He lingered for a moment before speaking. His words were slow to come out, and seemed deliberate, “I suppose this is the type of thing that happens to people who break the rules and don’t listen. I hope you two will have learned your lesson. Go to your room and I don’t want to hear from the two of you until I call you back downstairs.”
As he turned back to the door, my brother and I went upstairs, knowing we had crossed the line. Our door shut behind us upon entering the room and we both went to our beds and quietly reflected on what had happened.
After forty-five minutes or so, my father called us downstairs and asked us to sit on the porch with him while he handed out candy. The porch was decorated for Halloween with little orange and purple lights everywhere. Paper decorations hung in the screened windows and a spooky sounds cassette played in the background. The small table had a white tablecloth with fake blood spattering on it. On top of the table, were three bowls full of Halloween candy. This late in the night it seemed odd to still have three full bowls left. There must have been less kids than in past years. As much as my brother and I wanted that candy, we would have been stupid to ask for some.
My father didn’t say a word to us, but we sat and watched as kid after kid came to get candy. Within five minutes, two larger trick-or-treaters wearing regular clothes and masks that barely fit their faces showed up. They held their bags of candy out, but looked at my brother and me instead of my father. The bags in their hands looked incredibly familiar. “Trick-or-treat!” They said in unison, not taking their eyes away from my brother and me.
My dad reached for the two bowls on the table that he had yet to touch. He put one bowl over each bag and turned them upside down. A clear, slimy liquid with spots of yellow oozed out of the side of the bowl. Pieces of shell were crushed up and mixed into the eggs as they plopped into the bags making a satisfying sound.
The two boys finally looked back at their bags and were horrified at the sight in front of them. Yellow and white liquid was squeezing out through the sides of the bags. The candy inside was surely ruined and would never be OK to eat. My dad smiled at the two boys, “I hope you enjoy my children’s candy. Let that be a lesson to the two of you.” And before they could squeak out a response, he slammed the door in their faces.
He turned to my brother and me, a sly smile crossing his face, “I suppose this is the type of thing that happens to people who break the rules and don’t listen.” He walked us inside and had us watch the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode before going to bed.
We went to school the next day with the best story ever about Halloween and everyone in our classes listened intently. We were stars that day. When we got home, we each had a bag of candy on our beds with a note from our mom reading: You would have had more candy than this if yours hadn’t been stolen.
I definitely learned my lesson from this and have been way more careful since. Now I make sure I am the one standing in the back of the group, so my candy won’t get stolen. But all joking aside, it pays to listen to your parents, because they have a good idea of what they are talking about.
About the Author-
I am sixth grade teacher in Augusta, Maine. I consider myself an avid reader and amateur writer. I love to share my experiences with students and often do so through my writing. I love games of all sorts, and traveling to seeing the beauty of the world drives me more than anything. -Dan Johnston