I write mystery books. Also on occasion I write short-stories. For no particular reason these often are about my childhood in Oklahoma in the 1950s. You probably grew up in a different time and place, but I hope you find these little odes to the past interesting, or funny, or maybe even a little sad.
This is a true short, short story about Halloween.
In small town America in the 1950s Halloween night found every kid within miles walking in the neighborhood seeking those wonderful treats. There were no trailing parents or watchful cars standing by to rescue little Johnny, because no one perceived a need for such caution. It was a time when people had a sense of belonging that created a, no doubt, false sense of security.
On one memorable Halloween I had spent hours out with my group of buddies canvasing our immediate neighborhood and several blocks over in both directions. At many of the houses the adults knew some of us and greeted us warmly. There were kids everywhere going door to door. Now, to be fair, there were a couple of houses we stayed away from. One was occupied by an incredibly old man who glared at kids if they got close to his domain. The kid rumor was that he was an escaped convict hiding in our neighborhood. The legend was that he had been convicted of murdering his own children. The chance of that tale being true was exactly zero; but every kid knew to stay clear of his un-kept house.
On this one night I had stayed out longer than usual, because I was also collecting Halloween goodies for my friend Bill who was sick. He begged me to take his bag and get double treats—it was a pitiful scene with this huge kid begging me to get him candy while he coughed all over me; condemning me to catching some dreaded disease.
My last lap was one street over from mine. It was the rich people’s street in the neighborhood. I had waited until the final push of the night to make the biggest haul. Some of the houses had turned out their lights, but most had not. There was an occasional grumble about me collecting two bags but most were still pleasant and generous with the goodies.
At the end of the rich people’s block I was loaded down. It was about the maximum I could carry and I felt both joy and a self-important sense of accomplishment. I couldn’t wait to get to Bill’s house and give him his bulging bag. Bill was in kid’s terms, the fat kid. He ate everything and in huge quantities. He was going to be delirious.
It was late, even for Halloween, and I was now alone on my last leg. First stop would be Bill’s and then finally home where I could explore my huge bag of sugary joy.
I heard the car before I saw it. It had stopped hard just behind me. When I turned I saw a car full of teenagers. Now if you’re a pre-teen kid in safe, small town America there was one great fear in your world. Teenage boys. Often you knew them; maybe even friends of your older brother. But you had seen their group behavior before. Bullying, head rubbing, taunting; they were the most feared menace in your protected world.
It was the apocalypse; four teenagers on Halloween night charging a ten-year-old kid with two huge bags of candy. In a flash I was on the ground with pain in my hand and elbow without any candy. The old Ford hauled ass down the street. I thought I could hear them laughing.
I stayed still for a while. Then without warning I started to cry. Curled up in a ball on a very dark Halloween night in the middle of a stranger’s yard, all alone, I bawled. Just like a baby. All of that work, hours and hours of trick or treating; gone in a matter of seconds. Soon I stopped crying and almost immediately became angry. More angry than I ever remember being before. I stood in the middle of the night and shouted “Shit,” as loud as my little body could muster. I knew that was wrong, but I had had it with being bullied and stomped on by those stupid teenage hoodlums.
I made it to Bill’s and gave him the bad news. He was obviously very sad. He suggested I still had time to go back and get some goodies. I just looked at him like his head had exploded. I said good-night and went home.
Once home I told my parents the story. My dad was furious. He debated about calling the cops or getting in his old car and finding the creeps. My mother soothed him and told him it was bad but it would be best just to forget it. He mumbled something and went outside to smoke his foul smelling cigar.
My mother consoled me, telling me those boys did not mean to hurt me, they were just being teenage boys. That seemed like a lame excuse to me. She hugged me and I cried again. She tucked me in and read one of my favorite books. I dreamed of the day when I would be a teenage boy and how I would treat everyone so nice and wouldn’t tease or torment little ten-year old kids.
From that time on I dreaded Halloween. When I became a teenager, I definitely had my typical teenage boy moments, but I never tormented little kids and usually stayed home on Halloween.
Another holiday short story.
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