It's all done but the tooth decay and the caramel hangover. The pumpkin truck pulled out. But, oh, what a haunting Halloween it was.
Beginning about 5 p.m., all the precious, petite princesses and pirates toddled, scampered, and giggled up my front walkway, while pleased parents looked on. A wee Power Ranger used the advantage of daylight to reach in his sack and return the bubblegum I gave him. He wanted something different ... from everything I offered. After scrutinizing all my wares, deaf to the howls of Batman, Dorothy, and Scooby-Doo waiting impatiently, he at last reluctantly accepted a jaw-breaker eyeball.
Around this same time, a group of infant ladybugs and bumblebees rode on their mamas' hips doorstep to doorstep. And I knew those babies couldn't even gum a gummie bear, which naturally left their sweet-toothed mamas holding the bags.
I think a greater assortment of people comes because Halloween has of late garnered greater retailer respect, but I'm a stickler for tradition. Costumes are required. People should prepare to experience the startling, the grisly, and the unexpected. And it's my candy until someone says trick-or-treat.
This is why I chatted up a stubborn, pasty-faced, three-and-a-half foot Dracula, explaining the crypt he had to open to get the prize. Still, he silently refused, breathing heavily in my face. His noncompliance took me aback; even more so when his mother poked her head through the throng to let me know I now sucked the blood from the wrong vampire. He had missed school due to a stomach virus and still complained of feeling a tad queasy.
I recoiled, tossed him his treat, shooed him on his scary little way, and dove for the Lysol. Nothing lights up the night like spraying disinfectant over a Jack-o-lantern flame. It spooked five kids into precautionary stop-drop-and-rolls.
A bearded clown demanding treats in baritone arrived with the 7:30 trick-or-treaters, most of whom loomed remarkably taller than the 5:00 visitors. I picked him out as a charlatan all four times he held out his waistband for me to drop in the Dum Dums. Then, a king-size sheet swayed up to my stoop, from under which extra-large large palms pushed a paper sack. More revelers came realistically dressed as 40 year-olds.
Working moms swooped in with the 8:30 pack. They dressed up as guilt-in-high-heels with cloaks of stress drawn tightly across their shoulders. They wrapped their kids in duct tape and safety pins, because, despite good intentions, the costumes didn't get finished. And they darted from cars parked on the emptying street, clutching Halloween baskets, running their exhausted broods from house to house, trying to catch hold-outs before the porch lights dimmed.
At 9 p.m., I dreaded that, if I didn't drive a wooden stake into it, the old folks, who had sat all evening cloistered in backrooms with house lights extinguished, drinking slow gins while waiting for the Halloween bedlam to clear, might next arrive at my door. I pictured a mob of them, rapping at the windows with their canes, begging to bob for apples and pull taffy. As a chill ran down my spine, I blew out the candles and closed the coffin on All Hallows Eve.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. I shuddered. Tap, tap, tap went the knocker. I cautiously peered into the dark. A harried mother asked through the glass if I could spare some candy for her daughter asleep in the car. When I displayed my empty bowl, she pointed to my own kids' trick-or-treat stash.
I think she bumped her head when she rolled off the accelerating pumpkin truck.