It’s not quite Canadian Thanksgiving / Columbus Day / Indigenous People’s Day, and the Halloween decorations have been showing up for some time. I predict a flare this week. I will admit that I find this a little disconcerting. I’m all for day-of adornment and I love pumpkins, but I remember when house decorations were a December thing.
Some years ago we had a guest from the Netherlands. She happened to be here at the end of October and she was absolutely enthralled with all the Halloween decorations, walking around the neighborhood taking pictures of the extravagant displays. To this day, I think of her when this stuff starts to appear, seeing it all through her fresh eyes.
All of which reminded me of a short story I wrote and tried to have published about a million years ago. I found it in my files recently, along with the very polite hand-signed rejection note from Cricket Magazine. It’s not great, but it made me smile…
Made me smile, but also made me sad. It was written pre-9/11, pre- the ferocity of “free-range parenting” debates. Written when the misadventures of youth were more plentiful, sweet, and not always known to the supervising adults. Written from the experience of recounted tales told after-the-fact as tonic across the generations, drunk with shared pleasure and not a few laughs at one’s own expense.
William, Who Went Trick or Treating Too Soon
William loved Halloween. He thought about it for months ahead of time. He made his costume weeks ahead of time. Then we wore his costume all the time.
One day, about a week before Halloween, something occurred to William. He figured if he got lots of goodies on Halloween night, we’d get even more if he went out early. No one else would be trick or treating…no one else would be getting the treats…
William just couldn’t wait. He put on his costume, got his bag and went next door.
He knocked on the door and waited with a very polite smile on his face. “Trick or treat!” he sang as the door opened.
The man looked confused. “Trick or treat?” he said, “Trick or treat? Oh. Um, well, hold on.” In a moment he came back and put something in William’s bag.
“Thank you,” said William happily as he opened his bag and peered inside. There was a shiny new light bulb.
He went to the next door and knocked loudly. A woman with a friendly smile opened the door. “Trick or treat!” said William cheerfully. “Happy Halloween!” he added, just for good measure.
“Halloween?” she said, “Oh, right. Halloween. Just a second.” William waited as patiently as he could, but it was hard to do. “And Happy Halloween to you, too!” said the woman as she dropped something into his bag.
“Thanks a lot!” William cried. As soon as the door closed, he looked in this bag. There was a whole package of paper clips.
At the next door William tried very hard to be very, very polite. “Happy Halloween! Trick or treat, please!” he sang. An elderly woman looked at him in silence and then disappeared for a moment. When she came back, she put something in Wiliam’s bag and patted him on the head, “Happy Halloween, dear.”
“Oh, thank you so much. Thank you! Thank you!” he called. William was almost afraid to look in his bag, but he did. There was a brand new pair of socks, with the paper wrapper still on.
At the next apartment he got soap.
Then he got a bone-shaped dog biscuit.
Then a can of soup.
Then cough drops.
William looked into his bag. This was not how it was supposed to work. He wandered back to his apartment, wondering what had gone wrong. William’s grandfather met him at the door, “Hey, buddy, where ya’ been?” he asked.
Silently, William opened his bag and showed his grandfather what was inside. “Yeah,” said his grandfather, “The same thing happened to me when I went trick of treating too soon. Did I ever tell you that story?” he asked as he and William walked inside.