I want to tell you a true story. If you have a weak heart, if you're pregnant, if you have a small kid in the same room with you, I suggest that you think twice about reading this. Turn on the lights, lock the door, make sure that the gun is loaded. I take no responsibility for what will happen, could be more dangerous than chanting "Ken Jennings" three times in succession while staring into a cracked mirror under a six-foot ladder.
I know this is a true story because it happened to me. A year ago on Halloween while gray ash snowed down on all of San Diego, the moon hidden behind a thick layer of smoke, I gathered up a couple of bags of Willy Wonka's best candy, Nerds and Skittles and Sweetarts, all in small giveaway-to-the-ghouls-and-goblins packaging. I had three full bags mixed in a plastic pumpkinhead, confident that this would finally be a Halloween that a little becostumed mite would receive the offering of my generosity.
See, for years, my wife and I had lived in the very back corner of a dark apartment complex, behind a gate guarded by a rotweiller. It was a yard that no kid dared entered, so every year we would be left with huge bags, Costco-sized bags of candy that would last us well past Christmas, nearly to Valentine's Day. This year would be different. A new neighborhood, nicer, with lots of streetlights and no rabid-looking dogs hungry for children.
As soon as the blood-red sun disappeared behind the smoky horizon, I made my way to the front porch and waited. It started with a trickle and in my happy Halloween mood, I handed out big handfuls of cavity-causers to the little tykes hidden behind masks of various animals and cartoon characters. I shook hands with parents and wished everyone a very Merry Halloween. It felt good. Kids make me smile and little kids dressed up as Dalmatians tend to make me feel that all is right with the world.
An hour or so after sunset, I realized that something had gone terribly wrong. I looked into the pumpkinhead and could see the bottom. Just then, the gentle stream of t-or-t'ers turned into a raging river, knocking down doors, demanding their booty. Small kids in creative costumes turned into teenagers with sheets thrown over their heads. Plastic bags with Halloween designs became brown paper sacks. Groups of two or three became dozens. And the entire block was teaming.
I left my wife with the few pieces of candy in the pumpkinhead, told her to give out a piece at a time, and I rushed to the market. As you could probably guess, the IGA had slim pickings and what they did have had been marked up. I made off with some individually wrapped candybars and a couple of bags of the buffet candy. Fifty dollars worth of the stuff that only a grandma would buy.
By the time I made it back to the house, my wife had retreated behind the door, out of candy and in shock. A line of zombies had formed at every house on the block, their "Trick or Treat!" chants in cadence, some adding the "Smell my feet" followed by the demand to "Give me something good to eat." I started hating them. Bastards, impatient all! Where did they come from? This neighborhood isn't that big. Were they bussing them in? Was the word out that we had the good stuff?
I rescued my wife and after taking a deep breath, remembering that this was what I wanted--just more than I'd prepared for--we went back to the porch. We satisfied a few of the young kids with a piece or two of butterscotch or peppermint. I hesitated at the sight of the teens and thought about asking a trivia question, which if answered correctly would have been worth some treats. Something easy like "Who said 'God is dead?'"
Two hours, hundreds of kids and at least seventy dollars in candy later, we were spent. The kids seemed to get older, but they were still coming. I cut off the front porch light, locked the door, and unplugged the doorbell. I could hear them beating on the door, "Trick or--"
"We're out!" I shouted.
"Done, empty, robbed. You took it all. Now go away!" I thought about boiling water. Hot wax. Rotweillers.
That night, I dreamed of kids. Little babies with outstretched hands, crying in hunger, begging me to save them. But I was out of candy. All of the teenagers had taken it.
So that's why I'm hiding in the closet this year. When the sun goes down, we'll close the curtains, extinguish all the lights, make sure the doorbell is unplugged, and hide in the back room with the stereo on loud enough so that we don't hear their begging. Sure, we may have to clean egg off the walls or toilet paper from the trees, but we won't have to go through the trauma of Halloween in this neighborhood.
It just isn't worth it.