As befitting the month of October, this is a story of tricks and treats and things that go bump in the night … and things that sometimes bump back.
2117 West Elm was giving out boxes of raisins, so it was soap on the windows for them. 1357 Jefferson was being a little stingy with the portion sizes, but the quality was good, name brands, so they got a pass. 1842 Beauregard had the lights on but the chain link fence locked up tight, so eggs would have to do there. But the rest of the neighborhood had their act together, and a ghost, a ninja and a pirate approached 3391 Keller with bags sagging from the weight of their haul.
They hurried up the neatly landscaped driveway, past a mailbox with the name “Hausman” neatly painted on the side. The porch light was bright and welcoming, and a fat jack-o’-lantern glowed happily on a small table. It was the ninja’s turn to ring the bell, and the door opened after only a brief delay, revealing a distinguished-looking man with slicked-back gray hair.
“Trick or treat!” they shouted with as much lusty bravado as three eight-year-olds could muster.
The man considered them quietly, then said, “Very well. Trick.”
“Huh?” the pirate said.
He grinned, deepening the wrinkles around his eyes. “You heard me. Trick. Do your worst.” He gently shut the door.
They didn’t need to be told twice.
The ghost suggested soap, but as they approached the windows, the bushes that had looked so green and well-kept from a distance now sprawled in a tangled mass of twisted branches and thorns that wouldn’t let them get close. The ninja climbed on the pirate’s back to try to reach over, but the branches seemed to grow up to meet him, the thorns reaching eagerly towards him.
“Got any eggs left?” the pirate asked. So they retreated to the sidewalk and took careful aim and lobbed their eggs with practiced precision. But every throw either sailed over the house into the back yard, or went wide and fell harmlessly on the lawn. “Get closer!” the ninja said, but it made no difference; not a single egg found its mark against the side of the house.
They returned to the sidewalk, chewing their lower lips in frustrated thought.
“Now what do we do?” the ghost asked.
“We’re all out of eggs,” the pirate said glumly.
The ninja’s eyes widened, and he smiled. “We go with the nucular option,” he said, and pointed at the jack-o’-lantern on the porch.
They ran onto the porch, giggling. The ghost leaned down and blew out the candle, the pumpkin’s eyes going dark with a whiff of smoke. The ninja and the pirate had a brief argument over who would smash the pumpkin, an argument won by the pirate only by promising to give the ninja the prized Pokémon card he’d been after for months. With the ghost and the ninja watching, the pirate bent over and lifted the jack-o’-lantern from the table.
There was a loud clack, followed by three yelps as the floor beneath them fell away, sending them tumbling into the darkness below. They landed with a thump amid bits of broken pumpkin in pitch blackness, and, belying their fearsome exteriors, promptly passed out.
When they came to, they were each tied to a chair in the living room, lit by the glow of a fire in the fireplace. The older man eyed them with a bemused grin. He wore a finely tailored suit and stood calmly with his hands behind his back.
“So you fancy yourselves tricksters, do you?” he said with a deep voice.
“But you told us to!” the pirate said.
“Yeah!” the ninja said, nodding his head emphatically. The ghost stayed quiet, glad that his sheet was hiding the fact that he was crying.
“Indeed I did,” the man intoned. “We decided it was time you three got a taste of your own medicine.”
“We never gave anyone any medicine!” the ninja said.
“Don’t play the innocents with me,” the man said, advancing towards them. “It’s time you were taught a lesson in being good neighbors.” His shadow loomed over them as he approached. Then suddenly he lunged, raising his hands. The three boys closed their eyes and screamed…
… and stopped as absolutely nothing happened. They looked up and saw the old man holding his sides, tears of laughter rolling down his face.
“Oh my,” he said, “this is certainly much more fun when you’re on the other side of it.”
The three boys stared wide-eyed as the man knelt down before them. “Now do you see what it’s like to have the trick played on you?” Three heads nodded in unison. “And don’t you think it might be for the best not to do it again?” Three heads bobbed in even more emphatic unison. He gestured to their bags, piled neatly by the front door. “Now what do say you boys head on home? It’s getting late.”
With that, the ropes binding them went limp and fell away, and the front door slowly yawed open. The ninja was the first to bolt for it, followed closely by the pirate and the ghost, who tripped on his sheet and frantically tossed it aside. The three ran out the door and down the driveway and back home as fast as their legs could carry them.
Stopping to retrieve their bags, of course.
Once they were home they each spun their tale to disbelieving parents.
“There’s no one living in that house,” the ghost’s mother said.
“There hasn’t been anyone in that house for years,” the ninja’s father said.
“There’s no one in our neighborhood named Hausman,” the pirate’s mother said.
And with that, three confused young boys walked up three flights of stairs to drift off to sleep in three beds.
The next Halloween, a cowboy, a vampire and a werewolf played no tricks, and were thankful for everything they were given. And if you listened closely, you’d swear you heard 2117 West Elm and 1357 Jefferson and all the other houses in the neighborhood sighing in relief, and thanking 3391 Keller for a job well done.