Sunday, October 28, 2012


Buddy was still trick or treating after nine o’clock at night. Porch lights were out and almost no one opened their door to his repeated bell ringing and loud knocks. When they did, all he got for his trouble was, “We’re all out of candy.”

When he said, “How about a few bucks instead?” He got the door slammed in his face.

He was repeatedly asked, “Where is your costume?” to which he answered, “This is it. I’m dressed as a sloppy, red-headed teenager.”

One guy asked him if he “Wasn’t too old to be trick or treating?”

Buddy told the turd that he suffered from premature aging disease. The guy told him to see a doctor.

Buddy carried a small notepad and pencil in the back pocket of his jeans and he wrote down the addresses he planned to revisit later that night. He drew little pumpkins next to the addresses; the more pumpkins, the nastier the trick. The guy that told him to see a doctor got five pumpkins; the highest rating possible.
Buddy walked in his front door and went to the fridge for a beer. His mom was working the 11 to 7 shift at the hospital and by the time his old man came home from his weekly poker game he’d be too smashed to noticed a beer or two missing.

Buddy flopped on the couch, picked up the remote, switched on the TV and began channel surfing. He watched an old horror flick that was spoiled by too many commercials, and then dosed off several times, watching nothing in particular. Finally it was close to midnight and time for him to make his repeat Halloween visits. He stopped by the garage for a few things before he took off on his route.
A mottled moon hung in the dark sky, sometimes melting mysteriously among the lowering clouds. The wind moaned mournfully through bare trees standing like sentinels along the street, and dry leaves scattered this way and that across lawns and sidewalks. Buddy shivered as he walked along retracing his steps to the various houses on his list. He scanned the streets, but there wasn’t another soul out this late.

Buddy made it a point to go first to the house he’d given five pumpkins. He checked to see that all the lights were out and then cut across the lawn to the side of the house next to the garage where he’d noticed a hose on his first circuit of the neighborhood. He took the end of the hose, went to the garage door and getting down on his knees, inserted the crowbar he’d brought and managed to lever up the garage door just enough to shove the nozzle under it. He went back to the side of the house and reached to turn on the faucet. That’s when he noticed that the hose wasn’t connected.

“Shit,” he said under his breath. He should have remembered that people were disconnecting their hoses and blowing out their sprinkler systems. He bent over and searched for the hose end in the dark. When he finally found it he straightened up to screw it on to the hose bib. Standing there in front of him was a big guy with a pumpkin for a head. He said, “Trick or treat,” in a weird voice without intonation or expression.

At first Buddy was scared out of his mind, dropped the hose, and just stuttered nonsense. But he gained control of himself and studied the guy closer. Of course the outstanding feature of the guy’s costume was the pumpkin head, which seemed to fit perfectly on his shoulders and had eyes that glowed with a sinister yellow-green intensity that was really pretty scary. And the guy was definitely big -- big shoulders and long arms hanging ape-like at his side. In one he cradled a head; dirty black hair, shreds of flesh hanging from the neck -- a pretty realistic looking fake, thought Buddy.

Pumpkinhead’s costume was completed by a tattered tweed overcoat that looked like something out of the 1920s, a faded red wool scarf that hid his neck so you couldn’t see how the pumpkin was connected, pants that were two sizes too short, and dirty leather work boots.

“Trick or treat,” the guy said again in that toneless voice.

“Yeah, like I’m giving you anything,” Buddy said. “Aren’t you too old to be out trick or treating, weirdo?”

“Trick or treat,” the guy said again, like an automaton. If the guy kept this up, Buddy thought, he’d spray him down, like he had the neighbor’s dog, trapped cowering in the corner of its dog run.

“Fuck you,” said Buddy to the looming presence, and turned to pick up the hose.

“Trick,” Buddy heard, at the same time he felt the guy’s hands clamp around his head.

It wasn’t quite as cold the next Halloween and the kids that came by trick or treating were able to show off their costumes without having to wear overcoats or scarves and such. That is with the exception of the big kid that came by at the tail end of the evening; the kid with the pumpkin head.

The couple he visited last were still talking about him after they’d shut off the lights and went to the family room to watch Desperate Housewives.

“That kid wears the same costume every year,” said the wife. “Same tattered overcoat and scarf, that horrible pumpkin head, and carrying that grotesque, rotting head under his arm.”

“Well, not quite the same,” said the husband. “Last year the head had black hair. This year it was red.”

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