by Vesna McMaster
The whole concept was repulsive. Not the paganism. The freeloading, force-yourself-on-me Mardi Gras license that seems to come with it, that’s what I hate. Kids who would never dare step on a stranger’s lawn are suddenly slamming your gate, banging on your door, and demanding sweets. Trick or treat indeed.
Several groups came to my front door last year, and it’s really quite an effort. The property’s set back from the main road a good three minutes through the woods, and the track’s not good. Most of them just went away when I growled at them, but one group was awful. A bunch of six or seven kids, lolling about, looking brash, talking loudly. There was a small girl in the corner wearing a ladybird costume. Her pumpkin sweetie bag wasn’t very full and she wasn’t making much of an effort. Then this fat kid started yelling things. You’re so ugly you don’t need a mask. Are you Lurch or are you Dracula? Then some skinny snotter at his side snickered No he’s Dracula his friend Lurch is inside, they live together here. Bugger off! I yelled and (ironically) lurched forward. They scarpered, but with an ill grace, treading on my late-blooming wood violets.
Revenge tightened round my chest as I watched them go. In a ‘right, that’s it’ moment I grabbed the rope I use as a dog-lead and raced up through the woods on the shortcut to the road. Yanked the manky scarecrow from the top of my bean patch on the way – the beans were long gone and the scarecrow had that unemployed look about him. I could hear the kids through the woods but had time to get to the head of the path, sling the rope over the tree and tie one end round the scarecrow’s neck before they came round the corner. I stepped back into the bushes.
The timing was perfect. The whole group were just at the top of the path, a bit puffed from the climb, thinking of nothing but the next house to plunder. I pulled the scarecrow into the air and did my best, deepest, ‘mwah ha ha’ laughing sound. A nano-second of frozen silence and then, ah, the screams. The looks on their faces. What a thrill. To my delight the fat boy even tripped up and went sprawling before picking himself back up and running as if his fat bum were on fire.
It was nearly a week later that I overheard two women talking at the grocery store. ‘Did you hear about Alice?’ ‘No, what?’ ‘Daughter got run over.’ ‘Oh no!’ ‘Trick or treating. Kids said some nonsense about a monster in the woods. The scared themselves about something, heard something, bolted. She runs out and gets wiped out by a car.’ ‘Oh my god how dreadful! I even… I saw her that day, she looked so sweet in that little ladybug costume.’ ‘That’s Alice’s life ruined, too, not just the daughter. Can you imagine living with something like that? And the poor driver. Horrific.’ ‘This Halloween nonsense shouldn’t be allowed. There’s just something wrong about it.’
That was last year. I stand at the tree I threw the rope over and touch the bark. It’s worn smooth by now as I come here often. The light is fading, but no children come this way. I have candies in a big bowl in the house. The light fades a little more.
‘Trick or treat,’ a little voice whispers.
Vesna is a peripatetic Brit currently living in Australia. She has published a book of short stories as well as numerous stories, poems and articles in competitions, anthologies and publications. www.vesnamcmaster.com