Trick or Treat
by K. A. Hardway
She had finally done it. She had become a cantankerous old lady.
When those teenage boys went tearing through her front yard on their dirt bikes, she had pounced. She shouted at them. Fumed.
“Stay out of my yard!”
One of them, the oldest-looking boy, looked sincere when he apologized. The other two found it funny. No helmets, sweaty hair matted to their red faces. The chubby one, his hair in his eyes, had been smiling, unabashed, defiant.
“We’re sorry, ma’am,” he had said. Shit-eating, ear to ear grin. Mocking. Scoffing.
They took her for a fool. An old fool.
The next time it happened, she’d threatened to tell their parents, call the cops.
She told her twelve year old son not to play with them.
“They live at the other end of the neighborhood, anyway, Mom.”
Where the white trash lives.
Maybe next time she saw them, she would offer them a bottled water. They would probably just snatch the bottles from her hands and speed away, ungrateful. Never mind.
On Halloween night, she found herself alone. Her son was spending the night with his buddy. She felt her heart fracture a little when he’d told her he was too old and too cool for trick or treating this year. Her husband worked the night shift, and wouldn’t be home till the next morning.
She felt herself being sucked down into the quicksand of a legitimate funk.
Halloween used to mean fun. Candy corn. Hoping for the coveted wax fangs in her bag of goodies. (They didn’t taste good, but they were cool.) Popcorn with real butter on it, making dark greasy spots on the small brown paper bag. Telling scary stories around a campfire. Being too scared to go through the local haunted house, or to bob for apples at the church festival.
Pangs of nostalgia and wistfulness darted her injured heart. Her baby was growing up so fast. She would miss rummaging through his loot after he’d gone to bed, eating too much candy, and feeling like a kid again.
Did kids these days look forward to Halloween the way she had when she was little?
Kids were different now. They didn’t have childhoods.
They were the scary things.
She decided to go out, treat herself to a milkshake. Something to smile about.
She drove past a neighborhood full of trick or treaters. The crowds grew thinner each year. Enthusiasm and youth waned together, dejected.
Once back home, she settled in, lights out, for a film.
No candy to hand out. Porch light off. Jack o’ lantern inside on the kitchen counter, flickering for no one but her.
She heard footsteps outside, then a knock at the door. Laughter.
It was them.
She braced herself.
“Trick or treat!” they shouted, snickering.
She waited, crept to the window, and peeked through the blinds.
They were walking away.
In the moonlight, something silvery glinted in the older one’s hand. A knife blade.
Kids were different now.