Trick and Or Treat
by Jeff Baker
I turned fifteen years old the week before Halloween, Nineteen-Seventy-Five. I felt like an adult. I wasn’t, but you couldn’t tell fifteen-year old me anything. Trick-or-treating was for little kids, I had done it seemingly decades ago, so when Terry next door said his Mom wanted him to take his little sisters out for Halloween and asked if I wanted to come along I shrugged and said yeah.
Annie was seven, Debbie was five. Since we were going with them, Terry’s Mom had said we could take the youngest out after dark.
I showed up at Terry’s right after dinner. It was down in the fifties, so I had on my Dad’s old Army fatigue jacket, which was kind of a costume, I guessed.
“Hi, Scott!” Terry’s Mom said when she let me in. She’d told me once to go ahead and come in without knocking. I never felt comfortable with that, best friend’s house or no.
Seven year old Annie rushed up to me with a big smile. She had a black outfit, a peaked black hat and a green painted face.
“Scooter!” Annie said. I grimaced.
“Don’t call me Scooter,” I said.
“I heard your Grandma call you Scooter,” Annie said with a defiant smile.
“Yeah, but you call me Scott,” I said bending down in her face and baring my teeth.
“Scooter!” Annie said with a big seven-year-old smile.
“Call me Scooter again and I’ll take away your candy!” I snarled through barred teeth in mock anger, reaching for her gaudy trick-or-treat bag, decorated with orange pumpkins and black cats.
“No!” Annie said, yanking the bag away and laughing.
“Scott! Go trick or treating.”
That voice was Debbie, Terry’s younger sister. Five years old and dressed in a pink fairy princess outfit. I grinned and waved.
“Soon as Terry gets his, I mean, gets out here,” I said.
“Terry!!” his Mom called.
I heard Terry’s muffled voice coming from the bathroom. He probably was looking forward to this less than I was. I tried not to think of a few glimpses I’d gotten of Terry’s bare behind. I thought about that a lot but I never told him.
In a couple of minutes he walked out, tall and skinny with shaggy blond hair. His Mom reminded him to put on his jacket and he obliged her with a windbreaker. She was struggling to get Debbie to put a jacket on over her costume, Debbie was protesting that all the candy was going to be gone. Annie was standing there looking like a short, impatient Margaret Hamilton.
The four of us wandered down the street, walking through front yards and I have to admit I was feeling a little funny remembering the days when I was out on my own in the night with my bag foraging for candy. We stopped at every house that had lights on or a lit jack o’lantern on the porch and the kids rushed up and banged on the door, shrilling “Trick or Treat,” sometimes with a crowd of other little gremlins in costumes. Terry and I would hold back and watch and sometimes chat with the other adults if they were there.
While the girls were marching along hoarding candy, Terry and I were shooting the breeze about school, girls (I faked that) and Saturday Night Live.
I was glad I had the jacket, it was cold and clouds were drifting across the sky. Now and then I could see a patch of deep blue sky and stars. I looked at my watch. It was still early.
We walked up and down both sides of our street, past where they would build the new high school just off Thirteenth Street in two years and had gone around the next block when Terry thumbed at the next street.
“Wanna try down there?” Terry said.
“I dunno,” I said loudly. “I bet the girls are too tired to go for more candy.”
The girls protested and so we went down the next street. Terry was probably trying to get to the little convenience store (did we call them that back then?) to get a couple of cans of soda and talk to the girl behind the counter. The first few houses on the street had their lights off. Terry looked around and pointed at a big space of open lots between the dark houses and a lit street on the other side.
“Take our hands,” he said. “Let’s go over there.”
I grabbed Debbie’s hand, Terry grabbed Annie’s and we ran across the lots, Annie protesting about holding her brother’s hand. In the middle of the lot the wind whipped up and Debbie started crying. She’d dropped her pink wand with the star on the end. We were standing there wishing we’d brought a flashlight as I stared at the ground looking for a glint of light on glittery wand. I glanced up. Something was wrong. I looked all around.
I couldn’t see any of the lit houses or the street we had been heading for. There was a sudden roar of wind, and a loud, shrill noise; I hadn’t heard the word keening yet but that’s what it was. Terry grabbed my shoulder, he damn near pulled my arm out of the socket. His mouth was open and he pointed up. I looked up. We all did.
There was a big, tinted, full Moon above us. A black shape was slowly drifting across its face, too solid to be a cloud. It fluttered like it was wrapped in something and beneath it clearly was the outline of a broom. It turned and seemed to be heading down towards us.
I scooped up Debbie, Terry pulled Annie and the three of us ran back the way we came. Terry probably wouldn’t have cared if I’d held his hand as we ran. In a few moments, we came back to where we’d been when Terry had suggested going down the street. I looked up. Starry sky. No Moon. We were out of breath. I set Debbie down. She was crying and clutching her bag.
To calm Debbie down we had to promise to go back towards their house and hit one of the side streets we hadn’t been on. Debbie got more candy. Terry and I talked about what we’d seen, trying to convince Annie and ourselves that it had been a torn trash bag blowing in front of a lit cloud or something. When we got the girls back to Terry’s house, we helped ourselves to some of the candy, sat on the front porch and talked about everything except what we’d seen.
It’s been almost fifty years since that Halloween in Kansas. But even today when the weather chills and the leaves turn orange for Fall I see that orange Moon and the eerie fluttering thing passing between it and us. I wake up and pull closer to the husband I met in college and I tell myself again that it was just something blowing in the Kansas wind that October night.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve taken liberties with the weather on Halloween 1975 (I don’t remember what it was actually, but there was no Moon) but I did go around the block with my best friend and his younger sisters on at least one Halloween. For those of us who remember the 60s and 70s, this is what it was like.