Last Halloween

I have told this story before, but I felt like telling it again…

Last Halloween

I’m not sure if I was 12 or 13 when I became too old for trick or treat.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite times of the year. I love “jacket weather”, the falling leaves, and the whole spooky mystery of the holiday. People talk about the magic of Christmas, but for me, the possibilities that lurked just beyond the light was always what got me. I remember as a kid I would search the TV guide each week looking for horror movies and science fiction flicks. We didn’t even have VCRs back in the 70s and were always at the mercy of the TV stations to give us our horror fix. I would also try to buy Famous Monsters magazine when I could and loved listening to Halloween stories and sound effects all year round. That special feeling of being in a dark room alone or with a friend or two, hearing the hisses and pops of the record player as we listened to tales from Hitchcock, Poe, and Vincent Price. The crappy haunted houses we used to throw together in our basement every summer vacation just for the frightful pleasure of a few of the kids in our neighborhood. Good memories.
My best friend in Junior High was a guy name Ed. Junior High for me was the start of growing up. I had watched reruns of The Brady Bunch and knew that things changed once you started Junior High. October was drawing near and Ed and I talked it over. We had an important choice to make. Were we too old for trick or treat? Some of our friends had already stopped, some had not. Neither of us wanted to quit but didn’t want people to make fun of us. In the end, the lure of free sweets overcame our fears. We came to an agreement that we would give it one more year and then it would end.
In the town of  Terre Haute, Indiana, they know how to make a kid happy for Halloween. Trick or treat isn’t just on October 31st, here you get two nights of begging for candy. Nice. Ed and I made our master plans…we would hit my neighborhood on the 30th and then hit his on Halloween night. We talked about costumes all month as we planned to milk this last event for every tootsie roll and candy bar we could get our greedy little fingers on.
I have no idea what I wore as my costume that year. I remember a drug store by the school used to carry cheap masks. Halloween masks have “that smell”. You know, that cheap latex smell. Most masks were those junk masks that cover your face and have a rubber band that goes around your head and would get caught in your hair or snap while you were out on Halloween. They came with an even worse suit. Those were so lame. It was a rare mask that had a rubber band that lasted both nights. Then the store also had REAL masks. You know, the kind that went over your whole head and didn’t need a rubber band. I remember I had one of the good masks that year. Thanks mom.
The first night came and we started our rounds. My kid brother and my cousin had to go with us. I remember the old lady right across the street from us was giving out small bags of chips for Halloween. She must have been rich or something! My little brother and my cousin switched costumes a time or two just to get more chips. She caught on and moaned about it, but it worked. We lived in an area that had a lot of kids. Because of it, we did pretty well that first night.
Oh, I remember the smell of Halloween candy. There is no other smell like it. Something about the mixture of all those flavors in your bag that is very special. Chocolate and candy necklaces, wax vampire teeth and the odd apple or two, I miss that smell. It was a good start to the last Halloween.
One night down, only one to go.
The next night in Ed’s neighborhood, it was just Ed and I. We were now old enough to go trick or treat alone and it was a great feeling. What a rush, the excitement of getting candy, walking the dark streets alone, and the ability to go where we wanted with no one tagging along. I remember trying to navigate the dark, uneven sidewalks, the sound of the leaves crunching as we walked through them. Looking out of those tiny holes in my mask as I tried not to trip or fall off of someone’s front porch. The sound of my breathing bouncing back in my ears and the heat build up like I was wearing my own, portable monster shaped sauna. This was what it was all about. I remember going to houses where the people you had never met before would try to guess who you were. They would bug you and bug you until you took off your mask to prove they didn’t know you. “Oh, I don’t know you.”
I remember walking by the houses with no lights on, wondering why they didn’t pass out candy. I remember one house had a note on the front door saying “come to the back door for candy”. Right. I don’t think so. I’ll bet they didn’t give out a single piece of candy that year.
Block by block, we walked the streets that night, enjoying the moment for everything that it was. We started near Union Hospital on 8th Street and 8th Ave. where Ed lived and walked all the way to the park on Maple where the “rich” people lived. We made our rounds there and then hit the houses on 7th Street as we headed back towards the general direction of where we began. We zigzagged from one side of the road and back again. Any place that looked like a good candy house, we were there.
Even though the night was fun, deep down we could feel the moments ticking by. 7th street had a lot of houses but each one was that much closer to the end.  Time passed by very fast that night. I didn’t ever want it to end. I didn’t want to loose Halloween.
I am not sure what time it was as we drew close to the end. We didn’t have a watch and I’m not sure I could have seen it with that mask on. I know we had only a few more blocks to go when we walked up the steps onto a well lit porch. I remember having to hold the mask close to my face so I could see down to walk up the stairs. As we had so often that night, we knocked on the door and waited to see what goodies this house would bring. We both jumped in shock as the front door flew open and a man we had never met before yelled at us, “Don’t you kids know what time it is? Halloween is over! Go home!” With that, the door slammed shut. He was more right than he could ever know. With that slam came the end of Halloween as we had known it.
Ed and I looked at each other and knew it was time to go back. I remember how defeated I felt walking down the steps of that guy’s porch. I remember the feel of pulling off my mask, the cool air washing over my sweat covered face. It was nice to breathe and see again. With my now useless mask in one hand and the candy in my other, we walked back in silence, each of us thinking about the finality of the moment. Not a word was spoken as we cut back over to 8th for those last two blocks. No used going down the rest of 7th now. I felt cheated out of those last few houses. When we had started out, we hurried from house to house, trying to out race the night. Now, the night had won and we were in no hurry to get back.
Something was gone now. No more anticipation of “What to be” on Halloween, no more stalking the night for goodies, it all started to sink in. The magic was gone. Getting older sucked.
We were both silently saying goodbye to Halloween…
And then we heard it.
From the darkness ahead we heard…a laugh. This wasn’t the kind of laugh you hear after a joke. This was no giggle or chuckle. This was a maniacal laugh that echoed off of the dark houses and filled your mind with fear. The only lights we could see were the island like circles at the corner of each block under the street lights. In between was nothing but darkness and within that darkness, something was coming.
We froze and searched for the source of the laughter. Like something out of a movie, he came riding out of the blackness, a figure with a long cape flowing in the wind behind him as he raced by…it was a body with no head!
Someone, an older kid, had created a costume of the Headless Horseman. You could tell he was looking out of the “body” and that the head he had was fake. Instead of a mighty steed, he was riding a bike down the middle of the street.
It was the greatest thing I had ever seen.
The rider was laughing at the top of his lungs as he rode from the circle of light past us into the darkness. We stood there and watched as he passed another area of light a block down and then turned and vanished into another street…laughing all the way.
We were stunned. We just stood there looking at where he had been and said not a word. At the same time we looked at each other and smiled. “That was cool.” I don’t remember if I said it or Ed. It was cool.
The smile stayed on my face. It still pops up once in a while, even to this day. The last block or two, I began to understand that, even though my days of trick or treat might be gone, the magic was not. That mystery headless horseman guy opened my eyes to the fact that things would change but Halloween would still be a part of my life.

And it always will be.

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3 Responses to “Last Halloween”

  1. That, was a beautiful story, you tell it perfectly. Magic! Thanks so much for sharing that with us. Definately put me in the spirit of the season.

    Cheers!

  2. Bloody good story. Thank you for sharing it!

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