It was a beautiful night last night. Very mild but with a high wind which sent the leaves skittering across the road. It was a perfect night for Halloween, even in its denatured, passive yet sugar-buzzed shadow of its former self.
We live in a well-favored area, a cul-de-sac sandwiched between a church and an elementary school in the lower scale area of a very well-to-do town. A safe neighborhood. One of the town's police officers lives five houses down.
This morning my third grandchild (the first grandson) was born. This afternoon my wife left for Seattle to provide support for our daughter whose first child has just graduated to toddlerhood. I could not go with her for various reasons, so I was left as the sole distributor of the sealed, pre-packaged, glucose bombs.
Halloween in our town is tyrannically restricted to the period between 6pm and 8pm. I lit the candles in the five Jack O' Lanterns on our front steps, and as, dusk fell, settled down on the top step with an old basket filled with recognizably branded candy, a copy of Terry Pratchett's "Unseen Academicals", and a combination LED flashlight and laser pointer (removed from the possession of my oldest granddaughter who upon being told not to shine the laser into people's eyes, interpreted that as targeting instructions).
I have a full white-beard. I am also an overweight, genial gent, so it seemed somehow appropriate to confuse the little beggars by wearing a red shirt. Call it my version of "Let's Do the Time Warp Again".
The first arrivals were right at 6pm. The three kids from across the street. The two boys with light sabers, the little girl with an attempt at the cinnamon bun hairdo of Princess Leia. They politely dipped into the basket, giggled, thanked me and scampered away to where their mom and dad lurked in the shadows. I called after the kids to them to warn them about the red Halloween bug that nibbles on toes and deployed the laser pointer to make squiggly motions around their feet. They laughed and bashed it with their plastic weapons.
It was ten minutes before my next visitors. The woman next door escorting her daughter-in-law holding a baby in a lamb costume and a sweetly shy and silent three or four-year-old shepherdess. She didn't say anything no matter how much her escorts prompted her. I offered her the basket and she looked into its depths without moving. Then very carefully reached in and extracted a single small tube of malted milk balls and placed (not dropped) it in her bag.
"You are a very pretty shepherdess," I told her. She looked at me solemnly and nodded infinitessimally, confirming that I was capable of making reasonable judgments. Her escorts blathered apologies, still trying to get her to say something. I smiled at her and looked down, tacitly inviting her to look with me. I had the laser pointer's dot making circles in front of her. Then I made it climb up to her knee. She almost smiled, then turned imperiously and left, trailing her noisy escort behind.
It took about twenty minutes for my next visitors. A ragtag assemblage of middle-school boys in last-minute, low-concept costumes, stopped by and politely asked how much they could take. Grabbed their alotment and rushed of to the next house, leaving me bemused at how much their attempts at make-up resembled the Permanent Marker Bandits who achieved a sad fame last week.
A few minutes passed, then a colorful panoply of six middle-school girls resplendent in brilliant satins and velvets as princesses, ballerinas, tavern wenches, etc. came so that I could tithe for their beauty. Which I properly did. I politely called them ladies, which evinced a communal giggle.
Then, nearly and hour passed. I had almost decided to close up shop, When a young, tired-looking father appeared with his son in tow. The son was wearing a curiously undefinable costume. It seemed to be intended as some kind of animal, but the headpiece had been pulled back and it was impossible to identify.
I looked up the street and realized that most of the other porches were dark. This was going to be my last visitor so I helped the boy to a good selection. The father thanked me and they wandered off into the darkness. I blew out the candles in the pumpkins, turned out the light, and went inside.
We used to get so many kids here on Halloween, and so many ingenious and delightful costumes. Now they go to pre-programmed daytime events, or brightly lit malls, which use the smokescreen of community service to get in a marketing effort.
I've been left with a ton of candy. I dumped it in a bag so that my wife can have it when she comes home.
When I sat down in front of my computer to try to get a few hours of writing done, there was a message containing some pictures; the new baby looking ready to take on the world and his big sister dressed as a penguin. I looked at them for a while.
So, instead of working, I search Hulu for a scary movie, pour myself a Jameson's put my feet up on a document storage box and celebrate a quiet and now solitary Halloween.