Or, How To Get Candy From a Meanie (with side-trips to small-town Illinois and Massachusetts, circa caveman days)

The Kid's decorated vampire-pumpkin

This charming fellow won The Kid first prize in the pumpkin-decorating contest at school. Now residing chez nous.

The Kid’s been practicing her schtick for a week. You know the one:

Trick-or-treat! Smell my feet!

“You’re not saying that while I’m walking around with you,” I say calmly, without looking up from my writing.

Fine. Gimme candy…

I raise one eyebrow.

Gimme candy please!

She knows that’s not going to happen.

Funny enough, she also knows that such wildness is totally against her nature. These antics are only for my benefit; she’d never say any such things out in public. Costume or no costume.

For the first few years of trick-or-treating, I was lucky if I could get her to squeak out a bare “Thank you” before she’d run off. Yes, she wanted to go trick-or-treating, but when we went, her voice would desert her. And some meanies won’t even give you a candy if you can’t holler trick-or-treat at them. So now, she practices.

Trick-or-treat, please, I catch her saying to herself a few times a day in the week before Halloween.

She doesn’t say it loudly enough that it’s going to help with the volume, but I think it’s more about reminding her vocal chords to GO on cue.

When I was a kid, we lived in rural nowhere, Illinois. Ironically the state’s built up so much that the area is now a bedroom community for Chicago—

Was that in the caveman days, Mama?

She’s reading over my shoulder now. I hate that.

“No. It was way earlier than caveman days. Aren’t you in bed yet?”

—my old house is gone, and as the song goes it was paved to put up a parking lot. For a mall. We had five “neighbors” to a mile when I lived there. A lot of change. Anyway, the place was quiet and unpopulated, and we simply didn’t go trick-or-treating when I was a kid.

When we moved back to a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, near where I was born, I was nearly eleven. I tried trick-or-treating once, but I felt too old, too silly, and if The Kid is still peeking over my shoulder, too shy. Just like she seems to be.

I wish you wouldn’t write that I’m shy.

“Too late. Delete key’s busted. Go to bed.”

So I couldn’t stand going.

She *loves* going—but her reserved nature keeps her from being much of a salesman.

Ah, you knew there was a point, didn’t you? Clever reader.

Every year when we go I see dozens of kids along our route. Their schticks range from goofy to greedy to plenty of shy ones like little Kelly was, and like The Kid has always been.

The ones I love to watch—well, they’re the ones you love to watch, too, aren’t they? There are some who are postively pitchmen on Halloween night. Trick-or-treating gives them a chance to be charmers, persuaders, cajolers, actors, comedians, and lovers of the limelight in fifteen-second spurts all over town.

Is there a spooky tie here? Scientific proof of such a fleeting phenomenon is hard to get—after All Hallows’ Eve, they go back to wheedling and wheeling and dealing with their parents in private—

What do you mean by wheeling and dealing?

“Trying to sneak an extra fifteen minutes out of their bedtime. You’d better run, or the bogeyman’s gonna get you even if it is a couple of days early…

“1… 2…

“2 1/2…”

I’m wondering what kind of trick-or-treater you were. If you were a pitchman, has it carried through? Are you the one who gets called to close the difficult sales with the meanies who won’t give your company candy?

I’ve made a massive effort all my life to become a better actor, speaker, and salesman (or salesperson, if you like, but that kind of gets stuck in the mouth, doesn’t it?). I’m still just as frightened inside, but man, I don’t have much time for letting that show on the outside. Life’s short and we need that candy.

I’m curious, this week, musing as The Kid works on her schtick—is knowing who’s a natural as simple as opening the door on Halloween?

2.83759! I made it!

‘Scuse me. I have to go tickle The Kid now.


Grow and be frighteningly well,

Kelly Erickson