Monday, October 30, 2006

Tricks, treats, and deranged ninjas

I was talking to my brother the other day about Halloweens past, and I have to admit, I'm a little envious of my son because he gets to go trick-or-treating.

I'm going with him, of course, but now I'm a parent. I also get most of his loot, since he still doesn't like candy.

But there was something fun about going out with a bunch of your friends to go pillage entire neighborhoods. My friends and I were good kids -- let's face it, we weren't cool enough to be invited to the parties where there was underage drinking and egging trips. Every now and then we'd get a little carried away. Sugar rush and all, I guess.

One year we were heading to the next house on the block. This one appeared to have a corpse decorating the driveway, which I thought was a nice touch. We wondered if it was a full dummy or just a fake head and newspaper.

So one of my friends, who was dressed as a ninja -- let's call him "Fred" -- casually walked up to said corpse and gave it a light kick with his boot.

Fred was a pretty mild-mannered guy, so we were a bit surprised that he would do that. We were more surprised when the corpse got up and moaned, holding his hand up to his head.

"Owwwww," he said.

We assumed that Fred, a conscientious sort, would immediately apologize. Instead, he ignored that he kicked a kid in the head and just asked for some candy.

Still rubbing where he was kicked, the kid replied, "You don't need any candy, you fat bastard..."

I should mention that Fred was not, in fact, fat. His ninja attire was a little ill-fitting. But that comment must have made him mad, because he swiped my friend's cane (he was the Joker) and started waving it around like a lightsaber.

"Never underestimate the power of the force...," he said.

We tried to steer our Jedi ninja to the next house before the kid went to get his parents or something.

"Come on, Fred," I said, actually calling him Fred instead of his real name. "Let's go."

Another time, our group had heard about a bunch of high school kids who were going around beating the crap out of kids and stealing their candy. We didn't give it much thought until we were crossing a vacant lot.

We saw another group coming from the opposite direction. At that point, my flashlight (a Star Trek: The Next Generation phaser) died. As we got closer to the shadowy figures, we slowed down. So did they.

Finally we got close enough to see that the shadowy strangers were other guys from our class who thought that we were the candy snatchers.

Over my many (too many, to be honest) years of trick-or-treating, I found that there are certain types of candy-giver-outers. This may have changed these days, but I'd bet it's pretty much the same.


You almost always encountered one house that, instead of dealing with freeloading kids ringing the doorbell every couple of minutes, decided to leave a large bowl of candy out on a folding chair with a note that said "Please take one." This always struck me as optimistic or lazy or both.

It wasn't uncommon to see these bowls empty except for any butterscotch disks and other dog-end candies. In a staggering display of semantics at work, some kids (not me, honest) would take the "one" in "Please take one" to mean one bowl of candy. We They were just following instructions.


That house that's giving away regulation-sized Snickers and/or dollar bills. Easy to spot because they also offer unicorn rides and live at the end of the rainbow. Sometimes they are mistaken for the house farthest out of the neighborhood, causing trick-or-treaters to miss out on valuable candy-gathering time.

So I hear.


We always heard stories about them, and sometimes we'd swing by the hospital to get our candy X-rayed to make sure there were no needles in our candy, but among my friends, we never encountered any tainted candy, unless you count those random decades-old peanut-butter taffies.

Wishful thinkers

Some houses (often occupied by dentists or crunchy-granola types) would offer you a shiny apple (only in the early days, really) or boxes of raisins. These were impossible to trade for anything good and ended up either in the garbage, not wanting to get a razor-blade apple, or in the pantry where someone might end up taking them. You'd think dentists would see Halloween as an opportunity to drum up some more business and give out rock candy and Pixy Stix, but no. Sometimes, they'd even give out toothbrushes.

That qualified as a trick, I think.


Some people -- and it's totally up to them, as they are giving out candy for free to kids they don't know -- have rules. Some folks won't give candy to people they think are too old to be trick-or-treating, which is a total bummer to bored teenagers who don't get invited to Halloween parties and have nothing else better to do. If said students are on the short side, all future costumes would involve full masks and strategic silence.

Others would tempt you with a cornucopia of candy and then tell you to only take one. Then you have to choose between the Bottle Caps or the Wacky Wafers. A dilemma, I assure you.

Angels in disguise

This didn't happen all that regularly to me, but one year my friends and I, on the tail end of our looting, went to one of the last houses on our list. It was pretty late, but the porchlight was on, which made it fair game. We waited for someone to answer and were about to leave when the lady opened the door, balancing a giant bowl of candy on her hip.

She'd just gotten back from dinner late and hadn't gotten a chance to give out the candy she'd bought. Since it was so late, she said -- this is true -- the three of us could divvy up the candy among the three of us. We thanked her profusely and split up the candy.

It doesn't get much better than that.

Unless you get to see a ninja kick a kid in the head. Good times.

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