She wasn’t too comfortable letting the children go trick or treating by themselves but her son was almost 11 now. Surely he could keep an eye on his little sister, right? She heard them laughing as they stepped into the chilly night, with the crackling of orange and red leaves under their feet. Less than an hour later, she heard someone at the door once again, and expected to see ghosts and goblins from the neighborhood. However, it was her children. Back so soon? The children silently walked past, handing her their candy bags for inspection. She walked to the dining room table, and dumped the contents of her daughter’s bag on the table. And, that’s when she saw…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)


I’m always very nervous on Halloween.

When I was 12, I went trick-or-treating with my kid sister Patty. Mom said she trusted us and let us go off on our own. First year we’d been allowed to do that, so it was a big deal. Patty could be a snotnose, but I knew I could handle her.

It was a great night to be out. A full harvest moon had a touch of blood orange in its wide smile. The chilly wind whispered reassuring secrets. The trees rustled a mysterious chorus.

Someone had TP’d the branches. The strips of white paper waved at us like ghosts. Patty shivered, kicked my shin and said to hurry past.

We heard cats yowling, three of them making sorrowful noises. Perfect for Halloween.

I was dressed as a robot, wearing a clunky white cardboard and silver tinfoil outfit with flashing red lights. Red for danger.

My sister had thrown a typical tantrum when Mom wanted to make her into a little princess. Patty refused the sparkling crown, the flouncy sequined skirt, the white gloves and the regal purse. She stamped her feet and refused to try on the black patent leather shoes.

Instead, Patty demanded to be a tennis star. She wanted a slinky spandex top, a glitzy skort and neon-edged tennis shoes. Plus a metal racquet. And a tennis ball she could bounce as she went door to door. We pointed out this would require three hands, what with her goody bag, but Patty decreed I would carry her sack just like any other faithful robot. It was clear she watched far too much TV.

You’d think an eight-year-old wouldn’t prevail. But Mom is a sweetheart, a softie and a pushover all rolled into one. So she caved. A tennis star Patty would be. Mom dashed about like crazy and gathered everything. The tennis ball she found was pink, but Patty seemed to like that.

Dad had no say in the matter. Some months before, Dad had gone out and never come home. He’d been tricking Mom and treating himself. That’s what Mom said. These days I get the bitter humor. Back then I just missed Dad. It didn’t help that Patty became a terror after he left.

So here were the cardboard robot and the little tennis brat out trolling for treats, the robot holding two bags as though he were extra greedy.

The night smelled of stinky dead pumpkins, soggy leaves and smoke. They had a neat bonfire going in the park where everyone was invited after making their rounds. There’d be punch and marshmallows and, if we were lucky, s’mores. Cowboy Frank might be there to sing to us. He’d twist the words of the old songs to make them fit Halloween. “Old McDonald had a hearse” always set us to giggling nervously.

But first was the door to door. Mrs. Nairn gave us fat candy apples, Miss Harmon dispensed Tootsie Pops and Mr. Carson frightened us with a devil’s mask.

The Buckleys pretended to scowl when I held up two bags, since I seemed to be trying for double the goodies. Patty’s bag was getting heavy.

The Jamison’s lights were out, so we ignored them. We didn’t like that creepy house anyway. Or the Jamisons. Never a smile. Mr. Jamison had a way of watching you that’d make your skin prickle.

Now clouds hid the moon, the wind started nipping at us. The smoke twirled down the street right at us. Patty coughed. Those cats got to yowling again. This time they sounded mean. There were shrieks from the park.

And then it happened.

A car came humming up behind us, so quiet we barely noticed it. At the last second, I turned. It was big and black. The door opened. A masked guy grabbed Patty. She squealed and dropped her racquet. I swung my bag at the man. It burst. My Halloween goodies flew all over like goblins. The door slammed. The car raced away.

I wet my pants. I cried. I stood there like a scarecrow. A dumb scarecrow robot.

Finally I turned. My foot hit Patty’s tennis ball. I stuck it in her bag of treats. I stumbled home. Cardboard and tinfoil pieces tumbled behind me.

I babbled, I wept. Mom’s eyes were wide, horrified, but, strong as a hitching post, she called 911.

She mouthed their words. On the way, yes. Sit tight, yes. Don’t worry, yes. Don’t worry. Hurry. Hurry.

She sagged against a chair. Patty’s bag fell over. Out rolled the pink tennis ball.

Mom saw it. She burst into tears, grabbed me and held me tighter than tight. My red lights came on, flashing, flashing.

So, I’m always nervous at Halloween. But it’s not what you think. No, it’s because Halloween always reminds me that I’m a liar.

You see, I made up a key part of what I told everyone so convincingly. I knew exactly who grabbed Patty.

Take her away, Dad. She’s all yours. I miss you. But now I’ll have Mom all to myself.