In conjunction with my Halloween themed posts this month, here is another guest post by Andrew Van Wey, author of Forsaken, his spine tingling new horror eBook. Being the wonderful guy he is, he has graciously offered up 5 copies of his e-book with a special message from him in each one.
To enter, please answer the question,
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN MEMORY??
Caring is Scaring... and Sharing. Lessons Learned from the Front Lines of The Candy Brigade.
Halloween gets a bad rap. Mention Thanksgiving and people think of food and family. Bring up Christmas and it’s toys and sharing. Both are Hallmark ready, dripping with meaning and special lessons ready to be summed in a Charlie Brown special.
Poor Halloween just sits there, the turd in the punchbowl; a holiday for kids and a few creepy adults; a glucose-fueled parade upstaged by its more serious holiday siblings Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Of all the lessons I learned as a kid, few came from those Hallmark posers in November to December. Yet one of the most important came from Halloween.
I grew up just south of San Francisco, where the weirdoes were the ones that traded in their protest banners and beards to build computers and companies out of their garages. Crime didn’t happen, or if it did it involved toilet paper and an unlucky house. Even in October the days were warm. We played soccer after school and biked home, laughing and pushing each other into bushes as we quoted The Goonies.
Basically, I grew up in the suburbs.
Each summer was endless, each winter mild, and every Halloween Night was a contest to see who could get the most candy. Our costumes were our weapons, our baskets were our reserves, and at the end of every night we’d tally up our mountains of glucose and declare a winner. That kid would keep the crown of Candy King until next year or, more often, until around Guy Fawkes day when we forgot it.
It was Kind of a Big Deal.
There were four of us, the Candy Crew. Felix, the leader. Brock the jock. Myself, the small one. And Melvin.
I was the oldest, Felix an only child. Brock was adored by his parents, and I’m sure Melvin was too but he had the unfortunate place of being the fifth in a family of five boys and two teachers. Clothes were handed down hand-me-downs, fourth string rags that were vintage before vintage was in. He was always half a decade behind the style.
Threads and shreds and well-worn clothes be damned, he was still one of us.
Except on Halloween.
That night all bonds of friendship were severed. We were all enemies, obstacles in the way of being the one with the most candy. Like good little Silicon Valley capitalist entrepreneurs in training, it wasn’t personal, it was business.
We must’ve been eight or nine because I was a Ninja Turtle and so was Brock. I think Felix was some Jason Voorhees Freddy Kruger combination. Melvin was supposed to be an Arcade Game, perhaps Double Dragon, but he looked nothing like it. His costume was a series of cardboard boxes stacked together, scribbled upon, and held to each other by duct tape like some vagrant’s pile of recycling. It had probably been his oldest brother’s costume five Halloweens back. I swear one of the boxes was for an Apple II.
Our plan of attack was to hit the Peter Coutts neighborhood. The streets were close together, the houses many. Our candy to walking ratio was high, the doorbell to doorbell distance ratio low.
To make our chances better we jettisoned our traditional plastic pumpkin candy buckets in favor of pillowcases. Earlier we raided our parents’ linen closets, getting whatever high tensile 400 thread count carbon fiber NASA/Ames prototypes we could find.
Except Melvin. Like the costume his pillowcase was a hand me down, something that looked like a gunny sack that might have held beans on a tramp steamer. We went door to door, smiling, pillowcases outstretched, practiced smiles and polite “thank you’s” before scampering off.
To a kid there are three kinds of candy. The top shelf stuff, Three Musketeers, Butterfinger, Mounds, your standard bar candy shrunk down for Halloween.
The second tier is the tradable kind, the single Rollo’s, the Smarties, the sticks of gum, or those crappy bottles that are half syrup, half wax. You could exchange these around five to one for a packet of Twizzlers or some top shelf candy during after-hours trading once the candy count was clear and fair market price was established.
Then there’s the crap candy.
It’s not even candy, it’s health food that just happens to be sweet. Raisins and apples and dates that comes twisted in a pouch with a little bow. If you gave this to us it usually ended up tossed on your roof. It’s simple physics. Your organic pear weighs as much as ten Snickers, and we’re carrying these for hours. Try not to slip on the bananas flung back onto your driveway.
(Apologies to those of you who do give fruit for Halloween. Seriously though, drop a fiver on a bag of Snickers at Wal-Mart or just turn out the lights and pretend you’re not home.)
After almost two hours our mission was drawing to a close. We’d cleared almost all the houses and our pillowcases looked like we were carrying small corpses. Melvin’s bag was leaking candy and the clouds were thick and flickering. Then, it started raining.
Not just a little. It rained like god was mad at us. One moment dry, next minute soaked. Our extraction point was a few blocks away and we covered those last dozen houses in tag teams, queuing up three doorbells deep and holding the spot for our buddies as we snatched that candy before any adult could finish saying how cute our costumes were. All the while our costumes are growing heavy and Melvin’s cardboard was clinging to his body in places and sloughing off in others.
We cleared the last house, yanked the candy from the owner’s hands, and ran across the field towards that idling Ford Taurus for evac.
Except, it wasn’t an empty field anymore. It was mud death trap. We fought it, four pairs of feet getting sucked in from below while soaked from above. Half a football field away sat my friend’s mom, doing a crossword puzzle in her car, unaware that we were about to be swallowed by the Swamp of Sadness.
It was every kid for himself. We struggled, fought, and then we heard the scream. There lay Melvin, middle of the mud, face down, gunny sack split open and candy scattered everywhere. We could see some of it, a few wrappers between lightning flashes and passing cars. We fumbled around, grabbing rocks and Reese’s Cups, throwing anything in our bag and dragging Melvin back to the car where we screamed: “Get us out of here!”
Every year the candy crew convened post Halloween and poured its score out into little mountains like sugary Scarfaces. Except this year.
We removed the rocks and separated the crap candy from the rest. We put it all in one big pile. Then we split it up four ways. Even Steven. Sure, some of us came out behind, but we still had enough to last us until Christmas if we ate a few a day.
Maybe we were all little socialists in training, maybe we just realized it was the right thing to do. All I know is every Thanksgiving I’m supposed enjoy a meal and reflect on the joy of family. Every Christmas I’m supposed to share because it’s expected.
I’m not saying I don’t do that or feel that, but...
Sitting there, soaked and muddy, sugared up and laughing with our spoils between us on that Halloween, maybe we learned that it wasn’t the size of the score that mattered, but the friends you shared it with.
And no holiday meal has ever tasted sweeter than that.
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