A True Halloween Story: A Two Block Terror Sprint With Evil On Our Heels.
A girl, a boy, and a horrifying chase with trick-or-treating gone wrong.
We must have been thirteen then, nearing the end of the still respectable trick-or-treating age.
It was just the two of us, Shawna and me. Other friends of ours were grouped up in their own candy crusade, and it was the first year I hadn't joined up with the usual small circle of friends for the night of door-knocking and the shrill calls for junk food to fill our pillowcases. This year, however, was going to be different.
One fall afternoon, I was hanging out at our local park. The usual suspects were all there, the kids from school, the boys from my hockey team, and a couple stragglers hanging out like the loose ends of their frayed jeans. Of course, the usual games were going on; freeze tag, teeter-totter smash, and testing our ability to withstand G-forces on the merry-go-round.
Shawna lived directly across the street from the park, and during that summer, I became aware of something new and marvelous; Shawna's smooth, tanned, and shapely legs. One day she strode across the road, in through the gate, and across the lush green grass a goddess. Her dark walnut hair swayed vivaciously, with eyes that flamed with a new light and a smile that made me dizzy, nervous, and happy. It was a full-on puppy love infatuation.
But, I was a year her junior, and I was definitely not cool. Moreover, becoming aware of girls in a romantic sense had just begun to happen for me; learning how to speak to girls would take a few more years to master with any dignity. But, by fall, a few things had fallen into place that led to my one-night, one-on-one, evening stroll around the neighborhood with my crush.
First off, I lived a half-block away, and we often found ourselves walking home together on the final stretch to the top of town where our home streets bordered the forest, the rest of the entourage having forked off earlier on the way. This gave me 7-10 minutes of private time to display to Shawna what a charming little bugger I was while I stumbled and stammered over words letting her know I thought she was as sweet as a Caramilk bar (food would become a staple in my "Don Juanian" small talk with girls for some time. What can I say? I was stumpy little chubster. I knew food. I was learning about girls.)
The second point in my favor is that some dummy had just broken up with Shawna, and she was feeling down in the dumps, her heart freshly broken. Meanwhile, all summer long and into the school year, I had been there. Foolish, fumbling, awkward--her stalwart admirer and amateur confessor of affections.
Losing the boyfriend also left her temporarily on the outs with her social circle. Confessing to me while we rode the swings in the setting after-supper sun, Shawna didn't feel like going to anyone's Halloween party. She was suggesting she was going to skip Halloween and trick-or-treating altogether. Now, while I wasn't tall and stylish, cool or athletic, I was the opposite of the flavor of the day for girls of the dating age; I wasn't an asshole. I was a sweetheart. A good listener, genuine of heart, and little Mr. Pick-me-up. The world already had enough assholes, and from what I could see, they were still being produced at a rapid rate. So I was sticking to being nice and playing the long game.
When I told her I would gladly drop my friends to take her door-to-door for the night, she smiled and asked, "Do you mean like a Halloween date?"
I said, "Shawna, you're like the prettiest girl in townsite (what we called our part of town on top of the mountain), and even if it's just a Halloween date, that's pretty cool for me." I didn't mind torpedoing my self-esteem if it lifted hers a bit, and we both knew going steady wasn't a real possibility.
We were going to wear masks, hang out for a night as other people, and ignore the rules of our social circle.
It was fun, going out. I was dressed as a Ninja, wrapped head to toe in black with only the ever-alert and searching eyes open between the mesh. A plastic samurai sword in a sheath over my back, my belt loaded with throwing stars. I was a deadly chunky monkey, and on my arm, I had Princess Jasmine. Shawna's dark hair, tanned complexion, and lithe youth frame were devastating in swaths of sheer fabric. What a babe!
We laughed and joked as we crossed paths with friends, and with Shawna's veil-covered face and only my sharp blue eyes visible, many weren't able to confidently ascertain our true identities. We'd done it. We'd slipped away from our identities beneath our costumes. For a few hours, it was just a boy who liked a girl, who enjoyed being liked by this boy.
As we made our way down the homestretch, the final blocks towards home, high on the sugar rush from candy and chocolate and maybe even a little bit of romance, Shawna let me take her hand in mine. We didn't say anything about it. I just reached over and laced her fingers in mine and kept our feet moving, our eyes mostly down.
Little did we know that real evil was lurking behind the door of the next home. Hell's night was just one knock away.
The house looked like every other house on the block. A small miner's house was built by the town mine company decades ago. Spruced up and extended in size by an addition, covered in the typical tin sheet roof to assist the heavy accumulation of seasonal snowfalls in sliding off, and ringed in the standard white wooden fence.
Lights were on, and the sounds of a party rang down the walk. What we couldn't know was that this wasn't a Halloween party-this was a drinking party. Shawna and I strolled up the walk, up the cement stairs to the door.
"Rap, rap, rap" on the door, then we hollered, "trick-or-treat!"
We waited. No answer. The rock music was pretty loud. We could hear howls, calls, and laughter mingled with curse words. Shawna said we should go. I said we should just yell louder. We knocked again. We yelled louder.
The inside door flung open. On the other side of the screen door stood a long-haired, Scooby-doo-looking "Shaggy" dude wearing an even more raggedy-looking undershirt. He was drunk, probably high, and instead of handing out candy, he was tossing eff-bombs.
I can't explain where it came from, but even at that young age, I found myself believing I was ten times larger when in the company of a girl. So rather than backing off the steps and skirting away from the crazy standing across the threshold, I mouthed off. I asked this loser what he expected when it was Halloween night, and his lights were on. Surely, we hadn't been the only trick-or-treaters banging on his door.
Up to this point in my life, I had only been in the company of happy drunks. Those men were the typically over-affectionate, joyous drunks of the three Hungarian families that my parents socialized with. This punk was the other kind of drunk. The mean kind.
The screen door flung open, his arm reached out, grabbed Shawna, and began pulling her inside as he said something about having her join the party.
Screaming ensued. Shawna was pulling back, trying to get free from his skeletal grasp, I was screaming at him to let go of her, and he was screaming at me to get lost.
I dropped my candy bag, grabbed the screen door in my hands, and slammed it against his arm and the door frame. Shawna was free, I clenched her hand, and we bolted off the steps and sprinted out of the yard. The lunatic drunk screamed at us, the door slammed, and he was on our heels.
We hit the street and began running for our lives with the guy pounding pavement behind us.
Scared kids run fast. Drunk men run less fast, but the blind rage this guy had kept coming at us, screaming he was going to kill me with every heart-pounding stride. We kept running, screaming, and Shawna was bawling in terror. We kept running as fast as we could.
My house was right there. I held tightly onto Shawna's hand and pulled her behind me across the corner of our park pad, down the ramp along the side of the house, and then yanked her into a hard right dashing into the always unlocked basement door. Slamming the door behind me, Shawna and I fell with our backs against it. Shaking, crying, and trying to catch our breaths between gasping sobs.
Two seconds later, the door at our backs was kicked and pushed open. Shawna and I turned to see the murderous, sweaty, violently cursing face of our pursuer pressed against the window of the basement door. His fists pounding on the window as Shawna and I used all the strength we had to keep the door from being pushed all the way open while screaming for him to go away and yelling for help.
The basement was our cold storage. Next to the door stood a wall of deep wooden shelves filled with dirt; in the soil were potatoes. The damp, cool air smelled like earth and death. Then, suddenly out from the darkness, my father emerged. In a millisecond, he had pulled Shawna and me behind him, reached into the dirt bins, and pulled out a potato. Then stepping to the door, he reefed it open, grabbed the maniac by the throat, and jammed the whole raw potato into his mouth.
I remember the shock on the drunk punk's face. He didn't know what just happened. His eyes were the size of saucers, and before he could react, my father grabbed him by the hair and threw him backward, stumbling, sending him falling on his ass. Then, my father slammed the door, locked it, grabbed the two terrorized, bawling, and shaking children, and took us inside and upstairs.
Shock must have set in as I can't recall much of anything afterward. Shawna was driven home, and I was still upset.
The great Halloween date ended in terror, and I had lost my bag of candy and treats during it all. I was also shocked at how my father came to our rescue and would later share nervous laughter with Shawna about how that guy must have felt suddenly having a dirty potato jammed in his mouth.
I was also super impressed that my father was kick-ass when he needed to be.
All in all, I still recall the sweet, soft, lightness of Shawna's hand in mine the night Halloween terror became a real thing. It was a night to remember.