It happened years ago. But it did happen. Kevin and Cheryl Kowalski had been married too long. They started out young and in time the blooms of romance were pruned back by the struggles and melodramas of life. Their disagreements became arguments became resentments. Communication broke down and long years of insufferable silence flatlined their relationship. They decided to call it a day.
Kevin moved out, found a not-too-terrible winter rental a block from the beach and vaulted into the world of bachelorhood. Curious thing about born-again bachelors: no matter how unpalatable the marriage was, they were still pampered in ways that went unnoticed. They’re like toddlers: everything’s new to them and they’re constantly bumping into things. Kevin had no capacity for forward planning. He had to learn that dish detergent and toilet paper do not magically appear. He had to learn to find where he left his keys, his cell phone, his watch, his wallet by himself. He had to learn that men have no place in a supermarket. Like a deer in headlights, they can spend hours wandering aimlessly in search of olives. Into this aura of oblivion came the loss of holidays. There was no one to remind him it was Easter or Labor Day or his birthday. And so it was with Halloween.
Kevin had spent that late October day surf-fishing across the street. It was a splendid sunny afternoon and he landed two nice-size bluefish. They would make a fine dinner. He brought them home, placed them on the counter, and was about to clean them when he realized he had no lemons, no tartar sauce, nothing to go with it, and nothing to drink. He should go to the market. When he opened the door, he found himself face-to-face with two young men with paper bags. “Trick or Treat”, they announced.
Kevin was perplexed. First of all, he had no idea that this was Halloween and, secondly, these were full-grown teenagers. He wondered if they drove here. “You don’t even have costumes. What are you supposed to be?” he asked. “I’m a football player”, replied the kid in his JV football jersey. “I’m a lumberjack”, added the one in the flannel shirt.
Kevin did not like this. He did not like it one bit. “Wait here”, he instructed them. He disappeared back into the house and instantly returned, his hands behind his back. They held out their bags for their treat. The football player reacted with “What the hell was that?’ as Kevin dropped in a six-pound blue. The lumberjack could only gape in silence as the wet, oily catch of the day tore open his bag spilling his candy all over the porch. “Fish!” asserted Kevin as he slammed the door behind him and brushed past these two schmoes standing there in bewilderment. Laughing loudly, he jumped into his truck and drove off to a background chorus of expletives and biological demands that exceeded his flexibility. Of course his dinner plans had to be reconstructed but a box of Ritz crackers and five different cheeses would remedy that.
This episode, as bizarre as it was, does bring into question the intent and evolvement of Halloween. One speculation is that this observance was related to ancient Celtic harvest festivals. Another conspiracy theory is that it was devised by dentists who would reap the rewards of sugar-induced decay. Regardless, it was generally accepted that trick-or-treat was the province of second graders. Kids would go out with some friends or little sister in tow and canvass the neighborhood. They’d bump into other ghouls and goblins (really just ghouls since no one actually knows what a goblin is anyway) from the next block. “Don’t bother going to Mrs. Jones. She’s giving out apples.” Or “Make sure to stop by Old Smitty’s. He’s got Milky Ways and nickels.
That was then. This is now. Some towns have rules forbidding anyone over twelve from trick-or-treating. Seems unenforceable but takes the pressure off the Kowalskis of the world who see the unethical side of older kids storing up enough sweets to open their own bodega. Another modern phenomenon is the “Trunk-and-Treat” where parents decorate their cars in parking lots and the kids go from car to car retrieving enormous amounts of candy. It’s safe; it’s easy; there are prizes – it’s a win-win.
Unhappily we live in a world of molesters, terrorists, and mass shooters. Vampires are mere casual annoyances. Parents have jumped on board with the festivities and probably enjoy it more than their Spider-Man or Little Mermaid. Mom, decked out like a sexy wicked witch, chaperons her children while Dad, the pirate or the fireman or the Donald Trump, brings up the rear.
It’s all great fun until greed sets in. Carloads of trick-or-treaters are annually deposited in the more affluent developments. All this in anticipation of cashing in on some high class candy. News flash! It doesn’t work. People in McMansions are there because they know how to save money. Kids who think they’ll score a bounty of Hershey Bars or Almond Joys will be disappointed when they end up with reams of candy corn, the doormat of the candy world. No one has ever bought candy corn for himself. Outside of Halloween, it may not even exist.
Halloweens will come and go. Parents will sift through the bags of sugary treats and discard more than they keep. Me? I’m going fishing.
Originally published in the Asbury Park Press on Oct 26, 2018