The spider web covered the bushes, the carved pumpkin sat on the front steps, the skeleton hung from the porch light, “Monster Mash” blared on the stereo, and the bowl of candy sat just inside the front door. I was ready for Halloween. With my wife chaperoning the town’s Halloween party, I would be manning the door by myself and I looked forward to the scary ghoul and goblin costumes the local children would be wearing.
Finally, the doorbell rang. I opened the door, expecting to hear a child’s voice yell,
“Trick or treat!” Instead, I encountered a round-faced boy with slicked-back hair, wearing a dark suit and reading from a book.
“That Sam-i-am,” he read, “that Sam-i-am, I do not..”
“Wait,” I said. “Who are you supposed to be?”
“I’m Ted Cruz,” he said.
“Why, aren’t you adorable,” I said, resisting an urge to pinch his cheeks. “Ooh, that certainly is a scary disguise! Here, have a Hershey’s…”
“I don’t want your candy, mister,” he said. “I’m not here to celebrate Halloween. I’m here to filibuster this unconstitutional act of income redistribution. I won’t leave until this un-American pagan holiday is defunded.”
Surprised, I began to lecture him about sharing and community spirit, while he stuck his fingers in his ear and droned, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you!” However, when he turned and saw the next child approach the door, he screamed and fled in fear. I wondered what costume could have frightened little Teddy. What I saw was a young girl in a white smock with a stethoscope around her neck.
“Trick or treat!” she cried.
“Oh, you’re a doctor,” I said.
“No,” she said. “I’m supposed to represent Obamacare.”
“Well,” I replied, “providing affordable healthcare to the uninsured isn’t scary at all. By the way, what’s that thing spinning on the top of your head?”
“Oh, that’s the symbol for being unable to access our website. Don’t touch it.”
“Well,” I laughed, “wouldn’t it be more effective on the front of your costume, where everyone could see it?”
“I suppose so,” she said. “But we were in a hurry to create my costume so it’s poorly designed.”
“Still,” I replied, “I appreciate the effort. Have a Nestle Crunch bar.”
She shook her head. “We can’t keep health costs down unless we start eating healthier. Can’t you give me fruit instead?”
“I’m sorry. I just ate my last apple this morning. Would you settle for a granola bar?”
She shrugged, took the granola bar and tossed it into her bag. “Let me write you a receipt.”
“A receipt? I don’t need…”
“Oh, darn, my pen is out of ink. I promise I’ll provide you a receipt in another month.”
As she turned and walked away, I thought about how I missed the traditional Halloween costumes like witches and ghosts. However, I admitted how nice it was that children seemed to be aware of the world around them.
Before I closed my door, I saw a young girl approaching, carrying a steering wheel while her eyes were locked on the smartphone in her hand. Sure enough, she banged face first into my screen door.
“You really should watch where you’re going,” I said. “If you are oblivious to your surroundings …”
“No, sir,” she said. “That was part of my presentation. I’m someone who’s texting while driving. Scary, huh?”
“Yes, people like that sure are scary. Here, have a candy bar. I’m glad you’re not self-absorbed like so many…”
“Thanks,” she said. “Do you mind holding it for a second? I’m trying to take a picture of it.”
“You’re taking a picture of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?”
“Yes. Got it! And now I’m posting it to Instagram. Great. Thanks!”
While I muttered, I saw a boy trudging up my front steps, wearing pajamas and a bathrobe.
“What are you supposed to be?” I asked.
“I’m a troll, of course.”
“No, you’re not,” I said. “Trolls have odd-colored hair that stands straight up and horrible faces that…”
“No, dumbass, I’m not that kind of troll. I’m an Internet troll, so trick or treat, you smug elitist piece of garbage, or do you only give candy to gay Muslim feminist Mexicans?”
“Hey,” I said, putting my hands on my hips. “If you’re going to use that type of language, I’m not giving you any of my candy. Now get lost.”
“Typical libtard,” he sneered. “The First Amendment only applies to your PBS-watching, Kenyan-loving sodomite comrades, but as soon as you meet someone who speaks up for traditional American values, you try to censor them.”
“You should get along just fine with Mr. Dugan three doors down,” I yelled, as I closed comments by slamming the front door.
The rest of the night was like that. The children wore costumes evoking the horrors of the 21st century: melting ice caps, drones, Justin Bieber, crazy people with assault weapons, concussed football players, Suzanne Somers writing op-eds (though the kid I thought was John Boehner was just a boy wearing a pumpkin head). Finally, a nerdy-looking boy approached, carrying a folder under his arm and a calculator in his hand.
“What are you?” I asked.
“I’m an economist,” he replied.
“An economist? Economists aren’t scary.”
“Don’t you watch the news? Look,” he said, removing a piece of paper from his folder. “Do you see the arrows on this graph? This represents the growing income inequality in America. During the supposed recovery, the top 1% accounted for 95% of the income growth in the country, and…”
“Yes, yes, I know the statistics and they’re quite scary, but can’t we have one day evoking mythical horrors, not real ones? These costumes don’t seem right for Halloween.”
“No, this is very relevant to Halloween,” he explained. “I’ve been trick-or-treating in this neighborhood for 45 minutes, and do you know how many of the houses are empty, with “For Sale” or “Foreclosed” signs? Nobody can afford to live in this neighborhood anymore. Even the people still here are struggling. When I rang Mrs. Peterson’s doorbell, she was in tears explaining that she couldn’t afford to buy us candy this year.”
“Sweet old Mrs. Peterson can’t afford candy?” I gasped. “Why, that’s appalling!”
As the little boy took his candy and walked away, I was filled with horror. The parade of costumed trick-or-treaters made me realize that in 2013 every day had turned into Halloween.
Several minutes passed without another child arriving. It was late, so I decided it was time to start taking down the decorations. As I blew out the candle in the pumpkin and picked it up, I heard a little voice cry, “Trick or treat!”
I looked up to see a little girl. When I saw her costume, I began to smile. “Why, you’re a witch.”
“Yes, I’m a witch.”
“Wait,” I said. “Are you just a witch? Your costume isn’t a mocking of some celebrity or an ironic comment on sexism or a reaction to some Internet meme I’ve never heard of, right?”
“Yes,” she laughed. “I’m just a witch.”
“Whew,” I said. “I was tired of all these costumes reminding me of the threats in the real world. Here, have a Nestle Crunch.”
“I don’t want a Nestle Crunch,” she said. “I want one of your Three Musketeers bars. Those are my favorites.”
“I don’t have any Three Musketeers bars.”
“Yes, you do,” she said. “You told Miss Hansen you were keeping a private stash in your office desk just for yourself.”
My jaw dropped. “Wait, how did you know about that?”
The girl looked at me as if I were the dumbest man on the planet. “My daddy works for the NSA, silly.”
Stunned, I went into my office and returned with a Three Musketeers bar. “Well,” I said, trying to stay upbeat, “I guess I have nothing to worry about. It’s not like I’m calling Angela Merkel or anything.” I forced a smile.
“Well, my daddy said to warn you that…”
“Listen,” I said. “I don’t approve of spying on ordinary American citizens without just cause and I certainly don’t want to hear some idle gossip your father picked up from it.”
“OK then,” said the little girl. “I won’t tell you what your wife is doing with your best friend tonight instead of being at the town Halloween party.”
“W-wait, w-what?” I sputtered. “Son of a bitch! When she gets home, I’m going to …”
“You’d better not. My daddy says she knows what you are doing with Miss Hansen when you’re supposedly working late.”
Feeling defeated, I sighed and shook my head sadly. As the young girl walked away and I went to close my door, she looked back at me, waved, and yelled, “Oh, I forgot to say: Happy Halloween!”