by Rose Blackthorn
I watch them as they cross the street, caroling, gamboling, some almost cartwheeling in their excitement. They are a joy to behold in all their many costumes. There are witches and ninjas, cowboys and furry blue monsters. There are princesses and hobos, a ladybug, a clown. There are babies in strollers disguised as a pea in a pod, or there, a bumblebee.
The decorations on the houses are an invitation, letting these little masqueraders know which to approach. Tissue paper ghosts hang from trees, plastic jack-o-lanterns glow, and molded zombies push their way up from beneath piles of dead leaves.
“Come on, hurry!” Daisy says beside me, hidden beneath the bushes. “All the good candy will be gone!”
I won’t be rushed. I’ve been looking forward to this night all year, and I’m going to have the very best costume ever.
There, rushing past my hiding place, is a group of children. They are all of an age, perhaps ten years old. One is a pirate, black greasepaint on his cheeks to pretend beard stubble, and a black patch perched over one eye. Another wears a red and blue body suit, a large black spider on the chest – he is a superhero. I’ve seen them before, but I’m not impressed. Here’s a girl in a sparkly dress and shoes, a wand held in one hand, spangled wings strapped to her back.
“Billy, we’re running out of time!” Daisy hisses, poking me in the side with one bony finger.
“Shut up,” I whisper back, watching the last of the group approach the nearest house. He’s smaller than the other boys, dressed in a satin vest over a dazzling white shirt. Real leather shoes, shined by someone who knows how, peek out from beneath freshly ironed slacks. He wears a black cape, thrown back with pizzazz to show the scarlet lining. His black top hat is a little too big, but still dapper. A tiny fake mustache has been glued to his upper lip, and he carries a stuffed white rabbit under one arm. A magician, yes, he is. Seeing him is like magic.
“Billy!” Daisy whispers, poking me again, but I ignore her.
“Trick or treat!” the children yell, holding out bags and baskets when a woman answers the door. She oohs and aahs over their costumes, handing out her dole of candy. The first three children quickly head to the next house on the block, but the magician is saying thank you for the candy.
“Shut up,” I say to Daisy, wiggling out from under the bush. When the magician leaves the house, cutting across the lawn to catch up to his friends, I’m right behind him. In the shadows of the nearly leafless trees, I reach out to touch his hand, snatching at his sleeve like a stray wind.
We make it home just as the big clock in town chimes midnight. Mother oohs and aahs over our costumes, and Father laughs when he sees mine.
“Magic, huh?” he says, scratching a cracked yellowed nail along his bony chin. “Where did you find it?”
“Over on Sycamore,” I say, turning so he can see the whole outfit. The black and scarlet cape swirls, the shined leather shoes gleam, and the boy’s pale skin glimmers in the moonlight. He was a small boy, and it’s a tight fit, but I’m proud of this year’s costume.
“Alright, children,” Mother chimes, “Time to put your costumes away.”
“But Mom!” Daisy complains, letting Mother help her out of her costume with a pout. “Halloween only comes once a year!”
“Yes, I know dear,” Mother says, laying the blond girl’s skin, dressed in a ballerina’s leotard and tutu, across the nearest headstone. “But it will be Halloween again before you know it.” She’s smiling, though it’s hard to tell; her lips rotted away long years ago.