A Stratford Halloween Tale, 1995

by Andréa Byrne

I’d been living in Stratford for six months when Halloween rolled around. I was warned that loads of kids would swarm my new neighborhood in the Historic District and so I’d better be prepared. They’d come early and keep on coming. I couldn’t wait!

I loaded up on the best of the best candies—mini Milky Ways, Three Musketeers, Snickers and Nestle’s Crunch bars, packets of Candy Corn, M&Ms and malt balls. Everything I wouldn’t mind having as left overs, if by chance there were any.

I invited my friend Peggy to come up from New York City and she was as excited about it as I was. I made a big pot of soup for us to have after all the kiddies had exhausted the supply of treats. I was told they’d begin to arrive about five o’clock so at four-thirty Peggy and I were bustling around getting into our witch’s costumes, complete with scraggly hair under our pointy hats, and we each blacked out a front tooth for special effect. We giggled and talked to each other in whiny, cackling voices as we put the huge basket of goodies on the front porch between our two chairs at the top of the steps. I switched the porch light on, and then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Five o’clock came and was long gone so we went inside. We tried to keep a sense of fun going but it soon waned with Peggy sitting cross-legged on the floor with head in hand and me looking pitifully out the window at the empty street. We finally pulled off our hats and hair, scrubbed our teeth and sat down to have some soup.

The doorbell rang. We each leaped up, slapped on the hair and hat, blackened the tooth and ran for the door. Our first customer! I hunched up to get into character, opened the door with a wild laugh and there stood my friend and business partner holding a martini. He’d come trick-or-treating for an olive.

I was able to supply the olive and when he finished his drink he left. Peggy and I went back out to the porch and lo and behold, down the block were some little costumed people heading our way. We hid off to the side of the basket of treats until the princess and Spiderman climbed the stairs.

“Well,” we cackled, stepping out from our hiding place. “Who have we here?” The children screamed and ran off into the night. Their parents waiting out on the walk looked horrified, and we were mortified. No matter how sweetly we spoke to them, the Princess and the Spiderman couldn’t be coaxed back. Lesson learned. Tone it down…way down.

The rest of the night was cackle-free and full of imaginative costumes, including a jellyfish with lighted tendrils. It was pure Norman Rockwell until I had to call the cops.

A car screeched to a halt in front of the house and a man ran to the porch begging me to make that call. Someone down the street in a pirate costume had banged on the man’s car windows with his sword, scaring the man and his family who were huddled inside. The pirate threatened, swaggered and swore his way down the street, complaining that the man was driving too fast. It appeared the yo-ho-ho pirate may have been sipping from a bottle of rum. The man pulled a tire iron out of his car to protect his family if need be, but begged the pirate to back off.

Four squad cars of police arrived quickly and managed to calm things down. Then each officer made the rounds to chat with those of us who had witnessed it all to hear our versions of the story. The last to speak with Peggy and me was a tall, handsome fellow with a nice twinkle in his eye, so we hastily got rid of our hats and wigs and un-blacked our teeth as he approached.

Officer Studmuffin, or so Peggy called him and I agreed, sat on the steps with us to get our side of things. We offered him the basket of treats and one by one he finished what was left as we chatted about the evening and life in general.

At last we noticed that the other squad cars had left. Officer Studmuffin stood and assured us that everything was taken care of, then climbed into his car and, with a cheerful smile, waved as he pulled away.

That’s when Peggy and I saw that the trick-or-treaters had all disappeared and porches were dark. The street was just as empty as it had been, so with one last affectionate look up and down the block, we brought the basket inside, turned off the porch light, and I reheated the soup.

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