If you had taken out your Magic Broom that night years ago, and gone out for a whoosh through the cool Conshy night, you might have spotted us down there stumbling over pushed-up sidewalk bricks, in and out of lamplight. Beside high hedges of colorless picker bush, we moved slowly down the avenues, our voices muffled behind the plastic face of Aqua Man, behind the thick dyed wool of Black Beard's mustache. In front of the two of us you would have seen a third, too; a taller one, more graceful in her movements: if graceful is what you might call a Witch who doesn't trip over her cape every hundred steps .
Crossing from one side of Maple Street to the other, you might have seen our bags of loot and noticed the way we held them close, with endearment. With pride.
Inside the bag The Candy Bar Ball was being waged in the crowded darkness of the place they call The Trick-Or-Treat-Sack. Mallows and Reese's boogied directly through the path of regal Special Darks while Candy Corns-- drunk on their own inimitable numbers-- pestered the Peanut M&M's who were desperately hobnobbing with the Gummi Bears (who speak no English). And over there, emerging from beneath the bleachers, the Miniature Snickers and Miniature Milky Ways look sheepishly around as they tighten their belts and try and melt back into the crowd. It is a sensational party and a magical time and it all goes down inside the bags in our fists as we three make our way down the street.
So, had you been circling above us in a holding pattern, sweeping wide slothy circles around a track of sky above our decorated heads, you might have seen the bandit. You might have seen the bandit round the corner on 7th Avenue following us following our Mother Witch. Up Maple Street he walked and must've heard our voices as we spoke in muffled excitable tones. Candy this and candy that. I got this/I'll trade you for that.
"Serge, you're not eating everything tonight, hon. Remember last year?", my Mom chimed in.
I remembered. Of course I did. You don't forget that feast too fast. Your mind doesn't just slink away from that stuff when you're a chunky ten year old dressed like a Storm Trooper from the neck down (all masks can go to hell when we get home with the loot!). Indeed, young huskys like me...we didn't turn away from showdowns in at the kitchen table; face-offs with dozens of Chunky bars and Almond Joys and red Nibs and homemade popcorn handballs and Tootsie Rolls and Bubblicious and even wispy black plastic Spider Rings if they got in the goddamn way of our eating.
And later, like the men we would one day become, we didn't shy away from the first pangs of ache. Or the dancing gases in our guts. We embraced them instead. We allowed them to enter our bodies like Evil Spirits and to reach their trillion year old ghost claws into our gullets and stir/mix/blend with hellacious speed and motion. We accepted the beads of salty sweat that bubbled to the surface of our now clammy skin, the little cricks of overloaded sugar rain gushing down through the first sprouts of hair there on our pitching arms. And, God knows, we did not beg for mercy or relief when all of the world came bursting from our mouths: insane wild rivers of swishing caramel coated lava bashing away at sprawling metropolises of nougat and raisins and peanut slivers. Rainbows and black holes and tiny deer and children crying and national forests of pulverized Sweet Tarts raging from your throat and across the tracks of my teeth and into the tunnel of my lips and then out into this world of pain just inches below my bulging kid eyeballs: the memory doesn't fade. Ever. I still taste it damn near every day.
So yeah. This villain, this thief in the night, moving up on us as my Mom told me to take it easy on the PigOut, my brother The Silent Pirate, moving alongside me, passing me, getting passed. It's like a shark attack in ways. The way the thing emerges from the darkness seen only maybe by the Eyes of God, but not by any Earthly eyes. The way it closes in with malicious stealth, it's eyes focused through all that heavy gauze of speed and metabolism and commitment and the pure and simple predator grease that slicks the rails it moves toward you on.
I don't remember making a sound. I just remember listening to my Mom and then the sound of her voice shooting away down some unseen tunnel as my arm twisted back with the heavy pull of something wrong. I felt a body push into me. I felt the jaws of a neighborhood shark tear into me. The world was silent. Some dipshit had stolen my treasure/candy. I inhaled my mask into my face. It stuck there, plastered with a breath I couldn't let out.
And so here you on your broom up there, well you would have been delighted to see what happened next. As the thief darted away with my Trick Or Treat Bag and I watched helplessly from my soft knees on the cold hard bricks. My Mom, in full Witch regalia had swiftly made out what had happened and with a shrill howl gave chase. Here we can all watch as my sweet dear mother of maybe 35 at the time ran like lightning toward a fleeing punk who had probably not counted on this. In her hand, my Mom held my last year's Christmas present. The Master Blaster. Styled after the handguns of galaxies far from Texas or Mexico or other gunfighter haunts, the Master Blaster featured a five inch wide barrel and a lifted spring-drive. One crank was all you needed and with a touch of the trigger you sent a wad of air bursting into someone's face enough to make their hair float a second. The sensation made you laugh. It didn't hurt.
But, were you a local pothead from an iffy home with a Witch on your tail and stolen candy in your hand, the Air Blaster might just make the difference. It might become the almighty equalizer. I had wondered aloud at the beginning of the night...Mom, why would a Witch have a Master Blaster? It's dumb.
But now it all made sense as I watched the slow motion drama spin up Maple Street, heard the roars from my Mom, the ruffling of the plastic bag, the sprinters fading out there in the darkness.My heart raced. I was genuinely terrified. Maybe the most frightened I had ever been. My brother watched beside me. We watched together. Our Mother. Streets full of ghouls. Her distant yelps.
The BOOOOF of the Master Blaster going off a block away.
And then after an interminable, our mother's wonderful voice rising from the pitch black.
"You Little Asshole. Go to hell. Go ahead: run. RUN AWAY YOU LITTLE SHIT-ASS!"
She emerged from the shadows, like a hero in some western, moving slowly through streetlight moons. In her one hand was the Master Blaster, uncocked; its duty done for the night. In her other hand, my bag. Torn but whole. She made sure we were ok. I still recall my unstoppable trembling. She rubbed my head. She kissed me with a sigh. She comforted us and cursed the daring bandit. She assured us he was gone forever, a coward on the run. A shit-ass in the night.
And if you were still watching from your patch of sky, you would have watched as she composed herself the best she could, and then led her two boys, her Aqua Man and her Pirate, up Maple Street and into the night.
Mother and sons: looking for lit up porch lights and small pieces of free candy.