I don’t want to say my block gets crowded Halloween evening, but call my neighborhood the mecca of trick-or-treaters, and you wouldn’t be far off.
Or maybe the El Dorado of candied dreams, every foyer running with corn fructose syrup, every street flowing with Princess Leias, SpongeBobs, Catwomen and Iron Men, sugar-seeking alteregos wading through pumpkin-colored leaves flooding fading, lackluster lawns.
My neighbors know all this. One parent sits just inside the front door like a Hatfield waiting for a McCoy, hugging his ordnance of saturated fat, caffeinated chocolate and countless calories.
The other parent, already in the field, left after equipping his masked marauders with sacks big enough to fit a mini-fridge.
Once the attack begins, hordes arrive in waves. Occasionally, I’ll glance into those cauldrons pushed at me like a homeless beggar’s cup. What treasure! Baby Ruths big as hardback books, M&M bags that might be mistaken for mulch, and licorice thick and tall as streetlamps.
Dropping into the expectant palm or pail a mini-Kit-Kat or demi-Three Musketeers, I feel like a Halloween Scrooge.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologize, “but we have two kids in college. The stock market’s back, but property taxes will surely go up – again. Our Roth IRAs are comfortable, but not jovial, and – ”
“Yeah, OK, thanks,” they’ll say, the required parent-directed response no matter how lousy the take. “Have a real happy Halloween, mister. If you can.”
After dark, teenagers come dressed up like teenagers.
“Hey, good costumes,” I’ll tell them as they fill their pillowcases. “Sorry, but I’m down to pieces of gum.”
“We don’t care,” they’ll say. “We’re desperate. We live on sugar, carbs and fat like a cat lives on fur, sleep and pride.”
I’m glad to contribute to the country’s growing obesity problem. As a baby boomer, I was told, “Fat people are happy.” Maybe that’s why I can’t lose weight today; unconsciously, I relate thin with sad.
In a related story, last weekend we visited my son in Ames, Iowa, where his horticulture professor told him that growing up near Des Moines, as trick-or-treaters, they had to tell a joke or a riddle before getting a treat. Like, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
I imagine coughing up this rip-snorter would be easier on the diminutive Henny Youngman than on the parent who has to listen to it – and a hundred others in the space of two hours, but maybe that’s just me.
Maybe parents in the Tri-Cities, in an effort to educate youth on juvenile obesity and diabetes, should require trick-or-treaters to read the fat, sugar, salt and calorie content of each piece of candy before it can be added to their sacks.
Oh, come on, I’m just kidding! All diets suggest an escape valve. Parents should merely consider the Halloween glut as a pressure valve of sewage pipe proportions, a one-week release from the everyday fish, white meat, Brussels sprout and salad regimen we subject them to.
Bon appétit, boys and girls!
• Rick Holinger has lived and taught high school in the Fox Valley for more than 30 years. His prose and poetry have appeared in several national literary journals. His forthcoming book, “Not Everybody’s Nice,” won the 2012 Split Oak Press Prose Chapbook contest. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.