Monday, March 31, 2014
October 31, 2009.
A date that’s become synonymous with teeth-rotting candy, spooky costumes, and wanton destruction. For adults, it’s a time for giving. For the kids, it’s a time for taking. And for the restless teens looking to cause a stir, it’s a time for vandalizing.
Kevin Briggs had mapped out which houses he wanted to visit this year. He made a note not to stop by Mrs. Tremont’s house. She was giving out apples like she did every year, just as the Belton’s always gave out breath mints and mini toothpastes because the father was an orthodontist.
But Mr. Jeffries house was on the list. He had a tradition of handing out full-size Snickers and Butterfingers to all the kids.
Alissa Briggs, a single parent, made it a priority to have off from work every Halloween. It was imperative to her that she be available to take Kevin trick-or-treating. It was always his father’s duty, but after the accident, Mr. Briggs wasn’t available anymore to take little Kevin door-to-door.
So Alissa stepped up and took his place, keeping the ritual alive. Alissa was a strong-willed woman. She did what she wanted to do, even when others advised against it. Like her mother had advised her against taking her husband’s place. But it had been four years since Jay Briggs’ passing. And for four years, Alissa had carried the torch for him.
Or in this case, carried Kevin’s pillowcase full of candy from house to house.
Kevin was caught up in the whole superhero craze the kids his age had been experiencing. He had watched The Dark Knight ten times since its release and he knew what he wanted to be for Halloween this year. No, not Batman. Like so many others, Kevin had found himself enamored with Heath Ledger’s dark portrayal of The Joker.
So Alissa had taken him down to the mall and found him a purple suit and rubber mask. But the mask wasn’t to his satisfaction, so Alissa improvised. She purchased some black and white oil paints, and on the big day, painted Kevin’s face white as he sat in front of the mirror. For the eyes, she drew dark circles with her eyeliner and filled them in with black paint. For the scars, she used red lip gloss to mark his cheeks. It didn’t look as professional as Heath Ledger’s, but it did the job and Kevin was content.
Alissa, sans costume, marched alongside her fearless little Joker, never letting him out of her sight. She was considerate enough to give him his space as he approached each door with other costumed children begging for candy, so as not to embarrass or smother Kevin. But she still kept a watchful eye on her boy.
A night like Halloween brings out all the whackos and troublemakers. Alissa knew this as all the other parents of Dorchester knew. So when nine o’clock came around and the streetlamps were the only thing keeping the darkness at bay, Alissa insisted on returning home.
But Kevin, though his pillowcase was ready to burst it was stuffed with so much candy, still wanted more.
His sweet tooth had turned into a greedy tooth, and he knew the neighborhood well enough to know there were more houses on the list.
“Just a few more houses,” he pleaded. “Please, mom. Please.” She was prepared to put up a fight, but when he started in with the puppy dog eyes, she caved.
“Okay, but just a few more” she smiled and planted a warm peck on his cheek which made him go, “Yuck!”
They trotted hand and hand down the cracked narrow sidewalks that had all seen better days. “Who’s next on the list?” Alissa inquired.
“Mr. Mays. He always gives out bags of Skittles.”
“Oh, honey…Brian Mays moved out six months ago. Someone else is living there now.”
“I bet they still have candy. Can we go, mom? Please, please, please.”
“Okay,” she said patiently, still grasping his tiny hand as they walked towards the old Mays house.
She stood several feet from the grey cement porch as Kevin knocked gently and held out his bag of candy.
“Trick or treat!” he exclaimed as the door scraped open. The new homeowner stood empty-handed in the doorway. It was impossible to verify his age. He had the wrinkles of an octogenarian, but the thick black hair and vitality of a man under fifty.
He stood there statuesque with the posture of a soldier. His back straight, legs pressed firmly together like he was getting ready to salute his general. He was a broad shouldered man with chalky skin, a stout neck, and thin, pointy ears that arched back. A black cape with crimson red lining was draped around his neck and extended to the floor. Plastic fangs dripped with what Kevin assumed was corn syrup and red dye. At least that’s what he had hoped.
“Who are you supposed to be?” the man asked.
“I’m The Joker,” Kevin replied. “I’m Batman’s greatest foe.”
“The Joker, huh?” the old man growled. His posture shifted as he leaned forward so that Kevin could feel his cool breath on his face. Kevin was alarmed to notice his plastic fangs didn’t resemble plastic molding up close. “Joke’s on you, kiddo. I’m fresh out of candy.”
Kevin gulped and lowered his bag. “That’s okay,” he assured the man. “No big deal." Then he added, "Nice Dracula costume, by the way.” But his voice was trembling as he said it.
“Who said it was a costume, kiddo?”
“Alright you’ve scared him enough,” Alissa said as she ascended the cement porch. “You’ve had your fun. Now back off, creep.”
The caped man snatched the nape of Alissa’s neck and he drew her closer, his teeth sinking into her throat.
Lifeless, her body sank to the porch and the caped man wiped away the red from his lips. “I love this time of year,” he said smoothly. “Now get over here, kiddo. Let’s see if The Joker is a match for Dracula.”