Vandalism or Treat?

Ah, Halloween: that magical evening when imps gambol about the neighborhood in clever costumes demanding sugar ransoms in exchange for not trashing your yard. I look forward each year to the timid knocks on my door, hearing excited voices on the other side, opening wide the door, and having pint-sized goblins shake me down for protection sweets: "Trick or treat!... and you better come across with real candy this year, gramps. None of those 'fun size' bars or your ornamental maple becomes toilet paper mâché, comprendo?"

Things got ugly last year when I ran out of candy. I thought of zooming to 7-11 for more but did not want to risk being away when a gang o' li'l hoodlums came a-calling. So when the next crop of pumpkin punks knocked, I offered homemade popcorn balls.

"Popcorn balls?" screeched the child dressed as Mike Wallace of 60 minutes. The child dressed as an IRS agent said "Mister, we got just nine hours to cover this neighborhood, and your about to waste 45 of our seconds." I started to explain that he meant "you're" not "your" (an increasingly common mistake these days), but he turned to his gang and said "I guess he's not very fond of those azaleas over there", then back to me as he pulled open his pocket just wide enough to let me see the eggs inside. "See these, sport? They're grade AAA Jumbos. Been sittin' in a coffee can in my tree fort since July. Now unless you want to find a stink omelet in your mail box tomorrow, I suggest you save this homespun goodies schtick for the Waltons and fork over some serious sucrose pronto."

The day was saved, however, when I showed them how to mainline sugar water from my hummingbird feeder using a ball-inflation needle and a bicycle pump. I squelched a chortle as their little over-reved bodies ricocheted off trees and parked cars when they scurried to my neighbor's door, where the child dressed as a transmission repair bill spewed the ingested portion of his loot in a graceful liquid arc on his friend dressed as a home pregnancy test kit.

Speaking of Halloween costumes, a common misconception about them is that their main purpose is to scare. Rather, costumes are merely disguises to cloak the perpetrators' identity during the commission of their mirthful misdemeanors. Besides, what could the dears possibly dress as that would be scarier than what they are: a pack of hyperglycemic preteens armed with the latest technologically advanced toiletries and splatable groceries, marching up your front walk, smug behind their masks, quite aware they can't be tried as adults.

I don't recall tricks being quite so vicious when I was a kid. [note to self: the preceding sentence indicates official passage into middle age. Take down brick-and-board bookshelves Saturday.] We just had good ol' harmless fun. Like dropping a dummy from a retaining wall onto the hoods of passing cars and watching panicked drivers screech to a stop and run out to give CPR to a sweatshirt full of crumpled newspaper. Or taping firecrackers to eggs and dropping them in the bag of a rival. ("You wanted those scrambled, right?") WARNING: Kids, assuming you can read, don't try this at home. Go to a friend's house.

My favorite childhood Halloween memory is the time I went trick-or-treating with Todd. Todd was one of those kids who was big and not too bright and seemed capable of tremendous violence, but for some reason he liked me, so being friends with him was like having a friendly Doberman around, and one year we went trick-or-treating together.

At one house, an old lady answered the door holding a tray full of candy. She held the tray out by handles at each end. Todd held his bag open beneath the front of the tray with one hand, then pushed down on the tray's front edge with his other hand, causing a candy landslide right into his bag. The old lady cursed using words I didn't even know, then brought the empty tray down on Todd's head as he turned to leave. The tray broke in two. Todd smiled and said to me "Don't worry. I'm gonna give you some."

But I say Don't let kids have a monopoly on Halloween fun. Here's a favorite prank you adults can try: the day before Halloween, put on dark glasses, go to a grocery store, and buy only apples and double-edge razor blades. For the best effect, fidget and mumble while the people in the check-out line stare at your purchase, wanting you to be imprisoned immediately, because you have 15 apples and 4 packs of razor blades in the 12-item express lane.

Now, what if one year you want to watch the Simpsons Halloween Marathon uninterrupted and simply leave a bowl of candy on the porch with a sign stating "Please take only one piece"? Normally, this results in the first trick-or-treater winning the kid equivalent of a lottery as he bags all the candy in one (or at most two) fell swoop, while those who follow—feeling sympathy for a poor homeowner who underestimated demand—help you out by relandscaping your yard and perhaps your dog using the creativity only a shaving-cream-laden child deprived of candy and parental supervision can muster.

Speaking of which, do you recall the shaving cream commercial that asked "Is new Gillette Foamy thick and rich enough to stop this speeding car?" and a speeding car would plow right through a wall of shaving cream? That company could sell enough cans to stop the Concorde by running ads in October like this:

"Is new Chin Pudding thick and rich enough to fill this Jack O'Lantern with so much foamy goo that it looks rabid, yet pump out so fast that you won't get caught? You bet!"

Of course, that would open the door to entirely new products as other companies discover this market:

"Hey kids! Still using old fashioned soap on those windows? This Halloween, scrawl your message with FilthCo's Etch-A-Pane. It realigns the crystal structure of glass wherever you paint it on. Ol' cheapskate will get a prismatic reminder every sunny day that he'd better be home next October 31st."

But my favorite part of Halloween is decorating the house with my Norman Rockwell Halloween Plates collection from the Shamilton Mint. All the old favorites are there, looking just as they did on the covers of Saturday Evening Post years ago:

To start your Norman Rockwell Halloween Plate collection, just send six times your highest estimate of what the plates are worth to:

Shamilton Mint
P.O. Box $$
Bricabrac, OH

They will send you one new plate every other hour. If you like it, it's yours to keep for a ridiculous price. Same goes if you don't like it. Hurry! These plates are a limited edition and only as many as can be sold will be made.