Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Halloween that Cured Me of Pranking

I was not a mischievous kid, but I did manage to get in trouble one Halloween when I was about ten years old. I lived in a neighborhood chock full of young families. Thus, there were swarms of kids roving about each Halloween night.

As planned, I linked up with two friends who came by the house to pick me up. I can remember feeling anxious that they had already hit the houses between their homes and mine. I also envied the store bought devil outfit worn by one of my friends. My family never sprang for such costumes. We just had to come up with our own. Thus, I wore a ripped up sweatshirt smeared with fake blood under my jacket. I also wore a pair of bulky torn up pants over my regular jeans.

Masks were all the rage that year and each of us had one. I never did much care for those brittle plastic Halloween masks. The holes for eyes, nose, and mouth never seemed to match the actual anatomy of my face, making for visual and respiratory challenges. Not to mention making it nearly impossible to eat treats along the way.

We didn't do much of that anyway because we were too busy running to the next house. Besides, the public service folks had done a good enough job of scaring the bejeebers out of us about tainted candy that we waited until our parents could review our booty before partaking. This served a dual purpose of allowing my brothers and me to compare our full take. My brother Tim always won that contest.

One of the two friends with me that night perpetually got into mischief. He seemed to be drawn to trouble like a moth is drawn to a light. He suggested that when we found a house that was giving away really good candy that we go somewhere to remove our costumes and then return to the house as unadorned youth. Some kids our age were going door to door sans costumes anyway. Nobody would be the wiser.

I didn't feel right about this. But my friend in the devil outfit liked the idea. After all, it was Halloween. Wouldn't a minor prank be just part of the fun? In the end I gave in to peer pressure. Before long we encountered a house that was giving away good candy bars. We soon found a hideaway behind a fence, took off our outer wear, and returned to the home. Kaching! We each scored an extra candy bar.

A few houses later we were given some particularly delectable candy item. There were lots of kids coming and going, so there was noise and confusion. But I thought I heard the lady say hi to my devil friend by name. My two friends wanted to go back sans costumes for seconds on the candy.

"But the lady recognized you," I said to my friend. "Didn't you hear her call you by name?" Apparently he had not heard this. "I have no idea who she is. I don't think I've ever met her before. And anyway, how could she see who I am behind this mask?" he asked. He had a good point. We had already seen three other kids with the same type of costume and they all looked so similar that I had mistaken one of them for my friend in the dark.

We soon returned to the house. The lady gave us candy, but she gave us a very strange look. Giddy with our success, we were ready to perpetuate this gag all night long. Up the street a bit we got big candy bars from one lady. They weren't as big as regular candy bars, but they were much larger than the standard minis that some houses were giving.

Soon we were behind the neighbor's bushes pulling off our costumes. But I didn't feel good about it. Two of us knew Mrs. S. She was always very nice. It didn't seem right to take advantage of her. But these were really good candy bars. So against my better judgment I returned with my friends and got a second candy bar.

We were congratulating ourselves as we donned our costumes in the dark behind the neighbors' bushes when we saw an adult exit the house we had just visited. This grown up form walked directly toward our location. Suddenly we all held still.

The shadowy figure stopped on the other side of the bushes. But by they way the person was looking, we obviously remained unseen. Maybe we had escaped after all. Then I heard the voice of Mrs. S. "I can't see you boys, but I know you're there. I'm very disappointed in you. I expected better of you, or at least of the two of you that I know."

My heart sunk as she explained that a friend from down the street had recognized one of us and had called issuing a warning about us. Dang busybodies! Never underestimate the social networking capacity of women. It's like a super power.

We offered to return the extra candy, but Mrs. S. refused to accept it. She said that she would probably call our parents. (She didn't, but I didn't know that until later.) Weighing the potential fallout, I knew that Mom would be mad because it would reflect badly on her, but I surmised that Dad would probably just laugh.

Still, Mom's probable ire was not why I felt bad. Mrs. S. was a nice lady. What's more is that I knew that us Mormon boys (two of us anyway) had just set a very bad example for a wonderful non-Mormon lady. And even if we weren't all Mormons, we were all Cub Scouts. We all knew better. I felt horrible.

After leaving the shadows and wandering toward the next house, none of us had much stomach for more pranks that evening. Besides, it took long enough to change in and out of costume that it was questionable whether the extra candy was worth the effort. We consoled ourselves by hurrying along so as to get as much candy as possible before having to go home.

Within a couple of years my trick-or-treating career came to an end. There was some unwritten convention in my neighborhood that you didn't go trick-or-treating after turning 12. It was a rite of passage. Although we secretly continued to envy those kids getting all of the candy, we stoically insisted that trick-or-treating was for little kids.

A lot of Halloweens have come and gone since that night long ago. But I still have never developed much of an interest in pulling pranks since then.

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