I went trick-or-treating alone for the first time when I was eight.
I fully expected Mom to make me an authentic Superman costume including cape, insignia and superpowers. I got around to asking her on Halloween morning. That afternoon she got me a cat mask. It was all they had left at Sears. Undeterred, I imagined myself stealthily darting from house to house with feline agility as I acquired mountains of chocolate bars.
Mom and Dad insisted that I eat a hearty supper before venturing out. By the time I’d wolfed down my peas, it was nearly 5:30. The streets were already replete with children lugging heavy bags of candy dreams. I felt a quick flash of panic. I headed straight for Mrs. Tyler’s house, home of the world’s best candy apples. A tall skeleton stopped me in my tracks. It was Wesley, a teenager from up the street.
“You don’t want to go to Mrs. Tyler’s. She didn’t make candy apples this year.” He leaned over conspiratorially, “Go to Mrs. Brady’s. She’s got chocolate bars!”
I ran all the way to Mrs. Brady’s. She answered the door wearing a tattered housecoat and curlers. She bore a remarkable resemblance to Mrs. Kravitz on Bewitched. She gave me a baleful glare. “What are you supposed to be? A cat? Pretty lousy cat. Where’s your tail? Well, I think a lousy cat oughta sing for its supper.”
So, I sang O Canada and opened my pillowcase.
“Not so fast,” she directed. “Sing God Save the Queen.”
Not yet satisfied she had me perform several pop classics and the entire score to The Sound of Music.
When I opened my pillowcase, she picked up a plate of Chiclets. Not chocolate bars, not potato chips… just Chiclets. I hate Chiclets! She opened a box, took out a single piece, and dropped it in my pillowcase.
“What do you say, little boy?”
Several things came to mind… I hurried back to Mrs. Tyler’s house. It was already six o’clock! Skeletor was leaning against the fence. “Have fun at Mrs. Brady’s?” he snickered showing me his bag full of candy apples. I ignored him and ran up the steps.
Mrs. Tyler opened the door and exclaimed, “Ray! Where’s your costume?”
In my rush, the cat mask had fallen off my head. I’d been running around the neighbourhood in my street clothes. “Why didn’t you come earlier? I’m all out of candy apples. Must have had 10 kids tonight dressed as skeletons. All I’ve got left is Chiclets.”
Dejectedly, I headed to the next house. A nice man opened the door and said, “Smile for me.” He was holding out a plate of chocolate bars! Smile? Just try and stop me!
“Oh my!” he said withdrawing the chocolates. “I’m a dentist and by the looks of your baby teeth, I think we better give you some sugar-free gum.”
Seeing my disappointment, he said, “Well OK, we’ll settle for some Chiclets.”
When I got home at 7:30, the inside of my pillowcase was nearly as white as the outside. Not one chocolate bar or candy apple graced its interior. Just Chiclets! It was nigh on traumatic.
So much so that to this day, I can’t watch, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, without sobbing uncontrollably. And I still have a pathological fear of skeletons, which is the only reason I never became a doctor. And don’t even get me started on Rogers and Hammerstein. Although, I do sing Doe, a Deer, with a certain panache.
This Halloween, I’ll be popping into the grocery store and buying as many chocolate bars and candy apples as I want. And, if I lose a tooth, I won’t care. I’ll just replace it with something white and shiny. I still have plenty of Chiclets left.
Over the next few months we’re running some of Ray Smit’s favourite columns spanning the past 19 years. His book, ‘The Trouble with Tapioca’, is available at the Vancouver Island Regional Library and Amazon.com. His column appears the last Tuesday of the month. He can be contacted at Raymondsmit@shaw.ca