There is a bag of Paydays in my food cabinet.
That's not a particularly compelling piece of information, but what might surprise you is that I bought that particular bag of Paydays a year ago for trick-or-treaters.
Paydays also happen to be my favorite type of candy.
This should tell you that I don't have much of a sweet tooth. While Paydays might be my favorite type of candy, I'm still pretty meh about sweets in general.
But more importantly, this should tell you that I didn't get many trick-or-treaters last year. And by "not many," I mean zero.
It's incredibly sad, because ever since I stopped going trick-or-treating, I have greatly looked forward to giving out candy. I guess I felt like it was my civic duty to give candy after taking so damn much when I was a kid (I used to have a sweet tooth, but I guess it rotted away).
But as much as I wanted to pay it forward, it just never seems to happen for me.
Here's my history with trick-or-treaters:
- Halloween '04, '05, '06, and '07, in college, zero trick-or-treaters.
- Halloween '08, back at my parents house, they handled the trick-or-treaters.
- Halloween '09, living in Brigantine, one trick-or-treater. I had stayed in the house instead of going to the casino to play poker. One little princess rang the doorbell. She got the entire bag of candy.
- Halloween '10, living in a different house in Brigantine, zero trick-or-treaters.
- Halloween '11, living in Sea Isle City, zero trick-or-treaters.
So one trick-or-treater in eight Halloweens. If you aren't good at math, that's 12.5% of a trick-or-treater, which is like, one leg and maybe a hand.
Since I moved to Pennsylvania a few months ago, I had high hopes for this year's number of trick-or-treaters, as my apartment is in a densely populated complex. But an unseasonable hurricane named Sandy ruined all of that, sweeping through and knocking out my power, as well as any hope to give children candy.
Instead of straining to read the words in the candlelight, I was staring at a table lamp, mentally urging it to come on. And instead of holding the book open, I was sitting on my hands, trying to keep them warm.
I was wearing an oversized, camouflage parka, which I had recovered from the back of my closet a few days before the storm hit. It had belonged to an Irish exchange student who lived with me during my senior year of college. He didn't have enough room in his suitcase, so he gave it to me. I can't remember ever actually wearing it, but apparently I had worn it during my poker-playing days, because I found $1,200 in one of the pockets. It was very exciting. Naturally, I developed an affinity for this jacket and had worn it around the apartment, not just because it was cold enough to see my breath, but as a good luck charm/security blanket.
Mentally urging a lamp to illuminate is a very physically and mentally taxing activity. And that, combined with the darkness, coldness, and boredom that comes with two days without power, lulled me into a deep slumber.
I was having a really great dream, where every light in my toasty apartment was turned on, I was watching a movie, and eating a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup, which I had heated up on the stove. My iPhone was charging, the refrigerator was humming, and the doorbell was ringing.
I woke up.
The doorbell rang again*.
*How does a doorbell ring without using electricity? How? HOW? What an amazing little invention.
I was completely unprepared. Honestly, I forgot that it was even Halloween. Sure, I knew it was Halloween, but it was Halloween for the rest of the world. I hadn't even entertained the thought that kids would still be coming around in the complete darkness of our forgotten little section of society.
But there they were. Waiting outside. With empty pillow cases.
It was up to me to feed them.
I had to first find my flashlight. It was a cheap one from the hardware store that I've owned for a decade or more. It was never very powerful, but it was even weaker after two days of frequent use. What little light it emitted, it shone in one narrow beam.
The next step was finding the candy. I had bought three bags of candy a few weeks before in gleeful anticipation of this moment. I knew they were somewhere in the kitchen. But where? WHERE???
When I finally found a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, I had to find my way down the stairs, which was a much more difficult task than one would initially think.
You see, when Hurricane Sandy was at her worst, she had her way with some of the aluminum siding from my apartment. One particular piece held on for dear life as it crashed and banged into my windows before finally giving up and plummeting to the ground.
Sorry about the poor quality. But also note my camouflage parka
in the first few seconds, just begging to be worn!
in the first few seconds, just begging to be worn!
It landed somewhat close to my front door, and I decided to be a good citizen and grab it before it blew into someone's car. It was probably stupid to run outside when another piece of siding could have certainly blown off and decapitated me. But hey, I probably saved someone's car from getting scratched. In hindsight, I'm pretty sure that anyone who happened to see what I did wouldn't see it as an act of heroism, but rather the act of a desperate scavenger who really wanted some scrap metal to sell for cash.
Anyway, the long piece of aluminum had resided on my staircase for two days, with its sharp edges and unpredictable bends. It was more dangerous inside my apartment than it had been outside in the hurricane. I even had to put a gate at the top of my stairs so that my dog didn't interact with it, as she does with everything else. I hadn't really found the right time to bring it back outside. I mean, I couldn't risk someone seeing me bring it out. If I was seen, I would become weird guy who has pieces of scrap metal in his apartment that he occasionally throws onto the lawn.
So with my flashlight in one hand and the bag of candy in the other, I managed to move the gate at the top of the stairs, and I even successfully I tiptoed around the juts and protrusions of the aluminum. The problem was that too much of my concentration was taken up by the tiptoeing and not enough attention was given to how many steps were left.
I crashed into the door with both hands and a little bit of my head. In doing so, I dropped the flashlight and smushed the candy a bit, but I was able to regain my bearings, open the door, and greet the children.
It took a few passes of my pathetic flashlight for me to deduce that there were three children. I shone the light up and down the kids again to figure out what they were dressed up as, but the flashlight seemed even weaker after getting smashed into the door.
As such, even when I shone the light up and down the group, I had no idea what they were dressed as, but I complimented them anyway. "What great costumes!" I told them. They could have very well been wearing jeans and t-shirts.
At this point, I opened the bag of candy. Or should I say, struggled to open the bag of candy. You see, when I fell asleep in my cold apartment, I was still sitting upright. And I was still sitting on my hands. I'm not sure how long I was asleep, but it was long enough to make my hands go numb. And after approximately ten seconds of struggling to tear open the bag, I was starting to fear that the children would not get their treat after all. I could only hope that they would be satisfied with the knowledge that they had witnessed the most pathetic display of human feebleness ever observed by man. It was quite a relief when the bag finally popped open, because I was getting ready to ask one of the ten-year-olds for some help.
There were two adults hanging out towards the street, and at first I hoped that neither of them was a hot mom. Because for some reason, that would have made me more embarrassed than I already was in front of the children.
But then I suddenly saw myself through their eyes and realized that they would definitely be checking their kids' candy. Because I was totally creepy.
There I was. A man who, after falling down the steps and banging into the front door, emerged from the darkness of his apartment in an oversized, camouflage parka. They saw a sheltered hermit who lacked the arm-strength to open a bag of candy, yet had the dexterity to move the faint beam of his flashlight up and down the children, not so that he could try to decipher their costumes, but so that he could really get a good look at them. A man who said things like "Hi there!" and "What great costumes!" but really meant, "Hellllllo there, sweet and preciousss childrennnnn. My, my, my what charming costumes you are wearing! Turn around and give me a better looksie. Do you want some delicioussss candy? Do you like chocolate and peanut butter? How about razor blades? Or drugs? Or poison?
I couldn't really blame the mothers for thinking this way. The only thing I really had going for me was the fact that I had struggled so hard to open the bag itself, meaning that I hadn't tampered with the candy.
Actually, though, the fact that I struggled so much with the bag of candy might have raised the mothers' suspicions, as if it was just a charade that I overdid in my attempt to make it abundantly clear that it was a new bag of candy.
Damn, those mothers are good.
I realize how creepy I must have appeared in that moment, but at the same time, I was just so damn excited to actually give candy to little kids.
God. No matter how hard I try, I can't make it sound un-creepy.
* * *
And that is the story of Halloween 2012, when I gave candy to three trick-or-treaters, even if they were just three small, barely visible figures in the dark. For their sake, I hope I was equally indiscernible. But if not, hopefully I gave them a good Halloween scare. Because they certainly made my very-dark Halloween a little bit brighter.
And remember, kids: Never spend too much time around Apartment 1708. Because there resides Parka Guy, the terrifying creature who spends his nights bringing scrap metal in and out of his apartment. And if you don't watch out, he'll poison you and sell your body parts for pieces of scrap metal too.
Thanks to everyone who offered kind wishes of safety during the storm. I was lucky, only losing electricity for three days. Others were not so lucky and my heart goes out to anyone affected by the storm. I have so many fond memories of the Jersey shore during the summers as a child and when I lived there until last year and I have a special place in my heart for Sea Isle City, Brigantine, and Atlantic City.
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