By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
The first revelers came, four or five of them, and we could hear their laughter and guess their movements from inside our home. “Trick or treat!” they called. I opened the door, expecting the stereotypical ghosts, goblins, witches, fairies, comic-book heroes—I was not prepared for what faced me.
The children wore shrouds covered with colorful, wriggly designs. Their faces were amateurishly painted up as skulls, and childish as they were, the effect was nonetheless eerie. “Trick or treat, yourselves!” I responded. “What are you supposed to be?”
In their cute voices, one said after another, “HIV!”, “Small pox!”, “Ebola!”, “SARS!”, “Entero 68!” I got the idea, and the biomorphic squiggles on their shrouds were explained. They were germs and viruses.
The kids played their roles well, too, by coughing, sneezing, and one even threw up. I stood it a few moments and gave each one the obligatory treat while telling them to scram. Then, with the epidemic gone, I hosed off the porch and liberally sprayed the area with a disinfectant.
I went inside wondering if the kids knew the import of their Halloween theme, for it seems the country is being impacted by health concerns. But at their innocent ages, what could they really know about the medical issues of the day? The doorbell rang again, and appreciating the distraction, I opened the door to another hearty “Trick or treat!” greeting.
It was a single child, this time, in another novel presentation. I complemented this visitor on the costume, saying it was much better than the previous assorted illnesses. But I still had to ask, “What are you? A clown?”—for the creature was dressed in a red skirt from the exposed navel down, with a padded football jersey upwards, wearing a crocheted bra over it. On one leg was a stocking and a high heeled shoe, on the other, a sock and a boot. The child’s face was painted in red and yellow, black and white blotches. The wig he or she (for I could not determine the gender) wore was made of every type of hair one could imagine. As ridiculous as the person looked, “clown” seemed a reasonable guess. On its “treat” bag was inscribed the word, “ACCEPTANCE.” The person held this up, and said, “I’m not a clown, s’am.”
I said, “My name’s not Sam.”
“No, no, not ‘Sam’; s’am, the combination of the words ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am.’ It’s a word that isn’t sexist. And, s’am—your judgment on the virus costumes—I’m sure you did not intend to seem insensitive, but that is how it comes across. And I can only imagine how you unintentionally come across to persons, say, of different religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, or people on reality television. Have you ever considered sensitivity counseling, for–”
“What are you supposed to be, anyway?” I interrupted. “For you’re coming across as an irritating idiot.”
“S’am, that is entirely uncalled for. I am trying to personify Political Correctness. I am its missionary. I’d ‘like to teach the world to sing—’”
“If you start singing I’ll break your neck. Now, listen: here’s your candy bar. I’m going inside to get the gun. When I come back, I strongly suggest you just be going.”
When I got back with the gun, the PC fanatic was gone, but had been replaced by thief in the night out for whatever he could get. This kid was chubby, chatty beyond reason, dressed in an $800 suit and every hair on his head was in place. I knew I’d seen the adult variety of his sort before, and I realized where the moment he got into his spiel: “My Christian brother! I come to you asking you to give seed candy to help this ministry because if you give in faith God will burst open the gates of heaven to bless you beyond your ability to even dream of! If you, in faith, donate one of those seed candy bars, God will give you ten back! Donate a thousand seed candy bars! God will bless you with a million candy bars in return, and more! But, brother, don’t hesitate, for hesitation is faithlessness! Give, brother, give, and see if you don’t die rich!”
I aimed the gun a mere few inches from his nose. “I suspect you’ll be the one to ‘die rich.’” That was all I said. There seems to be no way to convert this variety of thief, and, unfortunately, their victims only seem to learn from hard experience. I hoped this kid was merely dressing the part for the occasion and would not grow up to be a ‘holy huckster.’ I fired a couple shots into the air as he ran. Maybe the impromptu exercise did him some good.
Others came by, made up as politicians and their sycophants, celebrity wannabes, survivalist fanatics—I was getting desperate for a ghost, a ghoul, even a terrorist! Finally, one of your ordinary, run-of-the-mill demons approached. This was no child, and my, how real he looked, right down to the stench of brimstone! “Pardon me,” he said politely. “I’m trying to gather up some of the group for the ride back home. Has anybody been by recently?” And he described some of the people I’d been meeting all evening. I indicated the direction his cohorts had taken. He thanked me and went after them. Horrific as he appeared, he was not scary. It occurred to me, the real horrors that threaten us—materialism, egotism, hatred, vanity, and a host of other things—the real horrors are the very things most embrace in one form or another every day. And next year, my porch lights will be off, the dogs will be out.