Two days into November and the last ghoulies, the hold-outs, charged the roads of their neighborhood. Disguised as the living dead, a man of superior strength, an out-of-touch hippie. “Trick or treat!” they called into the clouds. The sun dipped an hour earlier, dark fell by 5:30. Those boys in their costumes, those tricky disguises, they demanded treats, still.
While two nights prior, the hours after Halloween night, most costumes were tucked into closets, or walked into basements, or hidden under beds, maybe to be handed down to a younger sibling in the coming year. The city’s girls and boys and babies and adolescents stripped the layers of ghoulish make-up from their grins. And in mirrors, they frowned. For it was over! They had the treats, the candy, the sugar highs, yet, it was all truly over…
But, that was two nights ago. So, why? Why were these three boys holding out? Or, holding on? Holding on, tightly, steadily, to a night of spooks, moons behind clouds, skeleton winds, cold chocolate. It was everything! Halloween night! The greatest night! So, what could be done to keep it? Nothing. Next Halloween was next Halloween. This one was gone. Two nights gone, by this point! But, this undead specter, this man of colossal power, this transplant from another decade, they remained firmly in their identities, crowing for candies. More candies! Caw! More candies! Caw! More!
“Trick!” the dead boy hollered.
The streetlights winked on. The strong man dropped to one knee and flexed his muscles.
“Or treat!” finished the hippie. He leapt into the air.
The boy dressed as the strong man told his friends, “This is it, boys. All Souls’ Day.”
The boy done up like a man dead for years spoke, quietly. “The last day the dead wander the town.”
The hippie said, “Ye-e-e-ah, du-u-u-de, last night to be a hippie, ma-a-a-n.”
On a porch, a man taking down his Halloween decorations watched the boys in the middle of the road.
They turned to his house, then ran up his walkway and up his steps.
All together, “Trick or treat!” The boys held out their candy bags to him.
“Oh, come on, guys,” the man pleaded, annoyed. “It’s November 2nd. You watch TV, you can see they’re showing Christmas commercials. Halloween’s over.”
The undead boy moved closer. “Not yet! Don’t say it, sir!”
The hippie piped in. “It’s All Souls’ Day, du-u-u-u-de.”
The strong man raised his candy bag like a seventy-pound dumbbell. “I need candy, sir. For my growing muscles.”
The man removing Halloween looked from one boy to the next, and thought. He walked past the boys, opened his front door. “All right, all right, this way,” he said, waving the boys in. “I think my wife’s got something.” The smells of a bakery wafted onto the porch from inside. It was impossible for the boys to ignore.
Into the home, the man and ghoulies went. Through the hallway, past the dining room, and finally, in the kitchen.
The man pulled out chairs around the kitchen table. “Have a seat, fellas.” The man’s wife lifted her head from the oven, bringing with her a fresh, hot pie. The flavor, at that moment, a mystery. “For some reason, we have guests,” he announced.
The woman laughed at the boys in their ridiculous get-ups. “A little late, aren’t we?”
The strong man shook his head. “All Souls’ Day,” he mumbled.
The boy in tattered, dead clothes agreed with his friend. “The ghosts of the dead still walk the streets.”
The aging hippie nodded. “But, this is it, ma-a-a-n. Last night for treats, du-u-u-de.”
The pie found its way onto the kitchen table. The aroma of it rested in the boys’ noses. Apple and cinnamon? And lavender? And rosewater? And graham cracker crust?
Plates were placed in front of each boy.
The woman and her husband took their seats at the table. She cut into the apple pie and its scents oozed through the house. Soon, the boys, and the woman and man, were feasting on the steaming filling and the crumbling crust.
When they were done, and the boys looked properly overstuffed, the man said to them, “So, that’s it then, fellas. I believe this is a good and filling way to end your Halloween. Do you agree?” He looked to the undead boy who moved his head up, then down, slowly and tiredly.
The woman patted the strong man’s bloated stomach, laughing. He grunted. “Unnh…”
She stood and cleared the plates from the table. “You say the dead wander the sidewalks tonight?” she asked.
“Uh-huh,” the hippie nodded, clutching his belly.
The woman sat back in her chair. “Well, maybe you let the dead rest, now? Hmm, boys?”
The dead boy, the man of unending strength, the dying hippie, all stared at her.
She continued. “Maybe you’re keeping the dead awake. Have you thought of that?”
Her husband smiled, laughing to himself.
“Have you considered that maybe the dead are waiting on you, boys? Waiting on you to put away your face-paint and your disguises?” The woman looked at them, her eyes smirking.
The boys in costumes exchanged glances.
The man stood. “You fellas ready? All filled up?”
The boys stumbled up from their seats. They thanked the woman over and over, grateful to be so full. She walked them to the front door and led them outside.
Down the steps they trotted.
“Let them rest, boys!” the woman shouted. “You’re keepin’ ‘em awake!”
The boys waved back, and ran.
Over the sidewalks, the undead boy raced for home, the hippie sprinted through backyards, the strong man jumped over walls. All at the same time, tearing the wigs from their scalps, the clever costumes from their bodies.
First, the formerly dead boy crashed through his home’s screen door. Then, the one-time hippie, he dashed into his warm house, his mother seeing only a flash of color zoom by. And last, the strong man, now exhausted boy, hopped his fence, slamming through the front door, and up, up the stairs, and face first onto his bed.
At once, they tossed aside their disguises, discarded who they were at Halloween, and just minutes ago. Tucked into closets, or walked into basements, or hidden under beds, it all went, away, away.
In the streets, the dead gazed upward, searching for the moon beyond the clouds, and they crept away, back to from wherever they came. It was time, now, of course. The last ghoulies of the season had found their sleep, early in the night, and their dreams formed, majestic and mournful.