The kids stood eagerly at the doorstep, pillowcases at the ready. The sun was just beginning to set and they had a long night ahead of them. A cool breeze crawled down the avenue and they could hear the leaves of dying trees rustling. Behind them, dozens of other children in costumes paraded up and down the street, hurrying from house to house… save for one.
The four of them stood alone on the faded porch of the ancient Victorian house, an enormous, yellowing lawn separating them from the rest of the Halloween goings-on. As the kids shuffled impatiently from foot to foot, the porch creaked loudly. Paint peeled off every column and window frame; the siding looked like it might have been green at some point in time, maybe. The porch roof was covered in cobwebs.
“What is taking so long?” whined Lisa, pulling her preposterously furry hood backwards slightly and out of her eyes. She was the youngest of the group, but also the loudest and the most stubborn.
“Maybe they’re not home,” said Tommy, scratching the back of his neck with his axe.
“She’s always home.”
“Let’s just go to the next house, guys,” added Sam. “They don’t really look like they’re that into Halloween.” She pointed to the single decoration on the house — a faded cardboard Frankenstein head hanging awkwardly from a half-adhered piece of Scotch tape on the front door.
“She put up a decoration, that means she has candy,” Lisa stated coldly. “That’s how this works!”
“It’s probably gonna be, like, an apple or something,” mumbled George, his voice muffled by the large, latex monkey mask he wore. “If she’s half-assing the decorations, she’s gonna half-ass the whole thing.”
“You keep saying she,” said Tommy. “Have you guys been here other years?”
“But you know whose house it is?”
“It’s Mrs. Donovan’s,” began George.
“She’s a cranky old witch,” explained Lisa. “My Frisbee went into her yard once and when I tried to get it she called the cops on me.” She pressed the doorbell again. “This is the first Halloween her light’s been on.”
“Can we just go?” squeaked Sam, taking a few steps back. She turned to look at the street. “They’re gonna get all our candy!”
“This does kinda seem like a giant waste of time,” added Tommy.
“No way,” said Lisa, eyes fixed on the front door. “Rumor is she’s a real witch and this is the one chance we’re gonna get to –”
The door burst open suddenly, revealing an older woman lost beneath waves of dark red hair and the billowing folds of an impossibly flowing black dress.
“What?” barked the crone; creases like canyons across her skin, her eyes like an ocean on fire. Somehow her slight frame took up the entirety of the doorway.
“Trick or treat…” the children stammered timidly.
“Oh, right,” said the woman, her features softening, the folds of her dress falling slack. “One second.” Mrs. Donovan trundled away from the doorway for a moment, stooped and shuffling like a waitress beyond her prime, returning with a wire bowl full of questionable produce. “I hope you like fruit.” She dropped a pear unceremoniously into Lisa’s pillowcase.
“I told you,” muttered George.
“What?” asked Mrs. Donovan.
“You too good for fruit?”
“No, I didn’t — I”m not –”
“You know, I don’t have to do this,” she said, holding an apple in her shaking hand. The old woman’s face began tightening again. “I didn’t have to open the door.”
“It’s fine,” said Lisa, trying to look past the woman and into the house. “We loooove fruit. Thank you.”
Mrs. Donovan lowered her eyes and stared at the children one-by-one — Lisa, George, Tommy, Sam. A lion, a winged monkey, a metal man, and a scarecrow.
“Aren’t you missing one or two?” she asked.
“Our sister was supposed to be Dorothy,” replied George, “but she couldn’t stop pooping long enough to come out with us.”
“How did you — Oh my God,” gasped Sam, “she is a witch!”
“What?” snarled the older woman.
“OK, right, we should be going,” said Lisa quickly, turning and hurrying everyone off the porch. “Thanks for the fruit, sorry to have bothered you.”
“No one thinks you’re a witch!” added George over his shoulder.
“You ungrateful little…” began Mrs. Donovan, visibly shaking with rage. Her dress and hair began flailing wildly again.
“Oh crap,” said Tommy.
“Go go go go go…” said Lisa. The kids rushed down the rickety porch steps and onto the brick path leading to the street.
“You want a witch?” Mrs. Donovan snapped her fingers.
Sam the scarecrow burst into flames, the homemade newspaper and straw costume proving to have been a terrible, terrible idea. She ran screaming across the lawn and began thrashing haphazardly in the middle of the street. The other children froze.
“Oh my God!” shouted Tommy.
“Holy crap!” shouted Lisa. She turned toward the older woman. “What the hell? Why would you even do that?!”
“You’re the ones intruding on my property, ringing my doorbell over and over –”
“All the more reason to leave me alone!”
“All Hallow’s Eve!”
“I don’t –”
“Are you trying to teach us something?” asked George.
“Wasn’t the fruit bad enough?” added Tommy.
Mrs. Donovan snapped her fingers again and George’s wings ignited.
“Ah!” he screeched, spinning and disentangling himself from the burning accessories strapped over his shoulders.
“OK, we’re going!” said Tommy.
“Like hell we are!” shouted Lisa. The boys began dragging her toward the street. “This isn’t over, lady!” she railed, her furry hood falling over her eyes. “Not by a long shot!”
Mrs. Donovan walked back into her home, the door slamming behind her.