Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Gets the Blue Light

Craze has never been much into making a big deal about any holiday. So, I was really surprised this year when he got all excited about Halloween.

Now, to be fair, he's always loved Halloween, just more in an "I'm going to dress up in a crazy costume and go to a bunch of fun parties" kind of way. He's never been much into decorating our house in an effort to make it a more trick-or-treat-worthy destination. But for some reason this year, he made a "hail Mary" effort to spook things up.

What this required was a last ditch trip to the land of the blue-light special, K-Mart, to try and get more ghoulish props. So on Sunday, that's where we went. To say it was a little nightmarish, wouldn't be a Halloween pun. The seasonal section was crammed with yelling, and some crying, children desperately trying to find a costume. The kids were spinning through the aisles like real-life whirling dervishes, pulling hangers off the racks at random and then just as quickly discarding them. Hulk hands, princess crowns, tiny firemen helmets and other assorted costume elements littered the floor of aisle 12 like so many autumn leaves, making smooth shopping cart passage virtually impossible. The parents, for the most part, made no effort to stop the commercial carnage or enforce any kind of good shopping manners. They just stood at the end of the aisle, apparently exasperated, their eyes glazed over. Like zombies really, at the mercy of their juvenile puppet masters.

And so into the midst of this lunacy, Craze and I ventured. We weren't really looking for costumes, although one of the first things Craze grabbed was a rubber ghoul mask with a black hood. "This is cool," he grinned like a kid himself, "I'll wear this when I answer the door. It will look great with that Dracula cloak I bought a few years ago. Do you know where that is?" he asked, not waiting for an answer and instead hurtling himself towards a pile of discounted conjoined skulls, perfect as a wall hanging.

After placing the skulls, which featured a motion-detector that triggered them to sing a crazy Halloween song, into the cart, we officially began to rummage through the mess. Craze found a platter with a skull in the middle of it. Motion detector technology clearly the thing this Halloween, it also broke into song or dialogue when any hand ventured in its direction. A rattling rendition of "I Ain't Got No Body" was a favorite. Next, he found an almost life-size skeleton with blinking green eyes. I found a rather creepy and tattered raven apparently made with real bird feathers. In keeping with my dislike of any kind of dead animal, it sort of grossed me out. But then, I remembered that is the whole point of Halloween and offered it up for Craze's review.

After a few minutes, I'd had enough. While Craze continued to rake through the leftovers, I steered the cart to the calm oasis of the nearby candy aisle. It offered up a brief respite from the screaming, running kids and gave me a chance to shore up my candy supplies.

A few moments later after finally deciding that there was nothing left there to find, Craze emerged from aisle 12 and we headed to the checkout. Once home, he emptied his sack of haunted goods and set about improving our blood-curdling curb appeal. He found some green light bulbs in the basement and put these in the lamps on our front porch and entryway. This simple addition cast a spooky green glow over our entrance and, I was surprised to see, was really quite effective. Next went up the assorted skulls and skeletons. After the last nail was driven, our Halloween decor was much improved. All that was left was to wait until Tuesday and see how many kids we could scare up at our door.

Halloween itself arrived bright but really quite cold. As I walked the Bug around 4pm, I saw the first little trick-or-treater out with his mom. Thinking I might miss the rush, the Bug and I headed home. Once there, I put in a call to Craze to remind him he better not leave the office too late if he wanted to fulfill his wish of offering a friendly fright to the neighbor kids.

Our first visitors, Dorothy and the Princess Bride, arrived promptly at 4:33 pm. It was a full hour later before any more kids came calling and another hour before the rush really began. After our first couple doorbell ringers had arrived, I shut the Bug in the kitchen to stop her from barking away visitors and rushing the door. She likes to protect her territory and, Halloween or no Halloween, she had her own plan for scaring off any visitors and that just wouldn't do.

Finally around 6:45 pm Craze arrived. He quickly pulled the rubber mask over his head and the collar of his dress shirt and found the Dracula cape in the front closet. Pushing an eyeball ring onto his finger, he grabbed our boom box and rigged it up on the front porch to play scary music.

The next time the doorbell rang, he'd be ready. And as soon as the next set of footsteps fell on the front porch, he sprang into action. Opening the door to the unsuspecting kids, he moaned at them in a loud, fiendish voice, "What do you WAAANT?"

"Candy," was what most of the kids replied, laughing at their unexpected, scary host. One smart alec forgot about the candy and offered up a more demonic request, actually asking Craze for his very soul!

"OK, here you go," Craze would reply in a gravelly tone, handing out the peanut butter cups, crunch bars and assorted other goodies from the skull platter. "Now get out of here and LEAVE ME ALONE!" And then just for effect, as the giggling kids made their retreat down the front steps towards the safety of their grinning parents, he'd yell again as an agonizing afterthought, "and DON'T COME BACK!"

This repeated drama went on for the next hour or so, and it made me laugh with each performance. I'd relinquished my candy-giving duties to someone more capable than I and instead sat on the couch with the Bug. Every time the doorbell rang, the kids got candy and the Bug got cheese if she didn't bark or make a move to rush the door. Give our dog cheese, and she's putty in your hands.

Around 8pm, the number and frequency of visitors dropped drastically. And it was a good thing too, as we were on our last bag of candy. Craze and I finally sat down to eat some sandwiches, his mask pulled back over the top of his head but still at the ready should any stragglers appear. Finally after a few last-minute arrivals, Craze reluctantly closed up shop at 9pm, turning off the green lights and blinking skull eyeballs and locking up for the night.

Later that evening, I overheard him talking to his brother in Ohio on the phone. He was recounting all his decorative efforts and how he'd made the kids squeal. And over and over, he kept repeating that next year's tableau would be bigger, better and scarier.

Hello K-Mart. Here we come.

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