Richard moved quickly down the dark sidewalk, carrying his bag of candy, collected from several houses on his block. It was Halloween, and as with any nine year old, he was on a mission to hit as many houses as possible before it got too late. His folks said they wanted him home by nine and time was running out.
Dressed in a doctors lab coat, he sported a skull cap and a sterile face mask. His mother had darkened his eyes with mascara. On his chest hung a toy stethoscope. Fake blood had been splashed on his coat sleeves and latex gloved hands. All in all, he thought he looked pretty good.
He was trick or treating alone now. His friends had already gone home, but he had decided to take advantage of the time he had left to add to his stash. He had visited all the houses on both sides of his street, and was now a couple of blocks from home. Many of the houses had begun to turn off their outside lights, so he had to be more selective of which ones to approach.
He saw a house up ahead that had a dim light still lit on the porch. At first Richard began to approach the house, but stopped. It was a large old Victorian with gingerbread trim in desperate need of repair. It looked to Richard, based on the peeling paint, cracked sidewalk, and overgrown lawn as if no one lived here. But he quickly dismissed that since the porch light was on. He was not one to pass up a chance to score another candy bar.
Stepping up on the porch, Richard looked for a doorbell but did not find one. So he knocked, the sound seeming to echo within the house. He stood there for a while before knocking again. This time he thought he heard someone approach the door, but it did not open. He began to have a creepy feeling just standing there, so he turned to leave, just as he heard a dry, raspy voice say “go away”.
Turning back toward the door, Richard called out “trick or treat”, but was greeted only with silence. Again he heard faint rustling, telling him that someone was standing behind the door. Giving it one last try, he called out “Happy Halloween”. Again silence. Richard didn’t want to waste any more time. He again turned to leave when slowly, the front door began to open. Richard rushed back to the door. Whoever had answered the door was framed in the dim light emanating from behind them. Richard found himself staring at a shape, indistinguishable in the shadows. He moved closer until he could see an elderly man standing there. He was a little stooped and had white disheveled hair, much in need of both a cut and a comb. His face was deeply lined and his eyes had a hollow look. He wore a dark suit unlike any Richards dad wore. The coat was longer and the once white shirt behind a bow tie, had a funny looking collar with rounded tips. It looked quite uncomfortable, the way it gripped the neck, creating Richard suspected, the red chafe mark on the man’s neck.
“Go away” the man repeated.
“Trick or treat” Richard repeated, holding out his bag.
“What? Oh, Halloween is it? So I guess you want candy”.
“Yes sir” Richard replied
“Don’t know if I have any” the man said. “Step in while I go look”.
Richard opened the screen door and stepped into the front hall. Looking around while he waited, he observed a tall grandfather clock standing against one wall. However, he noted that the clock had not been wound and had stopped a few minutes after twelve. Looking further he noticed a small table with a framed picture. Both were covered with dust. Richard walked over to the picture and saw it was of a young man and a woman. The man was wearing a suit that looked, in style, a lot like the one the old man wore. The woman was dressed in a high necked dress with a billowing skirt. Richard guessed that maybe the man in the picture was the old man here tonight.
Shortly, the old man shuffled in from one of the front rooms and dropped a candy bar in Richards bag. “What’s your name young man” he inquired.
“Richard. What’s yours”?
“Mr Lynch” the man replied. “I used to trick or treat when I was your age”.
Richard was not particularly interested in engaging Mr Lynch in conversation now that he had what he had come for. He would still like to stop at a few more houses. However, he felt the obligation to be polite.
“Do you live here alone” he asked?
“I am alone here” he replied.
“Have you lived here long”?
“In a manner of speaking, yes, you could say that”.
“Well, I’ve gotta go” Richard said, turning toward the door. “Happy Halloween”.
Mr Lynch did not move, but watched the boy exit the door.
Richard ran down the walk and headed down the street, hoping to find another house still giving out candy. However, it now appeared that most people had shut up for the night, so Richard headed for home.
“Looks like you made quite a haul” his father said as Richard emptied his bag of goodies on the kitchen table. His parents always looked over everything before letting him have it back.
“Where did you get this” his father asked, holding up a candy bar. “I haven’t seen one of these in years”.
Richard stared at the piece of candy and didn’t recognize it either. “I must have got that from Mr Lynch” he said.
His father stared at him for a moment before asking “and where does this Mr Lynch live”?
“About two blocks from here, over on Elm Street. It’s a big old gloomy place. He was a nice old man”.
“That’s impossible” his father said with a half smile. “You’re putting me on. Where did you hear about Mr Lynch”?
“Hear about what”? Richard said
“The story of Mr. Lynch who used to live on Elm Street. The house has been empty for close to twenty years. They were never able to sell it after Mr Lynch hung himself.”.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE