(Missed Part One? Read it by clicking here.)
"Where are you?" my friend Dawn asked, from what sounded very far away.
"I'm here. Where are you?" I could see what appeared to be a giant yellow pineapple with a unibrow, bobbing in front of my eyeholes.
"I'm here," said the pineapple. "Is my mask on straight?"
"Heck if I know. Is mine?"
"Er, yeah. Sure," Dawn said, lying through her air-slits.
It was Halloween night. We were dressed as Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. We were on our way to two hours of sheer Candy Nirvana....
And we would be lucky if we found our way out of my parents' house.
But Dawn said my mom's homemade Bert costume was an upgrade from her usual Halloween garb. And I imagine that was true. See, the last nine Halloweens of her life, Dawn had been a witch. And Dawn's mom didn't believe in dressing her girl as any pink-gowned glamorous Barbie-type Good Witch of the Nordstroms sort of witch, no sir!
She believed in Ye Olde Timey sneering, taloned hag-witches. Of "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" fame.... And, er, now-popular Broadway musicals.
The green face makeup alone would leave Dawn acne-flecked, and with a vague "oxidized penny" haze for weeks.
So even with impaired vision, Bert, he was a real treat.
Now Sarah, a friend from down the street, has just made her grand entrance as the Cowardly Lion-- leveraging beige khakis, and a tan hooded sweatshirt trimmed in fun-fur.
And then there was Leni. She and her dad had spent months crafting Gumby out of foam panels and green satin. The visual was flawless. The mobility, well... let's just say going up stairs, she looked a lot like a giant arthritic green bean.
So it was very slow-going on this moonlit night. We would meander through the leaf-littered streets of the housing complex with masks randomly turning sideways on our heads, but optimism filling our hearts.
Happily, minor wardrobe malfunctions were delicately ignored by the kind neighbor ladies, who tweaked us and fussed and tossed goodies in our rapidly-filling sacks. These were the days where full-sized candybars were not an anomaly, but the standard. And with one neighbor who worked for M&M/Mars, the potential for Twix and Snickers was extremely high.
Crunch bars and Kisses... popcorn balls and Goobers... Quick glimpses of these delicacies would reach through the eyeholes and only increase the excitement. Some folks even got particularly creative, with wax cola bottles or lips, candy buttons or-- outlawed in my home every other day of the year-- the adrenaline-pumping Pixie Stix, pure sugar and complete bliss.
Of course, we did have the folks who, we theorized, distributed from the very same bag of Milk Duds each year. The Duds would reach us speckled with an unnatural white on their chocolate coating, the Dud inside rock-hard and long-forgetting the cow it might have known.
But by all early estimates, we agreed, overall it was looking like a very good year for loot.
The final bend of our journey changed all that, though. As we trekked down this last dark street at the end of a turnaround, we glimpsed tall figures stealing through streetlight shadows... moving closer... closer....
And before we knew it-- bam! Gumby got picked off from our ranks like a gazelle in a National Geographic special. There she was, flat on the ground while her bag of candy was in the hands of some high school punk rapidly headed for the woods.
Gumby flailed like an overturned turtle. The same four inches of foam that had broken her fall, also prevented any sort of flexibility, leaving her a lump of immobilized clay. Bert and Ernie ran to mold her back into a standing position.
By then, the leopards had regrouped and were coming in fast for another kill. This time, Ernie must have been in their sights. Because in a second, I felt myself being grabbed, dragged across the macadam, anchored by the trick-or-treat bag wound twice around my orange-gloved wrist.
I found myself on the ground, face down, bleeding, with a ripped, half-bag of candy still wrapped around my hand.
And that when I recalled thinking, This isn't what Halloween is supposed to be about, is it? Halloween isn't about being harassed and roughed up and having stuff taken off of you...
It's about guilt-free candy, and the relief of being someone else for a while. Someone less likely than me to have the livin' tar beat out of her...
And that’s when Ernie got mad.
"Let's get 'em!!"
What those high school boys saw next was, I imagine, something they never anticipated when they first plotted their little snatch-and-grab routine.
Because before they could gather round to count their ill gotten gains...
Before so much as a Tootsie Roll passed before their lazy lips...
They were being swarmed by Ernie... Bert... the Cowardly Lion... and Gumby (bringing up the rear)... charging at them in Full-On Berserker Rage.
Now, I’d like to say we all got our candy back.
I’d like to tell you we made a stand for bashed and bullied kids everywhere.
But Ernie’s nose got scraped up. And Bert started crying. And the Lion summoned courage but still ate pavement.
We shuffled back to my house, sore and limping, faces tear-stained and hearts heavy. On my parents' living room floor, the Lion, Bert and I divvied up our loot to make a new bag for Gumby. We knew what those other kids didn't: fair was fair.
We learned a lot that night.
We learned Muppets in saddle-oxfords were nobody's puppets. We saw the Cowardly Lion had courage when push came to shove.
And suddenly, in a moment quicker than the flicker of a jack o' lantern, we learned we had grown entirely too old for Halloween.
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