He was to Halloween as Ebenezer Scrooge was to Christmas. Henry Tate hated Halloween. This Halloween was no different. When one figure costumed in eerie raiment befitting the night refused to take no for an answer, Henry began to hear those things that go bump in the night. It was all for the want of a bit of candy!
He was a bitter, disillusioned man. All he expected out of life was for life to leave him the hell alone. Much to his chagrin, however, life always seemed to come knocking at his door.
He often imagined himself as Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, alone on a deserted island. Of course if Friday had shown up, he would have shot the son of a bitch!
Tate wasn't always this way, a mean spirited man. No, Henry was once a successful businessman and a respected member of the community. That was before the Infernal Revenue Service came knocking. According to their sniveling pencil pushing auditor, he had neither paid nor filed taxes in ten years.
In the end they had seized all of his assets; his business, his bank accounts, and his cars, especially his prized Bentley. They had left him with little more than the clothes on his back and the run-down bungalow in which he lived.
Although he couldn't prove it, he'd known for some time that his lawyer and accountant had been in cahoots and had been bilking him clean. The attorney had messed with the wrong man. It just so happened that for the past three years he'd been fucking the lawyer's wife.
As easy as it had been to bed her, it had been easier still to convince her of the nest egg her husband had been hiding away. The ensuing divorce and scandal had all but ruined the barrister's practice. After the dust had settled, Henry figured it was time for him and the woman to live together rich and happily thereafter.
It had been a crushing blow when she rejected him claiming she couldn't live with a failed businessman and a pauper. Seeing his money slipping away again had been too much for him. He promptly punched the bitch in the face.
By the time he was released from jail on the assault and battery charges, the woman had hooked up with the shyster accountant and the two of them had migrated to some Caribbean resort.
Henry Tate stared with disdain at the calendar. A pall of gloom colored his rugose countenance. "October the thirty-first!" he said followed by some choice guttural vulgarities. He hated Halloween. He hated it with a passion.
The arthritis in his knees creaking in protest, he rose from his chair and strode to the window. He peered through the slats of the old venetian blinds that had long been bent out of shape over the years whenever he looked outside. The sun was low in the sky, well into its descent beyond the horizon. It would be dark soon.
Next door, his neighbor was making a god-awful racket with his damned leaf blower. The jerk was always out there doing one thing or another to his yard. Henry knew the asshole kept his lawn up just to make his overgrown property look worse than it was.
Just the day before when Henry had ventured outside to check the mailbox, the prick had expressed his opinion about the state of his property. "Hey, Tate," he shouted from his front porch, "I'm going to nominate you for the neighborhood's best Halloween theme decorations. You've nailed the haunted house effect to a tee."
Henry's perfunctory flip of the bird might have been redundant with his vocalized "Fuck you," but it gave him satisfaction nonetheless. Crude perhaps, but he was rewarded by his neighbor's retreat behind his slamming door.
Reaching beneath the elastic band of his boxers he scratched his ass and turned away from the window. He shuffled into the kitchen, sidled past the old car battery that had been there for some time and opened the refrigerator.
He contemplated the loosely wrapped bologna but returned it to the shelf. He couldn't remember if he'd bought olive loaf at the deli or if the green spots upon the processed meat might be a penicillin culture. His fingers groped around in the unlit recesses at the back of the cold chamber searching for the last remaining bottle of fiber supplement.
"Yes!" he exclaimed in triumph. He lofted the sixteen-ounce bottle of Carlings upwards to the ceiling and uttered, "Barley and hops - fiber of the gods."
Whereas his retrieval of the bottle of beer had required little waste of energy, his search through the cluttered silverware drawer for the church key severely tested his patience. Not to be denied access to the cold amber liquid, he positioned the rim of the bottle cap against the edge of the counter and deftly brought to bear the heel of his hand. He heard the bottle cap hit and bounce somewhere on the kitchen floor, possibly landing near others of its kind.
Empty, the bottle slipped from his fingers and fell to the floor next to the recliner. Still groggy from the short nap Henry forced his hand between the seat cushion and the arm of the chair in search of the remote control.
His attention was drawn to screen of the TV set. A sheepish grin stretched his lips into the closest facsimile of a smile he was able to muster. The man in the commercial was promoting one of those products designed for men with erectile dysfunction.
Prompted by the subliminal reference to the male penis, he patted himself on the crotch. The action caused the appendage to slip out through the opening in his boxer shorts. He looked down upon the wrinkled flaccid organ which over the years had seen its duties reduced to nothing more than plumbing.
Of course there would be no response forthcoming, but he spoke to it nonetheless. "What do think, old buddy, should I buy some of that stuff for you?" Disgruntled he shook his head and growled, "Bah! What's the use? Both of us are old, retired and unemployed."
Startled by the sudden chime of the door bell, he twisted his head to look at the clock on the wall. "Damn!" he snarled. "Six o'clock. So, now it begins, eh?"
He limped over to the door and shouted at the visitor on the other side. "Go away. I ain't got no candy! Scram!"
He stood there for a moment and when he was satisfied that the little bastard had given up he turned his back to the door. He took only one step when the bell resounded again. "Another one?" he moaned.
He threw open the door and with a raised fist shouted, "God damn it. Go ... uh ..." There was no one there. He scratched his head and peered to the right and to the left of the entrance. There was no sign of anyone.
He slammed the door and muttered a few choice obscenities. He glanced at the empty bottle on the floor by his chair and cursed himself and snorted, "Damn it, I should have gotten off my lazy ass and and gone out for some more beer."
Ding-dong! went the doorbell. "Jesus H," he mumbled. Again he opened the door and again there was no one to be seen. "Leave me the fuck alone!" he shouted out into the evening air.
This time he stood by the closed door with his hand on the knob ready to throw it open and catch the little wise-ass red-handed before he could disappear. Ding-dong! He tore open the door and thrust his hands forward to grab his tormentor. His hands grabbed nothing but air. "Son of a bitch!" he yelped.
He slammed the door in disgust. He was pissed off to no end. He snapped his fingers as an idea formulated in his angry mind. He walked over to the hall closet and retrieving a hammer and a screw driver he snickered, "I'm going to put an end to this shit ... right now!"
Driving the blade of the screw driver beneath the doorbell fixture with the hammer he gloated to himself. "The bastards won't be able to ring the bell if there isn't one," he thought aloud. With it pried away from the door frame he yanked on the fixture and tore it away.
Back inside the house he leaned against the door and let out a sigh of relief. After tossing the doorbell in the direction of and missing the trashcan he returned the tools to the closet.
Settling into his recliner he began to struggle to catch his breath. Beads of perspiration were running down his brow. He knew he was out of shape, but that task of removing the doorbell shouldn't have left him so exhausted. He glanced over at the end table where the bottle of pills that been prescribed for his high blood pressure rested. Had he taken the pill today? He couldn't remember.
Grabbing the plastic bottle, he removed the lid and peered inside. He tilted it and gently tapped the side of the container until a single tablet slid into his palm. Ding-dong!
The bottle was sent flying across the room, its contents scattering over the old matted carpet. He stared dumbfounded at the door. "Impossible," he muttered. "Im-fuckin'-possible!"
Enraged he charged the door, bound and determined to nab the son of a bitchin' pest. Expecting no one to be there he was caught off guard by the small figure standing there.
Irritated as he was, he was taken aback by the kid's costume. This one had gone to great lengths to come up with such a realistic and grotesque outfit. He surmised that the kid, a little over three feet tall, was supposed to be the Grim Reaper. Dressed in black, a grayish skull-masked face looked up at him beneath a loose cowl.
Uncharacteristic of a child, the gravelly low voice declared, "Trick or Treat!"
( The conclusion ... Part 2 )