Halloween ain’t what it use to be

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2003

It was a dark and stormy night, and all through the house nary a creature was stirring in this wasted blight. Though the roof was in tatters and the shutters were creaking – the remnants of Isabel’s wrath – the twisted occupant of this battered old hovel was joyously croaking, for this was her night.

Halloween, she thought, is the night I can make my return to the mortal world – frightening young boys and girls out of their wits. The old witch went to her closet to get her best broom, but was sore disappointed when she found it rotting in a pool of stagnant water. Hurrumphing and sighing and cursing her poor carpentry skills, the witch journeyed from room to room to find a good broom.

Finally, in a little cubbyhole beneath the kitchen sink, the battered old witch found a broom – one she had discarded many years before – that hadn’t rotted through and that still had a few straw whiskers at its end. As she gazed upon the scraggly swab with disdain, thinking that it just wouldn’t do, she happened to brush her withered fingers upon her crooked nose as she pondered what to do, noticing as she did so that the wart at the tip was throbbing with urgency because the sun had gone down on this newest Halloween. She grinned a wicked grin as she thought of all the mischief there was to pursue and then let out a howl of laughter as she realized that the bristly hair in her mole would make a more reliable broom than the old stick she held in her hands.

Cackling with glee and delight at all the horrors of the night, the old hag leaped upon the battered old broom and took off through one of the holes in her roof – free of her confines for the first time in a year and anxiously awaiting the screams and the tears that her actions would bring.

The kids, she knew, would be heading home by nine, so there was little time for dilly-dallying on this greatest night of the year. Up she went, sputtering just a little as the old swab gained altitude, leaving behind a trail of sawdust and straw that was quickly dispersed by the cold wind accompanying the persistent drizzle of the night.

The old witch first checked Potecasi, but saw not a single child begging for treats or threatening tricks. Off she went to Milwaukee, then Conway, then Jackson, Rich Square and Woodland, too. Not a young’n’ was stirring that she could find – the streets were empty and the roads all quiet, without the joyous laughter of a single child to break the steady drip from the cold drizzle and the whistling of the wind.

Such a pretty, pretty night, the old witch thought, and not a single child for me to give a fright! So up she sailed, the rain stingingly striking her snout, in search of a more likely spot to give fright to a child on Halloween. The dilapidated broom shuddered in her hands, barely able to take this kind of use, but her urgency lent it strength and it attained the heights, barely avoiding a small plane coming in for a landing at Tri-County Airport.

Off to Kelford, Aulander, and then to Lewiston-Woodville the old witch flew: &uot;No kids. No kids. And already it’s half-past seven!&uot; could be heard screaming behind her, louder than the wind. To Windsor, then Colerain and Powellsville, at last, but, alas for this witch’s evil designs, the kids were nowhere to be seen.

The old broom sputtered and began spinning down toward the ground, tracing large, sweeping circles through the mist rising from the saturated ground, but the old witch, by force of her evil will, pulled the nearly spent and scraggly stick up, up, up and off toward Cofield she went. Onwards she forced the stick – for by now it could be called nothing else with only one little piece of straw dangling from its mildewed end – to Winton and to Murfreesboro where the haunted houses beckoned sweetly, but without a trace of childhood’s sweet, innocent laugher to keep the witch still. Onward to Union, to St. John and finally, having not seen a single sweet face to scare, the old witch saw what she wanted right in the middle of good ole Ahoskie.

Intending to swoop low upon a group of small kids roaming down the street – colorfully clad and making enough joyous racket to scare up the dead – the last bit of straw was swept from the stick and down the witch came – &uot;bang, boom, bam&uot; onto the street.

The broom was no more and the witch was a-stranded, but what most vexed her was that the kids were laughing and howling with delight and pointing at her. Her skirt in a knot and with hair made straight and clean by all the water she had traveled through, the witch was not a very imposing figure when she stood to taunt the kids.

Little did she suspect that kids these days have more to worry about than ugly hags with broken brooms. Seeing the waterlogged witch gave these kids – veterans of television news’ nightly depictions of madmen, international terrorism, and abuse at the hands of &uot;normal&uot; people – not a twinge of fear or fright. They ceased their laughing, seeing the distress the old witch was in, and felt sorry for her – one little princess even offering her a piece of colorful candy. There’s nothing worse for a witch than to be pitied by kids, so with a howl of terror the old witch vanished with a dull thud in a gray pallor of smoke.

Halloween was much more fun when monsters and witches were the objects of fear rather than the adults the kids deal with every day.