Halloween Short Story Contest: Entry #1

Halloween: Trick or Treat?

“No. Do you understand? No. A daughter of mine isn’t going to wander the streets knocking on strangers’ doors asking for lollies. Don’t you remember anything about the talk the policeman gave about strangers?”

“Yeah, but this is different. I’m not going alone. Besides, that was when I was a kid.”

“You’re not going at all, and if you think that being with a group of twelve-year-olds makes you safe, then I have taught you nothing. The world is not a safe place. All I want to do is make sure nothing happens to you.”

“What about when you were a kid and all those stories Gran tells about you? You got into all sorts of adventures. Nobody kept you a prisoner in your own home!”

Thanks mum, I thought to myself whilst saying, “I was lucky nothing happened to me, and it’s because I know what kids can get up to that you’re not going.”

Even to my own ears I sounded like a killjoy. But it was for the best. The world didn’t seem as safe as when I was a kid. When I looked at Sally, I saw a beautiful girl who I had to keep safe, and that meant her not knocking on potential nutcases’ doors.

Kids just don’t understand what it’s like to have the sole responsibility for another life. It is hard enough trying to make the right decisions for myself, but now with Jack gone, I had no one else to ask to help make the tough decisions. Sally had turned away, gone to sulk in her room.

Was I doing the right thing? What was Halloween anyway? Just because it was in all the American TV shows it was becoming popular here. Didn’t anyone else out there think about our kids’ safety? All those messages about pedophiles, and then we turn around and encourage them to talk to strangers. And what about obesity? The canteen at school has banned lollies, but it’s okay to demand lollies with menaces. Trick or treat, I’ll be damned if I am going to buy lollies on the off chance that some fat kid will come to the door asking for them. What about my diet? Six months without chocolate. As long as I don’t buy it, I can’t eat it. And here they are telling us to stock up. That five kilos I’ve lost isn’t going to sneak back because of some marketing guru’s idea of how to sell more sweets.

Sally had wandered back into the kitchen, and I could see by her stance I was about to face the second wave of her attack. This is how she always went about things. Retreat, regroup, and then come at the problem from another angle. God help her future partner.

I went for the preemptive strike. “Well?”


It was time for the considered pause as she wandered around the kitchen lulling me by her slow start. “It’s just that if I can’t go out, well then I was thinking that well… that maybe, well that I could have some friends around to do something special. That way you wouldn’t have to feel bad about me missing out.” 

She was good. Twelve years old and already sounding like a hardened negotiator, trying to play on my feelings. Considering my “feeling bad” had lasted about a nanosecond, it wasn’t likely to work.

“Like what?”

Her eyes lit up. I knew what she was thinking if she presented me with an alternative, which was worse than the first option, I might just relent.

“We could have a movie night, and I could stay up late, and I could have Chrissie and Allison and maybe a few more girls to sleep over. We wouldn’t be out roaming the streets, and you wouldn’t have to worry that a stranger could take me away.”

This girl knew how to work her audience. Ask for a lot, then throw in the carrot of “I will be safe.” Well, she wasn’t going to think she could manipulate me that easily. 

“Which movie?”

“Oh, just a couple of old ones Allison’s Dad downloaded for Halloween. You probably saw them years ago. They are really old.” 

“Really old, eh? And how do you know which movies Mr. Sturgeon has?”

She saw her mistake and began to dig her way out since telling me I was old wouldn’t get her what she wanted. The conversation ebbed and flowed as I went on making dinner. The end result being that I would pick the movie, singular, and she could have two friends over, but since it was a school day, it would be bed time as usual and no sleep over. 

By bedtime we had reach an amicable agreement. The only sticking point seemed to be the choice of movie. Apparently, I had “lame taste” as far as scary movies were concerned. From my point of view, why would I want to pick something which would give my child nightmares and have me up half the night trying to convince her we weren’t about to be murdered by some psycho?

Over the next two weeks, there was a constant interrogation about the movie I was going to pick. It seemed my sweet little girl knew the name of almost every horror film ever made. When I questioned how she had become an expert, she just shrugged and said everyone knew the names of all the great movies. 

Great movies indeed! I knew that I had to come up with a movie which would fit the Halloween mold but not scare the girls. Not an easy task, especially since my credentials as a “cool” mother may rest on this. When I had made the stipulation that I would choose the movie, I hadn’t realised how much this would mean. I had thought of it only as a movie, but it dawned on me that this was an opportunity to keep the relationship I had with Sally on track. If I came up trumps and her friends were suitably impressed, then I would remain an adult who related to her. But if I bombed out, then there was the chance it could be the beginning of all those teenage arguments about not understanding people of her age. I knew those times would still happen, but if I could delay them for a while, it might help both of us get through that black hole of the hormone years.

So, night after night when Sally had gone to bed, I started trawling through Internet sites trying to find a suitable movie. I couldn’t believe some of the stuff I came across. But in the end, I found just what I needed.

As the night approached, Sally’s questioning increased, and her furtive searches around the house didn’t go unnoticed. But I was not to be thwarted; I had stashed the movie in my draw at work. I had, after all, been twelve once, and I knew the urge to take a quick peek could be overwhelming, even if it did spoil the surprise of my new bike.

So, the night arrived. I had softened my stance on the snacks and lashed out on some movie junk food and drinks. I wasn’t really a horrible mother.

The girls had arrived early enough to have dinner with us and had then gone off to Sally’s room to do whatever twelve-year-old girls do. Whatever it was, there was lots of shrieks and laughter. For a few hours, it was good to hear the house full of life, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t regret Sally being an only child.

I set out the snacks, loaded the movie and called the girls to come and take their seats just before turning off the lights.

The screen flickered to life, and the MGM lion roared onto the screen. Then, it began. The silence filled the room as the black and white images filled the screen. I stole a glance at the girls, and I could just make out their puzzled expressions. 

The only objection came from Sally with a half-hearted, “Oh, Mum.” 

I held my breath waiting for the outburst of three disappointed almost-teenage girls. But as I waited, nothing happened. Well, not nothing. The girls settled back and watched the movie with real delight. I doubted if they had ever heard of Abbot and Costello, let alone knew that they had met the Mummy. Before long, they were trying hard to suppress their laughter as it threatened to overwhelm them. There were shouts to the TV of “look behind you,” and then screams as the action produced a sudden fright. 

As the titles rolled, cries of “play it again” filled the room. The night had been such a success, I was a little astounded. After dropping the girls off, Sally and I cleared away the remains of our night. Sally was animated, and when she turned to me and said, “Who would have thought you could pick such a great movie, Mum?” I finally let out the breath which I felt I had been holding all night. I knew I had made the right decision not to let her go out trick or treating, but next year might be a different matter. 

I waited until Sally was in bed before checking the doors and turning out the lights. Just as I turned out my bedroom light, Sally called down the hallway in a half-frightened voice, “Careful, Mum. There might be a Mummy in the wardrobe.” Then, she spoiled the effect by bursting into a fit of giggles. 

We settled down for the night, and it occurred to me that we hadn’t had one knock on the door from children demanding lollies, so maybe the night was more hype than reality.

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