Friday, October 31, 2014

Al Bum’s Halloween

Oct. 31, 1980

The ghosts haunt; they fly by night and come to scream and howl; they bang on things; they rattle their chains.
There is a thrill in the air, as well as a chill, shivering down children’s spines as they stumble down concrete paths invading door after door with masks on and baskets, and an unquenchable thirst for excitement.
It’s the same now as it was when I was a boy when me and Dave darted out from dark places formed by the crisscross of street lamps.
I dressed up at a bum one year, something Leonard and Craig would never let me live down once they caught me on the street. Both of them signed my grammar school year book “to my favor Al-bum.”
For a while it was funny, but it eventually wore thin, and for a time I came to hate them, but even that faded, and it never stopped me from dressing up when Halloween came around.
Dave always dressed up as a ghost; I dressed up as a hobo. And we continued to invade houses in our neighborhood with a paper bags until we started to hear the whispers behind us as the doors closed saying, “They’re a little old to be trick-or-treating.”
Even then we laughed, and developed another strategy, attaching ourselves to groups of kids so we didn’t stand out as much. They appreciated having larger kids around because by that time, other larger kids didn’t dress up at all, but slunk around in shadows waiting for groups of kids to come along so they could grab the bags from the smaller kids and run away. Dave and I scared them off, only a few times getting into a fight that attracted so much attention, these kids fled fearing someone would call the police.
We kept our costumes simple – not like today where they cost a fortune to buy.
We figured if we wanted to rot our teeth with candy, we weren’t going to go broke doing it.
Tonight is Halloween. I’ll be going off with my girlfriend to see my best friend’s band play, although I’ll still look out at the kids on the sidewalks, and wonder just how safe they are – this being a much more violent time than when I grew up, and with far fewer people like me and Dave to dress up as ghost and bum to fend them off.  We hear all the talk about razors in apples and people with guns, and I wonder if perhaps I would trade my hobo outfit for one that resembled a cop’s. Maybe I won’t think too much about it, especially with the crew that hangs around the band. I’m sure most of them will dress up, and I’m even tempted to do so myself, certain that I can find a ragged pair of jeans and some old coal dust from down in the basement.
I’ll probably get drunk anyway.
But I know my costume is my memory, which swirls around me, wrapping my present in its arms, keeping me whole wherever I am, filled with the echoes of Craig and Leonard shouting, “Hey, Al Bum!”

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