“No, I haven’t got any sweets. This is England; we don’t go in for trick-or-treating here.”
Mr Brown tried to close his door. His quiz show was paused so that wasn’t a problem but he did object to having to open the door and lose precious heat. The little buggers in face paint and masks should be making him a donation! But at that age, they don’t give a stuff about heating bills. They don’t give a stuff about much at all.
Four pairs of eyes pleaded with him. Two ghosts held out plastic buckets shaped like pumpkins. Mr Brown glimpsed that some of the neighbours were buying into this Americanised nonsense and had given brightly-coloured sweets and small bars of chocolate. Another anomaly! Send your kids out begging and encourage them to get tooth decay into the bargain – if they lived long enough to develop cavities and weren’t whisked away by strangers and murderers and worse. Give me a good old-fashioned British bonfire night any day of the week.
A little witch whose green greasepaint was smeared on her plastic cape looked ready to burst into tears. Her rubber nose looked likely to drop off at any second. Behind her, a taller boy, a vampire or something looked at him with red-rimmed, accusing eyes.
“Oh, bugger it,” grumbled Mr Brown. “I think there’s some biscuits in the cupboard. Wait there.” He pushed the door to and padded away to the kitchen. He knew very well there were biscuits – the expensive chocolate ones he kept in store in case Jeannie came to visit. Not that Jeannie ever did. Not for a long time.
He checked the sell-by date and then the calendar – what was he thinking, it’s Halloween, you old fool! The biscuits had a week or two before they became toxic, gut-wrenching poison. Heh. He shuffled back to the front door. Those kids had best be grateful.
He opened the door. The two ghosts and the witch held up their buckets, smiles like smeared lipstick ruining their supposedly terrifying countenances.
Mr Brown divided the packet of expensive biscuits equally between them. “Hey, where’s the other one?” he asked, realising he had some left over. The ghosts and the witch looked over their shoulders with puzzled expressions. “He was right there, all togged up like Dracula or somebody. Wasn’t he with you?”
The witch shrugged. “Didn’t see him,” she said. “Thanks, Mister Brown.”
“Thank you,” sang the ghosts in unison. At last Mr Brown recognised them as the Smith twins from around the corner. Which would make the witch their elder sister, Louise.
The Smith children skipped away happy with their haul. Mr Brown watched them go. Nice kids, he thought. Perhaps there was something to be said for this kind of thing after all.
He closed the door, looking forward to getting back into his quiz programme. He gasped as he realised he was face-to-face with the Dracula boy. Those red eyes were staring directly into his. Mr Brown glanced down – the boy was hovering a couple of feet off the floor.
Before Mr Brown could say anything or ask the boy what the hell he thought he was doing, going into people’s houses like that, the boy’s lips parted, revealing a row of pointed fangs that did not look like they’d come from a toy shop.
As the boy fed, Mr Brown fell back against the front door. It was painless, he was surprised to find, like falling asleep in a warm bath. The last thought he ever had was he would need to get some more biscuits in.
In case Jeannie came to visit.