Posted on April 22, 2024 by Author Sam Wolfe



 NOV 2, 2023  #Blog#eBooks

Posted by Geo 10-30-23

Halloween is nearly here as I write this. I am enjoying the fall weather outside. My cat Pepper is chasing leaves around like they have a life of their own. Winter still seems a respectable distance away from me. Maybe it won’t be too hard a winter. If I was a farmer I could pick up a caterpillar or open the almanac and find out. I’m not, and I don’t even know one anymore that I could ask.

Funny, because back in the old days when this was just a little rural town it was ninety percent farmers. My mother came from a farm family, and her parents before her were Irish and English farmers from Irish and English farmer parents that had come from farmer parents that had come over from England.

I guess farmers were the tech people of today. No kid I knew grew up without working on a farm at some time in his youth. Reminiscing. That reminiscing got me thinking about Halloween back then and what it was like for us back then. I remember this one year…


Copyright 2023 Geo Dell. All rights reserved.


This short story is intended for readers of Notes from the Edge blog. This may not be distributed or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the author. If you would like to share it please point people to this page. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

The Night Before All Hallow’s Eve

I remember Halloween from my own childhood. We were enterprising kids. Our neighborhood was a poor neighborhood. Apples and a few pieces of candy were about the best we figured we could do. So four of us got together a few days before in our fort with a handmade map of our town to see what we could do about it.

We didn’t have all of the town marked out, the park, no sense going there, there would be no handouts there. The north side, nope. All poor kids like us, we were just over the river on the poor side that reached over from the north. The east side was the ticket. All rich people. They would probably be giving away a few tons of candy per kid, maybe whole candy bars, who knew? It had to be better than our own neighborhood though. We stared down at our handmade map, the railroad tracks ran through the middle of it and the words East Side were scrawled on the other side of those tracks, along with the few streets we knew of. It was like magic to us, that map. As If we really held some sort of secret knowledge in our hands, so we got our plastic Woolworth’s Frankenstein and werewolf masks ready to go.

In that day and age you trick or treated the night before Halloween too. Don’t ask me why, greedy little poor kids probably, but we did it. That night gave us a chance to scope out the East side. After all we knew nothing about it, the kids that lived there, the streets, who might or might not be home, mean old ladies, dogs, bullies, all of that important stuff a kid had to know before he just went into another neighborhood.

We found clean streets. Kids being walked by their parents from house to house. No dogs, no bullies waiting to grab your bag. No mean old ladies. Sometimes you had to listen to a story or two… “Oh,” The person would usually smile while their eyes misted over, ”when I was a kid we used to have parties, bob for apples.” … or … “Now why are you boys out alone tonight? Do I know your mother? Be careful of those big kids that they don’t try to take your candy!” That sort of thing. “Yes, Ma’am.” No, Ma’am.” “I don’t think so, ma’am.” “We will, ma’am.” We were poor kids but we knew how to be cool when there was candy involved.

We made out like bandits and ended up with a half bag of candy each. Not bad for a few hours work on the night before Halloween. And not junk, good stuff, little candy bars, full size candy bars, and a few times old men that answered their doors looking confused had thrown spare change in our bags. One while drunk and calling us little bastards, “Well, what are you little bastards doing out trick or treating tonight? It’s the wrong goddamn night.” He scowled at us for a moment. I swear we were ready to turn away, maybe even run away, then he smiled, reached into his pants pocket and liberated some change and dropped it in our bags.

All in all a good night and we were walking the tracks that ran through our little town on our way back to our own neighborhood, talking about it as we went. Occasionally stuffing another candy bar in our mouths. Boy were the dentists going to love us later in life.

“Hey, man,” my friend John said, “There’s the whore house.”

We all followed his finger as it pointed. Of course we knew where it was. Every one of our mothers had told us, “You know that house across from the little store one street over?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“Well, if I catch your ass anywhere near that house you wont be able to sit for a month of Sundays.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

It was that simple. Back then you had June Cleaver on TV, the role model mother. But in those neighborhoods there were no June Cleavers. There were mothers who didn’t mind going right out into the street and slapping some kid, man, mother or anybody else if they felt it was needed, and you didn’t need one of those strong armed mothers picking you up by the arm and wailing on you more than once to know that what they said should be listened to. Should be. But we were also stupid besides being poor. Maybe a lack of iron, or some other mineral or vitamin. And back then it didn’t have to be your mother that caught you. I remember once squatting beside the road looking at a dead cat, and my friend Gary’s mother snatched me up by the collar.

“You wanna be dead like that cat? What are you stupid? Those cars come along quick.” She gave me a shake. “Don’t make me talk to your mother about it.” Off she went. For years I was sure there had to be something wrong with seeing dead cats or any other animal at the side of the road, because whenever I spotted one I immediately felt guilty.

“That’s the whore house,” Pete said.

John just looked at him like he was an idiot. He could have been, I don’t remember. I think he was just scared like the rest of us in the presence of the Holy Whore house. After all it was the only one in the whole town. And even now, at something past eight o’clock at night there were three or four ladies half dressed sitting on the porch, and a car pulled up to the curb, engine idling, the man behind the wheel sipping at a beer every few seconds. And I remember thinking my dad had a car exactly like that.

“Hey, ain’t that your dad’s car,” John asked.

“Nope,” I said. I had given it no thought at all. What would my dad be doing at a whore house though? I reasoned it that fast and answered no. A second later the man turned around and I saw that it wasn’t my dad, but for the briefest of seconds I remembered a day not long before when I had gone to the store with a note from my mother to get some things and his car was there. Just the car. Parked right in the dirt driveway. I was relieved now that this was not him back there again. “See?” I said.

“I didn’t mean it in a bad way,” John said.

We had all stopped in the darkness standing on the tracks. “I know,” I said, but I didn’t. What else would a man be doing at a whore house? I had already asked myself that. He owned a TV Repair shop. Maybe he had been there fixing their TV. Whores watched TV, didn’t they? Maybe. Not everyone had a TV. We did because my dad worked on them. The kids in the neighborhood came to our house to watch TV. Maybe my dad was nice enough to bring a TV down to the whores so they could watch TV too. What else did a man, a dad, do in a whore house anyway?

The car pulled away and the ladies went back to pacing the porch and looking around for men and cars. A thousand times I walked by there, before the good ladies of the neighborhood got together a few years later and ran them out, and always they paced, strutted, and watched for cars and men. Always seven or eight kids of all colors running around at all hours of the day and night too. Most half naked.

“Hey, “ Gary asked. “What’s that house?”

That house was a small house set right next to the tracks, far off on the lot, the other side of the whore house. It was less house and more shack. Wood plank sides, at least two dark windows I could see. A tin pipe angling from the roof, crooked and bent.

“Dunno,” I said. And I didn’t. There were no lights in the window, and just a small flood of golden light under the crack of the door sill. But there was noise coming from inside it. Laughter. Men’s voices, women too. A party I thought.

I think we all stood there for a few minutes. I know I was wondering what exactly whores did. I had a vague idea, but still…

“Wonder if they are giving out candy,” Pete said. And just like that we were walking down from the tracks, through the tall grass of the field the house sat in and up to the door. Like four idiots with only one mind between them.

I could never remember seeing anyone come out of that house in the daylight and the few times I was around it in the night time I just hadn’t paid attention.

Everybody looked at me. I was the biggest kid, also the dumbest and most easy to convince to do something stupid while the other kids ran away as fast as they could. I looked to see if they were about to run now.

“What,” John asked?”

“Nothing,” I allowed. I stepped forward and tapped on the door with my closed little boys fist. A split second later the music cut off and the light under the door died.

“Shit,” Pete said.

“Double shit,” Gary agreed. But before we could get our feet to move the door was flung open hard and fast.

The guy was huge and fat. Back then fat was not considered out of place. Most men and women got fat before long. It was a fact. The fatter your dad was the more of a bad ass he was perceived to be. The only skinny tough guy was that exercise guy, Jack La lane, and we were all sure our dads could kick his ass in a fair fight.

This guy was fatter than most old people. Old people to us was anything after about twenty, and thirty was ancient, forty was totally incomprehensible, and then there were gray haired grandmothers and grandfathers tinkering in their kitchens and basement workshops and waiting to die, we supposed. This guy must be at least thirty, I thought. He was so fat that his stomach hung over his dress pants and pushed at his white shirt. Two more fat guys came up behind him and looked down at us.

“Oh, for chris-sakes, just some gad damned kids,” One of the guys in back said.

I found myself looking at the guy in front. My eyes were about belt buckle level, and I couldn’t help but notice he wore a wide black, leather belt. When I looked to my right I saw a holster and a gun. He shifted and the leather creaked easily. I could smell it too. That leather smell has become the standard for all leather smells in my life. He met my eyes as they lifted from the gun to the silver and gold badge pinned to his shirt.

“Now what are you boys doing dressed up like that and knocking on this door?”

“Trick, trick, trick…” Pete tried. But he couldn’t get it past that. One of the fat guys in the back laughed. A hard, flat belly laugh.

“Tongue tied little bastards,” he laughed.

The Sheriff turned and looked at him and he shut up. I knew he was the Sheriff because I had seen him at my house. So had the others. It was a fact of where we lived. Eventually the Sheriff would be dropping by. He turned back.

“He looked hard, but then something in his face shifted and he smiled. “Boys,” he said as he turned and looked at the men behind him and the others that were sitting quietly in the darkness. “These are trick or treaters.” He laughed. The sheriff had solved the case. He wiped the smile off.

“You know this place?” he asked, suddenly suspicious.

We all shook our heads. He smiled again and stepped back. “Come on in then, boys,” he invited.

The thing with us is we were trusting along with being stupid so we stepped right into the darkness. The sheriff leaned out the door, took a look in all directions and then closed the door. The darkness was suffocating. I could smell cigarette smoke, cigar smoke, the yeasty smell of beer, perfume, sweat, I was still cataloging when the sheriff spoke.

“Johnny turn that bastard lamp on!” A second after that a match struck and a second after that the wick on an oil lamp was lit and the yellow golden light we had seen spilling out of the front door filled the room.

The house was a shack from the outside, and not much more than that from the inside. One room. Two women nearby lounging on a beat up and stained old couch. A mattress in the shadows in one corner. A mans shoe clad feet hung off the end onto the floor.

There were five men seated around a huge table. Beer bottles, cards and money covered the table top. One of the card players was a man I had seen around the neighborhood more than once. He owned a small store and extended credit to the ladies in the neighborhood. He took bets from the men in the neighborhood too. Between the two he made out all right. I got to know him a little better later in life, but that night I had only seen him around in a bad neighborhood where all sorts of different kinds of people were seen around.

“I know your old man,” The sheriff said to me. I nodded. Everybody knew my old man. The sheriff considered, as if he wanted to add something to that and then he dismissed it and let the smile come back to his face.

“Boys? Pony up. We got trick or treaters. And these are brave boys too. Wouldn’t a caught me coming down into this lot in the middle of the night,” he laughed and a lot of the others laughed too. He reached to his spot on the table and counted out four dollar bills. The other men were waiting, not sure if he was serious. A second later he scowled at them and they all kicked in.

The sheriff stood there a few moments later with a fairly big pile of bills in his hand. This was the late sixties. Gas in my town was a hair over twenty cents a gallon. A pack of cigarettes was a quarter. A full size candy bar was a nickle. A sixteen ounce Coke was a dime plus the deposit. And you got a handful of penny candy for a penny. He held the money and looked down at us.

“Tomorrow’s Halloween. Don’t be around here. And don’t have your friends comin’ ’round here either. Make up a story… Haunted house in the field or something, but we don’t want no kids around here after this.” The smile had slipped completely as he talked. He bent down a little closer to us. “Know what the jail’s like? Rats… Rat shit in the food… Rats biting your toes at night…. Drunks puking on ya… Wanna go there?”

The ladies over on the couch giggled.

“Nope,” I said.

“You the ringleader here?” The bookie asked from over at the table.

“Nope.” I shook my head hard. Sometimes it just didn’t pay to be the one that spoke up. “I ain’t no ringleader at all.” I knew ringleaders wound up in prison. I had seen it in a gangster movie once. And I could remember a conversation my dad had with a friend once when one of their friends had gone upstate to prison. “Well,” my dad had said, “They figured him for the ringleader.” It was what I knew about ringleaders, but it was enough to make me worry.

The sheriff waved the stack of ones. “We got a good thing here, you know?”

I nodded like I did know. After all they had ladies there, maybe whores. Booze and money and their own sort of a fort in the middle of a field, so I could see where a place like that would be a nice place to have.

“You know that loose lips sink ships?” The bookie asked me. I nodded. “Well sometimes those loose lips get busted up too.” He chewed on his cigar. I nodded, too scared to do much else.

“Well, don’t piss yourself,” the sheriff said.

“I won’t,” I said. That made most of the men and both of the ladies laugh. Even Pete had laughed. I was thinking maybe his loose lips needed busting. Funny how you get that from a room full of men like that and say nothing, but you’re ready to kick your friends ass for it.

The sheriff crossed to the door and opened it. We were out of the door fast. A roar of laughter followed us.

“Hey!” the sheriff yelled.

I was tempted to run. But he knew my dad. He’d find me easy and then those rats would be gnawing on my toes as I tried to sleep on the iron bunks they had in the jail. Reluctantly I turned around.

“Where you going without your money? You ain’t so good a ringleader.” He let his gaze fall around my friends. “If I was you boys I’d get me a ringleader that didn’t skip out without the money. This boy’s got rabbit in him.” My feet had pulled me back to him. He dropped the cash in my hand, laughing, then slammed the door reducing the laughter to a background noise. I could hear all of them inside, laughing, the ladies too. But I had never considered he might really give us the money.

We split that money up between us, eight dollars a piece. Like a fortune. I can remember thinking for a week about ways to spend it. I made lists, tore them up and started over. Finally I had it planned out to the last penny. But that was a week or so later, the next night was Halloween and our whole reason for the trip to the East side was candy, lots of the good stuff. So the next night, after dinner, I got my Frankenstein mask and got ready to go.

“Where do you think you’re going?” My mother asked.

“Trick or Treating?” I said. Sort of a question. After all a mother could change your plans just like that.

“Oh… Okay… You’re a little old for that…. But I suppose it will be alright. Let me get your little brother ready first. You wait.”

Just like that I was stuck, standing by the front door waiting fro her to dress up my little brother as Dracula, or a ghost, there wasn’t much to choose from back then. A knock came at the door. I opened it, Gary.

“Hey, man. I got to take my little sister out,” he told me solemnly.

“Yeah. I got bagged too,” I agreed. “Can’t take them over to the East side. No little kid can walk that far… Besides they’d probably tell,” I said.

Gary nodded. Behind him John and Pete came up the cracked concrete walk.

“You guys ready or what,” John asked.

“We got stuck,” Gary told them.

“Yeah?” Pete asked. “Well too bad.” He and John didn’t even wave as they took off back down the walk. I watched them cross the old lumber yard to get to the tracks they would walk to where they were going. I sighed and Gary nodded in agreement.

A second later my little brother was delivered into my hands and we were off to Gary’s house to pick up his sister.

An hour later we we coming to the end of one block, our bags full of apples and cheap penny candy, and turning to pass the little neighborhood store.

“Hey,” my little brother pointed out. “That’s a whores house right there. Mom told me.”

I nodded and my eyes slipped to the left and the little house that sat in the middle of the field. Golden light seeped from under the door.

“See that little house?” I asked my brother. I pointed with one finger. Gary’s sister paid attention too.

“Well, there’s an old witch that lives in that house.”

“Yeah,” Gary agreed. “She likes to eat little kids that knock on her door..”

“Really,” Gary’s sister asked?

“But why?” My brother added.

“She don’t like trick or treaters,” I told them. Her one true love was murdered by trick or treaters one Halloween and now she can’t stand them so she eats every little kid that comes around.

The silence spun out as we stood on the sidewalk across from the whore house looking over at the field and the little house..

“Let’s stay on this side of the street,” My little brother whispered. Gary’s sister nodded.

“Probably best,” Gary agreed. I nodded and we walked off down the street, crossed the tracks and started down another street trick or treating…

I hope you enjoyed this twisted little short story. Of course I also hope you weren’t expecting an orthodox Halloween spook story from me.


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