When Halloween came around, Augustus Street went crazy. Balloons and movies and stickers and bloody decorations plastered to the windows. Candy in abundance, enough to fill a swimming pool, enough for the entire city to get diabetes. Children counted down the days with more excitement than Christmas, the adults gobbling pumpkin lattes and scones and cider with just as much enthusiasm as their bratty kids.
There on the corner, where Augustus crossed Catchall, was a little lone house where one old man lived.
It was a brick house, the bricks colored like dust after many years. It was small, with four rooms and a perfect front yard. The windows were few and the trees were sparse and the joy was absent.
He lived alone and he was alone. He had forgotten who his family had been and he had forgotten what love and happiness was. He ate his beans three times a day and marched down the block and back on his daily walk and generally kept to himself.
His name was Appleface.
He hated Halloween. In fact, he called it Samhain, and the name had a long and miserable story behind it. It was a Norse name for All Hallow’s Eve and was the reason Appleface had come to live his life out alone on Augustus Street in Chadron, Nebraska.
“Who lives in that house, that one, right there? The one with the black windows.”
“Oh, no one in particular. An old man.”
“You ever met him?”
“Naw. Not him.”
“Uhh… he’s too creepy.”
“Come on, you scared?”
“Then let’s go knock on his door.”
The children on Augustus whispered about Appleface. They said he was a creepy old man and tried to put bricks through his windows. They took all his pecans from his pecan tree and tore the branches from his apple tree until it was stressed and died.
Appleface usually ran them off, but recently he’d had a knee implant and now couldn’t run as fast as he used to.
The conversation above was between a skinny, tall, muscular-looking girl with tattered clothes and dirty, lanky blond hair, not from Augustus; and a taller, stouter red-haired boy who was from Augustus. She asked him if he was afraid. He denied the fact. She taunted him for a bit and then ran up to Appleface’s door.
Appleface watched them through the window.
Children did these things to him; he watched them and scared them and ran them off, and then he retreated back to his livingroom with a copy of Sallust and a “tablespoon” of gin.
Appleface was dreading this year’s Samhain. He’d received a flyer in his mailbox from the neighborhood HOA (which he’d gone to court to not have to be a member. He won) that stated that the NEIGHBORHOOD BUDGET (budget!) was $30,000.
“Thirty thousand!” Appleface gasped. That was what it had cost him to build his house. That was college money. That was enough to buy three stable cars. That was enough to feed one person for ten years. That was enough to buy… he took out his calculator… sixty thousand pieces of candy.
“But does this stupid HOA care about that? What of a neighborhood kid that wants to go to college and can’t afford it? Do they care? No!” He tore up the flyer and tossed it into the bin. “Thirty thousand, hell,” he scoffed.
But then Samhain arrived, as much as Appleface pleaded with God to send Jesus home again before the awful event occurred.
The neighborhood had spent their dumb thirty thousand on a bounce house in the middle of the street and a horde of ugly clowns that breathed fire and kidnapped little kids when no one was watching.
The morning was a chilly orange morning, and Appleface felt hopeful for the storm clouds that gathered like the waistband of the sky, toward the east. They were dark and thick, but moved off by lunchtime. He cursed life.
At three his doorbell rang. Naively he opened it, thinking it was much too early for trick-or-treating (begging, he called it). there was a little kid dressed as some weird character, in red and yellow and looked absolutely imbecilic, Appleface thought.
“Who are you?” he bellowed at the parent.
“Uh, he’s Superman.”
“That Troilus and Cressida?”
“Shakespeare! Is that from Troilus and—oh, hell, neveryoumind. Dumb generations never learnt their literature properly.” He turned, grumbling, and slammed the door in their faces. “Stupid generation obsessed with nothing but their Superpeople. Hell.”
The little kid asked, “Candy?” behind him.
“Never mind, Daxon,” the parent said, taking the child by the shoulders and turning him round.
The next ring came ten minutes later and Appleface had the genius to stay seated. He drew back the curtains just slightly and leaped back when he saw a little girl dressed all in black (she looked like a bat, but with a weird jumpsuit) staring straight at him.
Appleface sighed. This evening was going to be awful.
He stood after that trick-or-treater left and went to his kitchen in the back of the house. It was tiny, with a single burner and a tiny refrigerator. But it served him well because that was where he hid during Samhain.
He curled up near the stove with his Sallust. Appleface was working through all of the writings of Sallust, and this was his last book to read. He was halfway through, and then he would start with Cicero. He hoped to memorize some of Cicero’s orations, just to pass the time.
Four, five, six o’clock. Ring, ring, ringringringring knockknockknockknock. He ignored everything the neighborhood threw at him. Sallust, Sallust, was all he let into his brain.
At about seven-thirty, peak of the trick-or-treating session, Appleface heaved himself up from the kitchen floor. He was hungry and also he had finished his book. He made himself some beans—molasses sweet beans, heated up on the stove—and scurried beneath the window to his bookshelf to fetch Cicero.
Appleface ground his teeth when it was ten o’clock and the rings never ceased. Finally at one in the morning he flung the door open and yelled in the face of the bewildered teenager who’d knocked.
“Can’t your insensible generation even get to bed on time! First stupid cellphones, now staying up willy-nilly all hours of the night! Get to bed or to prison where you belong! Go on, get!”
The teenager dressed like Satan tripped as he staggered off Appleface’s porch and Appleface didn’t even notice.
There were no more wayward trick-or-treaters that knocked on Appleface’s door.
In the morning, Appleface opened his door. The morning was heavy with incoming rain, and the sky was dark and ominous. The street was trashed; candy wrappers blocking the gutters and in Appleface’s precious grass, up to the ankles. Appleface scoffed in disbelief at the carnage.
The street was silent and cold. Disgusting decorations hung tragically off of doors and windows; the thirty thousand, drawn from the flesh and blood of the residents, lay in pieces of discarded candy wrappers in the dirty street.
Appleface’s porch was miraculously spotless as usual. He looked up and down the street, and then started to draw his head back into the house when his eye caught on the very edge of his porch.
There, seated like a queen in the exact middle of the bare concrete porch, was a shiny, colorful piece of candy. Not the wrapper; a full, King-sized piece of candy, left on the porch as a simple little sacrifice.