"Get over it, Marge. I paid for it, and I can eat it all if I want to," he grumbled at his wife.
"We need to save those for the trick-or-treaters. That's the last of the candy," she pressed, her eyes wide.
He popped another Hershey kiss in his mouth and glowered back at her. "I could, if I felt like it. Those little brats don't need anymore candy. Did you see how much candy they already have? Their sugar highs should last at least a month."
"That's not the point. Please, George, save the rest for the children. You know what happens if they don't get their candy," Marge pleaded, fear edging her voice.
"For Pete's sake, Marge, they're just children."
"Are you really that far in denial? Where do you think the 'trick' in trick-or treat comes from? If they don't get their candy..." She would have continued, but the doorbell chimed, interrupting her. Reaching out, she snatched the bag of candy from his grasp, gave him a look, and threw the door open.
"Trick-or-treat!" the children outside yelled in unison, their greedy hands already reaching for candy not yet proffered. She forced a smile. "Here you go," she said, dispersing among them a meager share of candy. She wanted to give them more, but she had to conserve the little bit that remained after her husband got through with the bag. The werewolf glared at her like she was dinner, and Goldilocks made a face like the porridge was too hot, but they accepted it, mumbled some thanks, and walked away.
She shut the door, leaned against it, and stared at what was left of the candy. It wasn't enough. Not nearly enough. Panicking internally, she rushed into the kitchen and started pulling ingredients off the pantry shelves, practically flinging them onto the counter.
"What the heaven's gotten into you? What are you doing now?" George questioned, appearing in the doorway.
"What's it look like I'm doing? I'm making cookies. Just leave me alone," she snapped, not glancing up as she dug through the spice shelf looking for ginger. Not finding it immediately, she began to fling plastic spice jars to the floor as she searched. One of these rolled across the kitchen to George's feet, and he bent down to retrieve it.
"Is this what you're looking for?" he asked, approaching her and holding out the small jar. She reached to take it, and he grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. She yanked it away. "Don't drive yourself crazy. It's not like they'd actually do anything if you didn't give them candy. We run out, then we just turn off the lights and don't answer the door, if it makes you feel any better. It's that easy. After all, it's just candy. Who cares if the brats get one less Tootsie Roll?"
"They do, George," she replied, fumbling in the fridge for milk. She found it and turned, tripping over spice jars in her haste to get to the oven. She quickly turned it on to preheat, and then reached for the measuring cups. Her hand trembled slightly as she measured the milk, the pale liquid making snail trails down the sides of the metal cup. She dumped it into the bowl attached to the electric mixer.
The doorbell chimed a second time. She jumped, grabbed the bag of candy, and ran to get it.
"Trick-or-treat!" the children yelled. She gave them each a candy or two, and they went on their way. The Joker didn't think it was funny, and the devil thought it outright evil, that she was so stingy but they did not complain.
She hurried back to the kitchen. She added the butter, and carefully measured the flour and sugar. "I don't have time to do this twice if the first batch doesn't work out," she muttered aloud to herself.
When every ingredient had been added, she turned on the electric mixer. It made a few revolutions, and then made a grinding sound and came to a stop. "No, no, no..." she chanted, as she flipped the switch back and forth, trying to make it work to no avail.
Finally, she yanked the mixing bowl off the stand and grabbed a wooden spoon. She began attacking the dough with ferocity.
George watched all this from the sidelines, shaking his head but saying nothing. He tried to find reasons in his mind for his wife's erratic behavior, but he could not understand it. He finally decided that she must be having a mental breakdown. Maybe it was too much stress; everything seemed to stress her lately. He thought that maybe he should just back away and give her some space; hopefully she’ll calm down soon.
She nearly dropped the bowl when the doorbell again sounded. She ignored George's offer to get it, and practically ran to the door. She opened it, and stared down at the disguised children outside.
"Trick-or-treat!" they shouted, their voices echoing in the silent night.
A shudder went down her spine to look at the ghoulish figures, but she had to play her part, and so she forced her lips to smile and handed them each a small candy. She couldn't afford to give them more than that. The ghost audibly booed and the snake charmer audibly hissed as they walked away.
She hurried back to the kitchen, grabbed a spoon, and spooned blobs of sticky dough onto a waiting cookie sheet. They weren't pretty, but they'd do. They had to. She jumped when the oven beeped, telling her that it was preheated and ready to be used. She slid the sheet into the oven, shutting the door with a slam. She set the timer. Only thirty more minutes until they were ready, she reassured herself.
She pulled up a kitchen chair and seated herself stiffly upon it, face to the oven window. Her fingers trembled, and she pressed them into her thighs. She took a deep breath, held it for the count of five, and then slowly exhaled. She had something to give the children now. Everything would be fine, she tried to tell herself. And then she tried to make herself believe it.
As she stared at the gradually flattening little mounds of dough, time slowed. The clock seemed to tick by in minutes rather than seconds. Her heartbeats slowed to match the clock's steady rhythm. She shivered uncontrollably, despite the heat of the oven in front of her, but she dared not go to get a blanket for her shoulders. She didn't want to be a moment too late when the timer went off.
When the doorbell chimed again, a sense of dread filled her. She took one last look at the underdone cookies in the oven, and knew that she had waited too long. She stiffened her shoulders, resigned to her fate, and marched herself to the door, the candy bag clutched tightly in her hand as though it held her life. She knew as the door creaked open that the bag was too light, much too light.
"Trick-or-treat!" the children bellowed expectantly. She reached her shaking hand into the bag, and slowly withdrew it. Clutched tightly in her grip was a single lollipop. She held it out to them, her eyes pleading that they accept her offering. Nobody took it. One and all, cowboy, ninja, pirate, and soldier, they gave her a look of disgust.
"I'm sorry children, but it seems I've run out of candy. If you come back in a little bit, I should have..."
"You haven't any candy for us?" the cowboy interrupted, his dark voice a flat monotone.
"No," Marge replied, her voice trembling. She took a step back as their looks turned hostile. "But if you just wait..."
George was in the next room when the explosion sounded. He ran to find the cause of it, and saw Marge in a heap on the floor, blood seeping slowly from a hole in the center of her forehead. Over her stood the young cowboy, smoke wafting from the six-shooter he held.
"Marge!" George cried out, immediately seeing his mistake as all eyes turned to him.
"This one's mine," the ninja said quietly, pulling out a set of numchucks.
"O'er my dead body," the pirate growled, saber drawn and gleaming in the reflected moonlight.
"Ah can use another notch in my gun," the cowboy drawled, fingers twitching above his now holstered weapon.
"Advance, troops!" the soldier ordered, snatching a grenade from his belt and yanking the tab with his teeth as they charged forward as one.
George turned to run, but it was too late.
Beep, beep, the kitchen timer went. Beep, beep.