Sugar for the Distinguished

Submitted into Contest #65 in response to: Write about someone taking a child trick-or-treating for the very first time.... view prompt

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Funny American Kids

Cass had never been so intimidated by another human in her entire thirty-two years—and the kid strutting beside her had only just turned seven. Strutting was the only appropriate word she could attribute to the way he carried himself in his formal attire, rather, his costume. Gray suit, red tie, polished dress shoes, and the posture of a director walking into a meeting with underlings. “I want to be a prick for Halloween”, said (hopefully) no child, ever. 

Twilight had prompted every minor in the vicinity to rush underneath the lighting street lamps in a timed quest for a mountain of sugar, but this boy was content to walk in step with Cass.

Why had she agreed to this? Suggested it, even? Was it normal to distance herself so far from her comfort zone that every step felt like walking deeper into a labyrinth...at the bottom of the ocean...with water gushing in?

That dang phone call was to blame.

Two weeks ago, Cass’s sister, Agatha, had been chiding Cass over her lack of suitable husband material, mentioned something about hosting her yearly Halloween party, and slipped a snide comment about someone she invited all in the same breath. Though Cass had heard this brand of beratement all her life, she couldn’t shake the lonely image playing in her mind as a result. 

Her poor nephew, Richard, would be stuck at the back of the house—well, mansion—being totally ignored, with no children his age to play with, or even any idea what normal kids did on the final night of October. It was the same every year.

Another one of Agatha’s favorite pastimes was telling Cass how lucky and free she was to be kid-free; as if a lack of them equated to zero drama.

“Such work they are…”, and “Little Richard always wants something from me,” were her two favorite woe-is-me complaints. Cass knew her sister had a live-in nanny and rarely even acknowledged her son. And, of course, these comments were also followed up by something along the lines of, “If you want to have children, you better get someone to marry you.”

But after the idea of child-rearing was sold so splendidly?

It was both humiliating and ridiculous. Cass wanted to prove she could handle doing what her sister refused to. Did Agatha enjoy taunting others with her nose to the sky? If her ostentatious life was such a chore, perhaps she should shove that silver spoon up someone else’s—

“Explain to me the process once more, if you would,” Richard said, pulling Cass back to the child-lined street. The boy turned his bespectacled face to his aunt, eyes staring up but still exuding an aura of authority as though he looked down from a clifftop onto her dirty-blonde ponytail.

Cass took a moment to stare into those sharp, dark eyes.

The kid even sounded like a pretentious prig with his to-the-point request. What child his age used such language and inflections? It was like babysitting an adult, or going on a date with a guy she couldn’t touch—who would never be into her anyway.

She had to shift her eyes forward to force a smile and response. 

“Well, you go ring the doorbell—”

Before she could finish, a little girl dressed as a fairy with glittery, see-through wings ran giggling down the driveway. She stopped in front of Richard. The pillowcase she shook appeared as if it already outweighed her slight form. Cass did not envy her mother that impending sugar high. Speak of the devil...she eyed the poor woman trailing behind the child. Mama already looked as though she had lapped the block twice beside her fairy child.

Fairy child said to Richard, “This one gives big candy bars. I got two!” She shook her brunette curls and twisted away for the next house. Cass gave the out-of-shape, perspiring mother a sympathetic smile as the woman gave chase.

Richard scrunched his face until his glasses sat funny on his thin nose. “What nonsense was she spouting?”

“She’s excited because this house gives larger candy bars than some do.”

Richard studied his child-sized briefcase; the only candy carrier he agreed to bring. “Absurd. It cannot be as though this house gives away treats more decadent than Paula’s scones.”

Cass stepped onto the driveway and cringed. Why did Richard already sound like a carbon copy of his deplorable father? As far as she knew, the kid’s au pair, Paula, had raised him since day one, and she was a kindhearted woman. The trait hadn’t transferred.

Cass said, “Why don’t you ring the doorbell, say ‘trick-or-treat’, and you’ll see? Go on.”

The look Richard shot over his shoulder conveyed that he felt the task was beneath him. A lengthy sigh was puffed through his nose, and he guided stiff steps to the door.

Cass waited at the bottom of the tiered entryway.

This is it, she thought, surely he’ll start having fun once he gets some free candy.

His tiny finger pressed the doorbell, holding it longer than it should have. An elderly woman with a black cauldron brimming with popular branded candy opened the door. He missed his cue to say those famous three words, but she indulged him anyway.

“Oh my, aren’t you the handsome little lawyer,” she said. “Help yourself, honey.”

Richard inspected the container of treasure, a hand on his chin. “I am to choose any I want?”

“Of course, dear. Have two if you like.”

Cass was leaning closer, awaiting that moment of exuberance every child experiences upon their first candy-collecting journey. She could feel her own excitement bubbling up from memories of her youthful excursions. Any second now…

Richard plucked an orange wrapper by the edge, holding it between his index finger and thumb as if it were a dirty sock. The treat was dropped back into the pile.

“No, thank you,” he said. “Good evening, madam.”

Cass’s face resembled one of the spooked masks rushing by. The elderly woman appeared every bit as bewildered, looking to Cass for answers. She had none to give.

Richard said, “Come, Aunt Cass, let us away.”

While he took off as if expecting his aunt to follow like a good employee, Cass waved a hand to the poor old woman. Luckily, another group of children was about to appreciate her offerings and erase the reaction of one privileged brat.

Cass caught up to Richard, matching his pace. “What happened back there? You didn’t want any?”

“I struggle to grasp the purpose of this mission. At least when at home, I can have real dessert.”

Real dessert…?

Cass’s hand made a fist. Clearly he had missed the lesson of respecting his elders. Perhaps teaching him one right now would get his attention. She didn’t have to be out here with him, trying to show him a new experience. What a selfish, horrific little…

She felt her musings creep into her expression and swiftly cleared it.

What was she thinking? This was a kid—her nephew! Not the pompous, jackwagon adult he modeled right down to his gelled, black hair. Even raising her voice to a child would likely get her beaten by every woman and candy sack within a quarter mile radius.

Cass shifted her eyes around as if the passing mothers and older siblings could have discerned her dark thoughts and already be preparing to bludgeon her. Perhaps Agatha was right. Children are abhorrent. Cass didn’t mean to let her next comment past her lips, especially with such an edge of exasperation.

“I can take you home to your fancy food if you aren’t having fun.”

Richard’s shoulders tensed. The expression he gave Cass was almost languished before he turned it away. In a lower voice, he said, “No, we can try again.”

Cass said a silent prayer as they walked up the next driveway. This time, Richard’s countenance was completely different. He asked politely to see the woman’s wares and chose one gingerly. When he reached Cass’s side, he bent down to the concrete and deposited two bars into his suitcase. He promptly locked it and tracked with Cass wordlessly to the next house.

The display was repeated once more with perfect structure. Cass couldn’t take it.

“Hey, if this isn’t your scene, we can go sit at the park and try the candy you got already.”

He gave his tiny case a shake, rattling the few pieces inside. “Alright.”

Two houses over stood the empty, well-lit park area; complete with swings, a slide, and a jungle gym. Richard chose the bench where adults typically gossip while kids shove each other down. 

Cass plopped herself next to her nephew, watching over his shoulder as he carefully clicked open the case. “Oh, wow. The one with the silver wrapper is my favorite.”

“Is it?” He stared in irresolute silence, holding two pieces of candy as if they were foreign objects.

“Have you never tried any of these?”

“Not that I recall.”

Of course he hadn’t. Rich kids eat made-from-scratch cinnamon buns topped with real whipped cream. Cass couldn’t help thanking the darkness for concealing her rolling eyes.

She said, “Tell you what, I’ll take that one and you pick one of the others. We can always get more. Deal?”

Richard’s tiny hand held out the circular candy to Cass. She accepted graciously and tore off one side of the wrapper. The familiar taste of dark chocolate and mint smoothed over her nasty mood. She watched him toy with an orange wrapper and fail to open it. Instead of asking for help, he switched it with the other piece of candy and had the same issue.

Cass said, “Need a hand?”

Without looking at her, he hung his head and handed her the candy. She tore it easily and gave it back. He muttered a thank you. 

After nibbling a bite, he straightened his posture. “Sweetened peanut butter? Smooth outside, gritty inside. I approve of the combination.”

Cass had to stifle a giggle at the description worthy of a training food critic. She popped the rest of her treat into her mouth, intrigued by the enigma sitting beside her. Too proud to ask for help, unwilling to follow through with a task until he had all the details in place—Richard truly was a miniature version of his father. The sight of him wanting to be a child but not knowing how squeezed her heart.

She said, “It’s okay to just have fun tonight, you know? What would you like to do?”

After swallowing the remainder of his sweet, a ghost of a smile lit his face. “Could we go get more?”

Cass grinned down at him. “Sure. This is the one night a year where it’s all free.”

A sentiment of silent camaraderie slipped between them over that shared processed sugar. Cass was willing to bet her nephew wasn’t used to unpaid adults indulging him. Inside that diamond shell was a child emerging from the shadow of his regimented upbringing. She planned to help him along.

Cass and Richard quickened their pace to join the throngs of children in pursuit of enough adventure and sugar to make up for the missed six years.

October 25, 2020 17:02

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