andrew van way guest blog and book giveaway
In conjunction with myHalloween themed posts this month, here is another guest post by Andrew VanWey, author of Forsaken, his spine tingling new horror eBook. Being the wonderful guy he is, he hasgraciously offered up 5 copies of his e-book with a special message from him ineach one.
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Caring is Scaring… andSharing. Lessons Learned from the FrontLines of The Candy Brigade.
Halloween gets a bad rap. Mention Thanksgiving and people think of food and family. Bring up Christmas and it’s toys andsharing. Both are Hallmark ready, drippingwith meaning and special lessons ready to be summed in a Charlie Brownspecial.
Poor Halloween just sits there, the turd in the punchbowl; aholiday for kids and a few creepy adults; a glucose-fueled parade upstaged byits more serious holiday siblings Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Of all the lessons I learned as a kid, few came from thoseHallmark posers in November to December. Yet one of the most important came from Halloween.
I grew up just south of San Francisco, where the weirdoes werethe ones that traded in their protest banners and beards to build computers andcompanies out of their garages. Crimedidn’t happen, or if it did it involved toilet paper and an unlucky house. Even in October the days were warm. We played soccer after school and biked home,laughing and pushing each other into bushes as we quoted The Goonies.
Basically, I grew up in the suburbs.
Each summer was endless, each winter mild, and every HalloweenNight was a contest to see who could get the most candy. Our costumes were our weapons, our basketswere our reserves, and at the end of every night we’d tally up our mountains ofglucose and declare a winner. That kidwould keep the crown of Candy King until next year or, more often, until aroundGuy Fawkes day when we forgot it.
It was Kind of a Big Deal.
There were four of us, the Candy Crew. Felix, the leader. Brock the jock. Myself, the small one. And Melvin.
I was the oldest, Felix an only child. Brock was adored by his parents, and I’m sureMelvin was too but he had the unfortunate place of being the fifth in a familyof five boys and two teachers. Clotheswere handed down hand-me-downs, fourth string rags that were vintage beforevintage was in. He was always half adecade behind the style.
Threads and shreds and well-worn clothes be damned, he was stillone of us.
Except on Halloween.
That night all bonds of friendship were severed. We were all enemies, obstacles in the way ofbeing the one with the most candy. Likegood little Silicon Valley capitalist entrepreneurs in training, it wasn’tpersonal, it was business.
We must’ve been eight or nine because I was a Ninja Turtle and sowas Brock. I think Felix was some Jason VoorheesFreddy Kruger combination. Melvin wassupposed to be an Arcade Game, perhaps Double Dragon, but he looked nothinglike it. His costume was a series ofcardboard boxes stacked together, scribbled upon, and held to each other byduct tape like some vagrant’s pile of recycling. It had probably been his oldest brother’scostume five Halloweens back. I swearone of the boxes was for an Apple II.
Our plan of attack was to hit the Peter Coutts neighborhood. The streets were close together, the housesmany. Our candy to walking ratio washigh, the doorbell to doorbell distance ratio low.
To make our chances better we jettisoned our traditional plasticpumpkin candy buckets in favor of pillowcases. Earlier we raided our parents’ linen closets, getting whatever hightensile 400 thread count carbon fiber NASA/Ames prototypes we could find.
Except Melvin. Like thecostume his pillowcase was a hand me down, something that looked like a gunnysack that might have held beans on a tramp steamer. We went door to door, smiling, pillowcasesoutstretched, practiced smiles and polite “thank you’s” before scampering off.
To a kid there are three kinds of candy. The top shelf stuff, Three Musketeers,Butterfinger, Mounds, your standard bar candy shrunk down for Halloween.
The second tier is the tradable kind, the single Rollo’s, theSmarties, the sticks of gum, or those crappy bottles that are half syrup, halfwax. You could exchange these aroundfive to one for a packet of Twizzlers or some top shelf candy during after-hourstrading once the candy count was clear and fair market price was established.
Then there’s the crap candy.
It’s not even candy, it’s health food that just happens to besweet. Raisins and apples and dates thatcomes twisted in a pouch with a little bow. If you gave this to us it usually ended up tossed on your roof. It’s simple physics. Your organic pear weighs as much as tenSnickers, and we’re carrying these for hours. Try not to slip on the bananas flung back onto your driveway.
(Apologies to those of you who do give fruit for Halloween. Seriously though, drop a fiver on a bag ofSnickers at Wal-Mart or just turn out the lights and pretend you’re not home.)
After almost two hours our mission was drawing to a close. We’d cleared almost all the houses and ourpillowcases looked like we were carrying small corpses. Melvin’s bag was leaking candy and the cloudswere thick and flickering. Then, itstarted raining.
Not just a little. Itrained like god was mad at us. Onemoment dry, next minute soaked. Ourextraction point was a few blocks away and we covered those last dozen housesin tag teams, queuing up three doorbells deep and holding the spot for ourbuddies as we snatched that candy before any adult could finish saying how cuteour costumes were. All the while ourcostumes are growing heavy and Melvin’s cardboard was clinging to his body inplaces and sloughing off in others.
We cleared the last house, yanked the candy from the owner’shands, and ran across the field towards that idling Ford Taurus for evac.
Except, it wasn’t an empty field anymore. It was mud death trap. We fought it, four pairs of feet gettingsucked in from below while soaked from above. Half a football field away sat my friend’s mom, doing a crossword puzzlein her car, unaware that we were about to be swallowed by the Swamp of Sadness.
It was every kid for himself. We struggled, fought, and then we heard the scream. There lay Melvin, middle of the mud, facedown, gunny sack split open and candy scattered everywhere. We could see some of it, a few wrappersbetween lightning flashes and passing cars. We fumbled around, grabbing rocks and Reese’s Cups, throwing anything inour bag and dragging Melvin back to the car where we screamed: “Get us out ofhere!”
Every year the candy crew convened post Halloween and poured itsscore out into little mountains like sugary Scarfaces. Except this year.
We removed the rocks and separated the crap candy from therest. We put it all in one bigpile. Then we split it up fourways. Even Steven. Sure, some of us came out behind, but westill had enough to last us until Christmas if we ate a few a day.
Maybe we were all little socialists in training, maybe we justrealized it was the right thing to do. All I know is every Thanksgiving I’m supposed enjoy a meal and reflecton the joy of family. Every ChristmasI’m supposed to share because it’s expected.
I’m not saying I don’t do that or feel that, but…
Sitting there, soaked and muddy, sugared up and laughing with ourspoils between us on that Halloween, maybe we learned that it wasn’t the sizeof the score that mattered, but the friends you shared it with.
And no holiday meal has ever tasted sweeter than that.
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