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this year's halloween was most lively. i attribute its sheen to the ages of my children (10, 8 and 5) as they are all members of the peak, invested halloween years. i've been eager to capture the night since returning from trick or treating last week but haven't made the time until now. this i attribute to the lowly monday night draw which is just the worst possible halloween day. it's so sucky in fact i think we should consider moving to a thanksgiving like policy for halloween. last friday of every october. how have we not done this already? ok. i'm already wildly off topic. perhaps this is more of a sign why i haven't gotten my act together. to recount our day i'm going to share one moment from each of my family members. don't mind the order. it carries no import.



ANFER
i'm the one that takes the kids around the neighborhood. marty stays back and gives the candy out. i lost that job a few years ago because i refused to give candy to kids who didn't dress up or tell the jokes they were supposed to tell (i don't agree with my friend brian that halloween should be re-named to free-candy night - we haven't slid that far as a society - not yet). marty claimed that my no-candy policy for high school kids wearing high school garb was going to get our house egged or worse. i retorted that this whole joke telling thing was her state's nervous tick and not something i brought with me from utopia colorado. you know that saying about rome? well then i'm sure you also know that it doesn't matter if you're talking about rome, italy or rome, missoura.

point is, i'm the one that walks the kids about and instead of being adamant about kids dressing and acting properly on my doorstep, i get to be adamant about my kids employing manners after receiving their spoils on other folks' doorsteps. anthony was my first child i didn't have to remind to say thank you after every house (i still have to nudge alex who will at best call a wispy, un-hearable thank you over his shoulder). in fact, if anything, i've had to ask anthony to be less enthusiastic in his thank yous as his shouts of gratitude could be heard four houses down as he leaped off the porch and began his charge toward the next lit-up home. unfortunately, the down side of such vigor is that he ran out of shouts and leaps a few blocks from home and i had to give him a shoulder-ride the last bit (which is most sucky given the orange plastic ball brimming with candy the child kept bouncing off the side of my glasses-wearing face). and perhaps this energy depletion is why the older kids aren't more gracious. they're pacing themselves for the long-haul and manners are exhausting to those who don't see the point.

and i'd be remiss to not share anthony's joke this year. clearly, it is either one he made up on his own or a mangled version of one he was taught at school. i couldn't be more uncertain of which it is.

ANFER
why'd the skeleton cross the road?

CANDY-GIVER
i don't know. why?

ANFER (incredulously)
because he had skin on.

CANDY-GIVER
oh. well that's ... a cute one.

anthony has the hidden benefit that lots of folks have problems understanding what he's saying so figure they just heard something wrong. only those that know him best know they heard him just fine. i believe that to be the secret of anfer's toothy, broad smile.



ALEO
it was the tail end of the night and aleo and i were making our way back home. it was a few minutes after our neighborhood's agreed upon end time so most of the house's porch lamps and first floors were dark. we'd already dropped anthony off and bella and her friends were half a block ahead of us trying to squeeze in a few more houses. aleo and i slowly ambled down the dark, tree-canopied street not even attempting to keep pace with the more frenetic girls. if alex saw some low-hanging fruit in the form of someone sitting on a stoop with a bowl in their lap, he'd lope up their walk looking from the back every bit like the early, reserved luke skywalker he was portraying. at one point when we were on a quiet stretch of unlit houses, alex struck up the following conversation.

ALEO
i still remember when you told us grandma died and you cried.

TROY
yeah, i remember that too. that was a very sad time for me.

ALEO
do you remember i hugged you and told you that your mother will live in your heart.

TROY
yes. yes, i do remember that.

ALEO
what i wished i had said was that your mother will live in your heart for ever and ever.

TROY
wow. yes. i do believe you are right about that alex. i feel her in there.

ALEO
yeah. i just wished i had said that.

TROY
it's ok bud. i very much believe you are totally right about that and telling me that is what you meant to say is just as good as if you said it then. thank you.

ALEO
you're welcome.

it is said that bella looks like me but acts like marty. it is also said that alex looks like marty but acts like me. i mostly agree with this sentiment but at moments like this must confess that i don't have a fraction of the compassion and insight this boy has. in fact, most times, you can't help but wonder how so much of it can be crammed into such a sleight, unassuming frame.



BELLA
bella went as medusa this year. in the hour before trick or treating began in our neighborhood marty was braiding bella's hair and getting the snakes in place while bella read a book. during their quiet work marty reminded bella that a classmate of hers called to ask if she, bella, would like to go out with her this evening. bella had already made plans with some neighbor girls and called her classmate telling her as much. marty overheard the girl's deflated reaction over the phone. bella said sorry, goodbye and hung up. a few moments later marty commented on how sad the girl sounded. bella concurred saying it was too bad she had plans. marty suggested that bella call her back and see if she'd like to come over here for trick or treating. the girl, who i'll call nataly, lit up at the invitation and plans were quickly set.

i took a total of six kids out. my three and three bella-age girls. the down side of so many in one pack is it takes, by missouri rules of each kid having to tell a joke, a long time at each house. at one of our first stops, two of the more aggressive girls in my pack quickly told their jokes, got their candy and backed out of the way. bella had told her joke but was waiting for nataly to go. one of the neighborhood girls who already got her treat tugged on bella's arm coaxing her to leave with them. bella pointed at nataly and said she hadn't gone yet. the neighbor girl looked annoyed, then leaned in and whispered to bella that it was ok and that she, nataly, would catch up. bella thought for a second and said she was going to wait. the neighbor girl, not taking no for an answer, leaned in closer to bella and said again in a hushed voice that it was ok and she was taking too long and bella should just come. without pause and using a good bit of firmness bella said no and that she was not going to leave the girl behind. contemplating another push the neighbor girl stepped back, turned and ran off with the other girl that was already waiting to move on. the rest of the evening bella and the meek and measured nataly walked side by side talking comfortably and smiling genuinely while the other two girls ran well ahead of them.

when bella was younger, most of the things she did that impressed me were, while neat, somewhat expected: stacking blocks, riding a bike, reading books, climbing trees. the neatest thing about her older age and maturation is that her actions and achievements now are much more unpredictable. some are simple and cute and cause me to grin or smile, but the magnitude of others leave me bristling and thankful for this intimate glimpse into the development of a strong and vibrant individual.



TROY
alex and i walked up to our last house of the evening. the family who we kinda know had a fire pit set up in the front yard. i recognized a few of the faces in the flame's flicker and waved hello to them. as alex walked up to get his candy jeff, the guy who lived there, approached me with an outstretched hand. we exchanged hellos and howya beens. looking down i complimented his spiderman costume. i've always been struck at how good today's muscle suits look. i reached out and pressed my hand against the ribs to feel the ripples of the abdomen and commented on how cool it looked. he laughed, thanked me, and said that it was just an illusion made by the lines drawn on the shirt. most impressive illusion i said and slid my hand upward. it was as my hand slid over the underside of the pectoral muscle that i first felt the nipple. my hand froze. i looked at jeff. he was looking down at my hand. we both then looked across the campfire to his wife who was peering under the mask she had just lifted off her face to, i guess, verify what she was seeing. i looked at what she was looking at, my hand caressing her husbands chest, and pulled it away. while my hand still hovered in the air i asked:

TROY
was that a nipple?

JEFF
it was.

TROY
was it yours or the costumes?

JEFF
it was mine.

TROY
what! i thought you said it was fake.

JEFF
i said that the illusion was fake given the lines drawn on the shirt. but the muscles are real.

TROY
oh ... holy crap ... i'm sorry dude ... but wow, you're like ripped ... i mean, you're very well built. i never realized before.

JEFF
uh, yeah, thanks.

TROY (looking at his wife)
jeff is very well built. he hides it well. but i reckon you knew that.

WIFE
yes. i knew that. but i guess it's nice to hear it from others as well. even if they are men.

i want to contend that anyone would easily find themselves in this jam and i made an easy and common mistake. but i'm present enough to know that were this the case he or his wife would have said that i was the fifth person to do that tonight. but they didn't. which i guess weakens my argument slightly. or a touch more than slightly.



MARTY
when aleo and i got home, marty was in bed with anthony reading. i told marty how ten minutes ago i accidentally felt up a neighbor's chest ... in front of his wife ... and some of their friends. after getting the fuller story, marty got laughing so hard she had a for real asthma attack. later, after she quieted the spell, she said that that story wasn't going to gain me any ground with all the neighbors who think i'm gay. surprised, i asked if there were neighbors who really thought i was gay. this innocent query provoked a second asthma episode.





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