There is no part of our front porch that isn’t awkward. It was clearly designed by someone who never personally used a front porch, possibly a space alien or a baby manatee. When the doorbell rings, opening the storm door to speak with the person on the porch invariably traps them behind a plate of glass, backed up against a rusty railing with no means of escape. Someone quick might manage to evade, only to find themselves flailing backwards down the steps. This is great for solicitors, of course, but it gets dangerous around Halloween.
Most years, I sit on the front steps holding a basket of candy. I love seeing the neighborhood kids in their costumes and hearing their assessment of our selection. “Whoa, they have Snickers AND Starbursts!” “If you ask nice, you can get two Reese’s Cups.” Or, memorably, “This place doesn’t suck!”
One little guy approached last year, followed by his dad. “trick or mumble,” he said. “Happy Halloween,” I replied. “Pick out whichever one you like.” He grabbed the entire basket and dumped the whole thing into his bag.
You’ve gotta watch the quiet ones.
Several years ago, I was sitting on the front steps when a tiny cow approached. She wandered up with the confident, gravity-defying gait of all toddlers, wobbled to a halt and eyed me gravely. “Moo,” she said with authority, then shoved past me, staggered up the stairs and walked into my house to pet my dog.
“Oh my god,” said her mother. “I am SO SORRY.” She flew up the steps and lurched into the house. I followed, bemused. Sophie the Wonder Dog was laying there, totally relaxed, tail wagging, draped in tiny cow. “We have a dog and I just don’t know what…come on!” the mom said to the toddler. “We’re leaving now!” No response. The mom marched over, lifted the cow over her head and walked back outside. “Trick or treat?” said the cow hopefully over her mother’s shoulder. I tossed her a piece of candy as they retreated into the night.
Next up, a little guy dressed as Spiderman. His father stayed on the sidewalk, letting his son enjoy the heady responsibility of approaching a door solo. Spiderman stood in front of me, staring.
Say ‘Trick or Treat!” prompted a voice by the street.
“Hi,” said Spiderman.
“Hi, there! Who are you?” I asked.
His chest puffed out proudly. “I’m Spiderman!”
“Oh my gosh, so you are! Happy Halloween, Spiderman!” I held out the basket, and he picked out his candy. He backed slowly down the path. “Happy Halloween!” I called, waving.
“Happy Halloween!” he replied, waving back enthusiastically. “Happy Halloween! Happy Hallow…OOF.”
In the midst of his exit, he’d spun around to begin to walk forward again and executed a full-body slam into the side of my car. He bounced off and landed on his back in the middle of the yard.
“Spiderman?” I called tentatively into the night. “Are you okay?”
More silence. A deep breath.
“Happy Halloween!” he yelled, springing back to his feet and waving frantically, this time backing down the lawn.
“Happy Halloween!” I replied. From the darkness came the rolling belly laugh of a man who has seen this before.
To preserve what remained of Spiderman’s dignity, I managed to wait until I’d gotten back into the house and shut the door before dissolving into gales of laughter so loud my husband wandered in from the living room to see what happened.
I don’t know that he believed me, but when we went out later to check, the dew on the side of the car held a perfectly preserved outline of Spiderman.
I don’t know that we’ll ever top that Halloween, but I live in hope.
And if a baby manatee ever shows up, we’re gonna have a talk about that porch.