[Okay, this is apparently blame Brian Keene month in my Patreon, but this is an account I wrote for his blog a while back because he so often gets me to make strange confessions]
It was 1976 and my brother and I were freshly transplanted from London, England—where we were born—to the thriving metropolis that was Franklin, Indiana. The first thing we had vowed to do was lose our accents (as people kept coming up to us saying “speak English to us”, which at the time made little sense to us as ostensibly we all spoke English, until we realized that our accents marked us as somehow different. Then again, this was Franklin.).
We were barely in this country for six months when Halloween rolled around. Though this was a new tradition to us, as a five and six year old, there wasn’t much of a hard sell for “dress up and get free candy.” My parents bought me a tiger outfit.
Now, I loved that outfit. I wore it every day of the week leading up to Halloween (this also was a year before my phase when I was convinced I could be a super-hero but was perplexed why everyone kept figuring out my secret identity despite my costume change). Leaping off furniture, pouncing on my younger brother, randomly curling up on the couch and purring (tigers = cats, therefore, they MUST have purred). My favorite part of my costume being my three foot long tail which trailed behind me when I ran.
Again pointing to its stature as a multi-cultural Mecca of the Midwest, the “black” side of Franklin consisted of the houses within a 3-4 block stretch, all of whom we were somehow related to. My father, in his efforts to truly give us a sense of what Halloween could be, was inspired to go to the “rich” side of Franklin to trick or treat. This meant all of a five minute car ride. The first house we go to, this lady loves my costume and gives me a handful of candy. That was the magic formula of life: I rang the doorbell, a lady praises my costume, and my orange pumpkin bucket fills with free candy. America was truly the place where dreams came true.
We get to the last house on that block. The formula repeated, with one hitch: as the lady dropped candy into my bucket, the plinking sounds of sugary treats drew the attention of her very large Doberman pincher. To this day I remember it perfectly: four feet high (surely it towered over me), eyes red with the flames of hell, with black fur as if cast form the steepest of nightmarish shadows over the lean musculature of a hellhound weaned on the supple flesh of children. In my excitement over the candy, I shook my tail. Before the lady could stop it, it slipped past her and with a ferocious growl which rattled the windows of every house on the block, it tore after me.
My candy scattered in a hail of Bit O Honey, Candy cigarettes, Bazooka bubble gum, 100 Grand Bars, 5th Avenues, Carmellos, Chunkys, Rolos, and Red Hots as I ran. The dog, hot after my tail, criss crossed the yard with me as the lady, my dad, and my brother just watched. I turned back and ran toward the only isle of safety a six year old boy knows: his dad. My dad was a local star in Franklin, having set most of the track, basketball, and football records. He was a beefy 6’ 5’’ or so … and I scampered up him like I was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Oddly enough, I don’t remember much after that. I know the dog didn’t come after me. I don’t remember climbing down from my father’s head, but I don’t think he drove home with me as his hat. I know that my brother never shared his candy with me.
And I know I’ve never had much of a fondness for Halloween or dogs since.*
*I do want the record to reflect, my stance on dogs has softened in recent years.