“The Time Halloween Almost Didn’t Come” By Charie D. La Marr
As news of Hurricane Sandy grew in the days leading up to Halloween, 2012, those of us who love Halloween were torn. More and more, it seemed like New York was going to take a major hit. It couldn’t have been coming at a worse time of the month—it would be a full moon and major surges in the tides would only make things worse
As we began our preparations, down came the Halloween decorations. One by one, houses took down the tombstones on their lawns, the ghosts and witches flying in the trees and the bright orange and purple lights that made the neighborhood almost as bright as Christmas. I hated doing it. We always spend days and days decorating. But it was that or see our treasured decorations blown away if and when the storm hit.
Candy stayed piled on the shelves in the stores. With very little chance of there being trick-or-treaters, and with people being more concerned with finding water and batteries, candy just wasn’t a priority. It really hurt my heart as I raced through the store doing my last minute shopping to pass it by.
What I especially missed was buying the chocolate coins in the gold foil. I have kind of a reputation in the neighborhood for being the “Chocolate Money Lady”. Always in costume and loaded down with treats, every year I am ready as kids came from all over the neighborhood for their handful of candy—topped off by a chocolate coin to put under their pillow and make a wish on. But this time, thanks to a storm named after my therapist, it looked like Halloween wasn’t going to come this time.
We waited, hoping the storm was going to decide to take a turn and go out to sea. It didn’t. At about 9 pm, the winds suddenly began to bang at the windows and the rain picked up until you couldn’t see the twenty-five or so feet from my front door to the street. We knew we were in for it. I kept my little family—mother with Dementia, son and three dogs together in the family room and we watched CNN until the lights went out and the camp lanterns got turned on. At one point, in the distance, there was a huge explosion. Trees were falling right and left—almost in a pattern—one from one side of the street, then one from the other. At about midnight, my deaf doxy-poo informed me that she was just not staying in the house another minute. Terrified and soaked, I stood in the backyard and watched while she calmly searched each corner of the yard for cats, opossums and mice—her usual custom before taking care of business. A piece of siding fell off my garage and just missed me, landing on the ground twisted completely around twice. It was a long and terrifying night.
The next morning dawned as a beautiful, sunny day. Able to get my car out of the driveway and maneuver down our street, my son and I took our camera and decided to do a little exploring. The gazebo that has been in the park since I moved to New York in the late 50s was collapsed. Trees were everywhere. The steeple on my elementary school was gone. Exploring a bit further, we got over near my brother’s house and discovered the cause of the explosion. A tree had uprooted, breaking a gas line and flooding a house with dangerous natural gas. Right after neighbors rescued the 92-year-old resident, the house was blown completely off the foundation. My son and I looked at each other and came to the same conclusion—it looked like a war had taken place in the neighborhood. Trees bigger around than the two of us could reach were fallen everywhere. Houses were cleaved into two parts. Roofs were blown clear down to the plywood. Windows were shattered. Cars were on their sides.
But we turned on the radio and sat in the car to listen to the news, and the first thing I tuned to was a classic rock radio station playing Here Comes the Sun. We sang along. Reports of a huge rainbow over Manhattan were mixed in with reports of an entire neighborhood in Brooklyn being burned to the ground while firemen watched helplessly—an ocean between them and the fire.
Schools would be closed until further notice. Roads had to be cleared. Every street had to be checked one-by-one for downed live wires. The news repeatedly gave out the same message—keep your kids inside and calm. Apparently, it wasn’t that easy keeping them calm. They were afraid. And what’s more, it looked like their Halloween was ruined.
The following morning, Halloween Day, I was awakened by a knock on the door at about 9 am. I looked outside to see two little trick or treaters—a witch and a Superman standing at the door holding their pumpkins. Out at the curb stood their parents. Quickly, I ran for the lollipops and coupons. Thinking I wasn’t gong to see any more kids, I gave them a bunch of each.
Then I glanced down the street. They were coming from all four directions—descending on my little street. With the sound of chainsaws in the air came the sound of “TRICK OR TREAT!” I ran upstairs and tossed on a witch costume, returning to realize that I was going to have to ration my lollipops and coupons a little more carefully.
But the kids didn’t care. The clown in me came out, and I went outside with some hand magic to entertain the kids who were visiting and their parents. One lollipop and a coupon soon became the best I could do, but it didn’t matter. It was Halloween. I began to remember the story of the Grinch and how Christmas came without any decorations or even a roast beast.
Around the corner, a man bravely opened his garage and put every single decoration back on his lawn. He even re-covered the bushes with lights and lit them. We laughed. We talked to parents who reported how great it felt to get out of their dark houses and make their kids feel normal for an hour or two. We took pictures of each other. We hugged. I met neighbors I had never seen before, and kids from other neighborhoods whose parents took them out in search of a block that was fairly passable to visit. To tell the truth, I think I had more fun than they did.
And dammit—Halloween came anyway.
The next year, I made sure every kid got two gold coins for under their pillows and granted them two wishes. With a lot of the damage still not repaired, and some people still out of their homes—we needed those extra wishes.
Bio: Charie D. La Marr, distantly related to Mary Shelley. has created a genre called Circuspunk (listed at Urban Dictionary) and writen a collection of short stories in the genre called Bumping Noses and Cherry Pie and a horror novel called Laugh to Death. She also has written her first Bizarro book (or Nyzarro as she calls it—the New York version of Bizarro), Squid Whores of the Futon Fish Market for JWK Fiction. Last month, she released a satire Everybody Wants a Piece of Candi currently available on Amazon. She also participated in many anthologies including the heavy metal anthology Axes of Evil , James Ward Kirk’s Memento Mori, Bones and Ugly Babies 2, In Vein for the benefit of St. Jude’s Hospital, Ripple Effect for Hurricane Katrina relief, Oneiros Books’ CUT UP! and many other anthologies. She was selected to participate in the 2014 Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror—as one of 14 new voices in the genre. Last year, she won the challenge anthology Vampz vs Wolvez. She is known for writing in many different genres from crime to bizarro to erotica and even Seussian. She is most proud of working with an Iranian translator, translating Booker Man Award Winner Vernon God Little into Persian—which became a bestseller in Iran.