Darned kids caused a ruckus in his neighborhood, and Old Man Rylie needed his sleep. They hooted and carry on, demanding treats of the poor saps who lit their porches. Not Rylie. Rylie knew better than open his door to miscreants with greedy fingers and sugar-wild eyes. Most grew dissatisfied with fleeting pleasures, then they desired to stay long past their time.
They pounded, chanting, “Trick-or-Treat!” but he ignored them, kept his blinds pulled tight and his door locked. “Come on, Mister. We know you’re in there! We can hear you breathing!”
“Yeah, open up! It’s trick-or-treat time.”
He stared at the door, willing them away, when he recognized one of their voices. He shook his head. Couldn’t be. Yet there again, the decided lisp, the halting pattern. “Rylie, please, it’s cold out here. The guys just want to say hello.”
He shivered. He knew the voice, his childhood neighbor, Smithton. But Smithton died when they were ten, the victim of a ferocious dog attack.
He peeked through the slats in the blind and saw the costumed troublemakers. One removed his mask.
Rylie plunked in his chair. It was definitely Smithton.
Stomach convulsions threatened to tear his insides apart. The boys huddled together by the door, masks in childish hands which should long ago have fallen to dust. He knew them. Donnie Pullman died in a tractor accident on his Granddaddy’s farm. Momma made Rylie wear his scratchy black First Communion suit to the funeral. Jimmy Fitzgerald went missing like sixty years ago, never to be found.
He swallowed a mouthful of fear. His voice quaked. “Go away. I got nothin’ for you.”
Smithton whined, “Come with us, Rylie. Think how much fun we’ll have.”
Rylie’s heart heaved. Sweat chilled his skin. A tear trickled.
“It’s time.” He opened the door.