Sweat ran from his temple down into the razor cut on his cheek causing him to wince from the sting. He tried to walk slowly, take shorter strides, but little Alice was still nearly running alongside him, swishing and clomping in her frilly blue princess dress and cowboy boots. The gray plastic grocery bag rustled less than it used to, now that it was nearly half full of candy. He remembered Trick or Treating as a child and was sure that the candy flowed much more freely then than it did now.
His eyes darted around the street, taking in the straggling children with bored looking parents in tow, and the teenagers who roamed in packs of three or four, too old for costumes, but still going house to house and awkwardly asking for candy. He glanced down at his watch and saw it was a quarter after eight. The street was already dark, and he was tired of walking, his back hurt and he was hungry. Alice had eaten dinner, but he was rushed out the door as soon as he got home. He thought of the pot of chili simmering on the stove, and his stomach grumbled.
“One more house, honey.”
“Awwwww,” Alice whined. “Two more.”
“One. It's getting late and you still need to take a bath. You smell like a monkey.”
“I'm a princess. Princesses don't smell.”
“You smell like a monkey princess.” Alice giggled and skipped to catch up. He forced himself to slow down again.
“Do you want to stop there?” He pointed to the house on the corner. Alice reached up and took his hand. He squeezed her tiny fingers in his meaty paw and let her guide him to the porch.
A Jack o' Lantern greeted them with a fiery grin as the approached, and muslin ghosts covered in cobwebs tilted in the wind. A witch with green skin and a truly epic wart on her nose sat on the porch swing. She wore a long black dress with ragged sleeves and a pointed black hat sat on top of the frizzy black wig on her head.
“Look at you!” the witch cackled. “What a beautiful princess!”
Alice held out her bag. “Trick or Treat!”
“I've got a treat for you, your highness.” The witch reached into the cauldron spewing clouds of smoke beside her. Something dropped into the plastic bag and clacked against the other candies inside.
Jawbreaker, he thought. He could just see Sam's face. She was going to confiscate all the hard candies when the got home. Even at seven years old, his wife didn't trust Alice to not choke on anything larger than a dime.
“Thank you!” Alice grabbed his hand and led him away from the witches house. He gave the Jack o' Lantern another look as the passed. Were the teeth always that pointy?
“I liked her costume,” Alice chirped.
“Very spooky,” he agreed.
“Can I have a candy?”
He frowned. Sam wouldn't like it, but it was Halloween. What was the point of it if kids couldn't make themselves sick gorging on sweets. Alice had been very good this evening, and this was the first time she had even asked.
“Sure.” His stomach grumbled again. “Are there any Snickers in there?”
They stopped underneath a street light and she lifted the bag to her face, staring into its depths. “Look, Daddy!”
“What?” He looked down into the offered bag.
On top of the mound of candy, gum, and packets of trail mix sat a smooth egg-shaped object. It was black with streaks of gold and red weaving across the shell. He picked it out of the bag; it was heavier than it looked felt warm as if it had just been held. He rolled it across his palm and felt a shift, as if it something was re-balancing inside.
“What is it?” Alice stood on tip toe to see into his hand.
“Don't know,” he muttered. Whatever it was it wasn't candy. He looked back at the witch's house. The swing was empty and the porch light was off. Even the Jack o' Lantern had been extinguished. It looked as if the witch had turned in for the night.