A Really Short Halloween Story with a Really Long Title

(Or, Carl and Van Helsing Time Warp to 2007 and Have $20 to Spend at Wal-Mart, and a House in the Suburbs, for No Discernable Reason)

Cousin Shelley


Carl was excited about his first time Trick or Treating. Van Helsing was not.

“It’s supposed to be for kids, Carl. You’re too big,” he said. He stood with his arms crossed in front of chest, half-smiling.

“Oh, I can hunch over, they’ll never know.”

“Are you sure you’ve read enough about this to know what you’re doing?”

“Yes, yes,” he said, sounding a bit annoyed as he smoothed down the fur on the front of his costume. “Don’t I always?”

Van Helsing had to nod in agreement.

“One wears a costume and carries a container suitable for holding candy of some type. If a light is on outside, one knocks on the door and shouts “trick or treat!” Often the person answering the door will comment on the costume, ask what it is, say ‘oh, how scary’ or ‘oh, how cute’ and then give the trick or treater a treat. Or a trick. Though that seems a rarity according to my sources.”

Van Helsing circled Carl, eyebrow cocked. “If you are asked what you are, what will you say? We never came up with a proper name for. . . that. Did we?”

Carl looked at the man, astonished. “Good thinking, Van Helsing.” That had not occurred to him yet. The creature Carl would masquerade as tonight had not yet been classified and given a true name, but Carl had found it interesting and tried to duplicate its appearance as much as he could. His costume was made up of a green fur-like material in front, red cardboard ‘scales’ in the back, three or four ‘tentacles’ coming from each shoulder (made up of carefully attached plastic Slinkys), and a Jason-esque plastic hockey mask painted blue, on which Carl had pasted a few dozen google eyes and drawn a frown in permanent black marker. Carl sincerely hoped he didn’t appear too frightening.

“I know,” Carl said after much thought. “I’ll just say I’m a monster. Ooooooh.” He wiggled his fingers menacingly in front of Van Helsing’s face.

“Just like that?”

“Not quite. More like this.” Carl bent over to appear shorter and raised his voice an octave. “I’m a monster,” he squeaked out, wiggling in fingers in front of Van Helsing's face, or as close as they would reach. “Ooooooh.” Then he straightened. “How’s that?”

Like a hunchback with his ball sac in a vice, he wanted to say, but Carl was having such a good time, he didn’t have the heart. “Very good, Carl. Enjoy yourself.”

Carl grabbed his plastic jack-o-lantern bucket, and bounced out the door. He stopped and turned around. “You’re not coming?”


“Spoilsport. I’m not sharing my candy.”

But Van Helsing knew he would.

Van Helsing had been outside for about 15 minutes, just down the street from the house, waiting for Carl to return. He stood behind a large oak, hidden from view. When he heard Carl coming—he could hear him mumbling to himself—he waited until the right moment, and then he sprung from behind the tree, screaming.

“Gah!” Carl’s orange candy bucket flew into the air, small packages of candy flying every which way, as Carl instinctively ran, Slinky ‘tentacles’ flopping behind him.

Van Helsing laughed so hard he ended up on his knees holding his midsection.

Carl stopped several feet away as what happened finally dawned on him. “Are you trying to scare me to death!”

“No, of course, not,” he said, when he could breathe. “I was just trying to get into the spirit of the thing.”

Carl put his glove-covered hands on his fur-covered hips. “And I had decided to give you some candy, too. Not now.” He picked candy off the street and put it back in his bucket. “Oh, not now.”

“What were you mumbling about by the way?”

“Oh, oh, that! Um, there’s a portal demon. Three streets over. I was grousing about. . . how we really should go dispatch it. Yes.”

Van Helsing shot to his feet, the mention of such a creature putting him on edge and immediately ready to fight. He’d never seen Carl so calm. faced with the idea of doing battle with a demon before. Carl didn’t even appear scared. Van Helsing looked at him with disbelief. “And you say this as an afterthought, Carl?”

“Well, I’ve spent all night being alternately chased by teenagers not wearing costumes who wanted my candy, and jostling for position at doors with much smaller children wearing the most frightening outfits—one was burned and had knives for hands. Hideous! Several carried mock machetes smeared with pretend blood,” Carl said, motioning with his hands dramatically as he did so, his voice rich with drama, “and some wore masks that actually oozed blood, but it dripped inside the mask so as not to make a mess. It was horrible, macabre and grotesque!”

Van Helsing still stared.

“What? A portal demon is positively pretty next to some of the things I’ve seen tonight.” He shrugged.

When Van Helsing turned and ran for the house and his weapons to fight the demon, Carl laughed. Not as heartily as Van Helsing had, but heartily enough. He laughed harder when Van Helsing stopped and turned to look at him, realization dawning.


“Now I’ve startled you,” he said, with far too much joy. “Trick, Van Helsing! Haha! Now, there’s no need to look at me like that, just calm down. You started it!”

Carl ran again, plastic pumpkin swinging wildly, scattering candy behind him.