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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Ghosts and Ghouls and… Can We Just Get This the Hell Over With, Please?

Shouldn’t at least one of us know better by now?

So, it’s October. That means Hallowe’en is right around the corner.

(And, in case you’re wondering, I’m not going to bother putting that apostrophe in ‘Hallowe’en’ all damned day. I threw it in there once, just to show you that I’m aware of it, and I think I know where it goes, but it’s just not worth the historical accuracy for me to continue slapping it in there. I’m American — I’m lazy, all right? It’s what we do.)

So, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of Halloween.

(See, there it is without the ‘ already. That’s how it’s gonna look for the rest of the post. So you’d better get used to it, all you holiday purists out there.)

I think the problem boils down to this:

Halloween is all about kids, candy, and scary crap.

I don’t particularly like kids, candy, or scary crap.

(Perhaps you can connect the dots the rest of the way here. I don’t want to beat you over the head with advanced logic or anything.)

So, maybe I should explain where I’m coming from, just a bit. You know, to seem less like a heartless humbug candy monster.

(Which I am, of course, but it simply doesn’t pay to seem that way. I’m still pulling egg and toilet paper out of the dog’s fur from last year.)

First, there’s the scary crap. The movies, and the songs, and the decorations, and all of that. And here’s the problem I have with this: most of the ‘scary’ crap isn’t scary, it’s silly. It’s goofy and dumb, and it’s just a waste of time. There, I’ve said it. Humbug, all right?

And the rest of the scary stuff is… well, scary. Now, I know there are people out there who enjoy a good fright — hell, Michael Jackson’s been married twice, so there are at least two of them, right? — but I’m not one of those people. I enjoy a ‘rush’ and a ‘thrill’ and maybe even a ‘shock’, but to me, a ‘good scare’ is an oxymoron. If I’m seriously considering peeing my pants, or that there might actually be a knife poised to plunge into my neck, then I’m not having a good day. That’s just not how my system works, you see.

But of course, I watch some of that shit, anyway. Who can miss The Shining? And every time, I say to myself, ‘It’s not scary. You know how it ends, and it’s got Olive Oyl in it, for Chrissakes. Don’t be a wuss.‘ So I watch it, and say, ‘Yep, pretty good. Just like I remember.‘ And then I spend two hours that night with ‘Red rum! Red rum!‘ running through my head, peeking out the corner of my eye to see if those creepy damned little twins are standing in the hallway. Frankly, I’ve got enough shit to keep me awake at night as it is. No, thanks.

So, on to the candy. My objections to candy are actually pretty simple. I like candy. I used to eat candy all the time when I was a kid. But then I went to college, and I started drinking beer. And I simply did the math — if I eat candy and I drink beer, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to exercise it all away. (Especially because several of those hours will involve stomache aches or hangovers from all the damned candy and beer I’ve consumed.) So, if I didn’t give one of them up, I’d be a cavity-riddled, swollen-livered four-hundred pound freak, using a bedpan because my sweaty ass would no longer fit on the toilet. And I’m not turning into grandma. I just won’t do it.

Plus, these are not ‘two great tastes that taste great together’. SweeTarts and Guinness do not a gourmet meal make. Neither are Skittles and Sierra Nevada a good match. So clearly, one of them had to go, and I picked candy. Once you hit eighteen or so, a good beer buzz beats the pants off a sugar high, any day of the week. So, I pretty much cut out the sweets. Sure, I’ll occasionally indulge with a bit of ice cream, or a cookie of some kind, but only rarely. So the hedonistic succumbing to the sweet tooth that is Halloween holds no special thrill for me. Oktoberfest? Sure. Halloween? Eh.

Last, but not least, there are the children. (‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?!‘)

It’s not that I hate kids or anything, exactly. I just don’t know what the hell to do with them. I don’t know how to talk to them, or react to them, or get along particularly well with them. And frankly, I’m not that interested. They’ve got their world of Nintendo and Barbie and dirt bikes, and I’ve got my world of sex and booze and staying up past nine o’clock at night. And ne’er the twain shall meet, if I have my way.

(Really, who wants their world when we have ours? They can’t even make a good martini, dammit!)

See, I think of meeting a kid the same way I’d look at meeting a potential business partner, or a first date, or maybe a hooker.

(And no, that doesn’t mean that I try to kiss the kid’s ass, or bring flowers, or try haggling for a handjob. Or try to get the kid drunk, which works for all three. None of that is what I mean here. And the handjob thing is just sick, dude. Shame on you.)

What I mean is, I ask myself, ‘What can I offer this kid, and what can they offer me?‘ And I find, more and more often, that the best answer is ‘nothing at all’. That’s the best answer; it rarely proves to be the only answer, though, and I often find out it’s the best only after a couple of other options have been tried.

Take mudpies, for instance. There are scores of small children out there who will offer you mudpies. And should you be foolish enough to accept the offer, you’ll soon find that you were better off with nothing. Well, ‘nothing’ and a clean shirt, anyway. Which you won’t have once the mud starts flying.

But that’s really an easy example — you don’t often accept any gift, from anyone, where wet dirt is included in the name of the item. So here’s a subtler thing I’ve learned. Many of our wee little friends (children, not midgets; keep up with me here) will offer you their very most favoritest toy. They’ll just walk up to you, solemn and doe-eyed, and place their bestest buddy toy or trinket right in your lap. Maybe you’ve had this happen to you. It’s breathyaking, right? The greatest give a child could give. Heartwarming, no?

No. Why? Because the kid’s not giving you the toy, or even sharing the thing with you. It’s never quite that simple with children. No, the child is testing you. This is the kid’s favorite thing in the entire world, remember. He or she is gauging you to see how much interest you’ll show in this most revered of playthings. And, since all eyes in the room are always on the child, now everyone around you is looking at you, watching to see what you’ll do next.

Now you’re in the most uncomfortable of spots, through no fault of your own, simply because little Timmy or Jane came and plopped some snot-encrusted doohickey onto your lap. You’ve got a choice to make, and none of your options are good.

You can choose to ignore the toy altogether, risking the frowns of the adults around you as you fail to stimulate and love some other person’s child. Just as significantly, you run the risk that the kid is prone to tantrums and will eventually slam the thing into your lap or your chest to get you to pay attention. And believe me, the business end of a G.I. Joe jammed into your crotch is going to sting. A lot. I tell you this from experience.

(Oh, and while we’re on the subject, ‘kung-fu grip’, my ass. Um, don’t ask.)

You can instead choose to acknowledge the toy and place it beside you or in the floor. This is even worse than ignoring it, to the parental types in the room with you. Not just the kid’s parents, either, but any parents who happen to be lurking around. Now they know that you’re not just too busy chatting or eating to notice the toy, but you’re making a conscious effort to get the thing — and therefore the kid — the hell away from you. Which is just the sort of behavior that’s frowned upon by the caretakers of little people.

(Again, the kids, not the midgets. Still with me?)

Finally, your other option is to show even the merest hint of an inkling of a trace of mild, slight, half-hearted, even feigned interest in the thing that’s on your lap. If you have anywhere else to be in the next three days, this is the gravest mistake that you can make. Because the child will see even the slightest crack of an opening, and use it to coerce you into playing with this trinket that you seem to love so much. And you’ll play for hours. And hours, and then hours after that. And that’s just the first fifteen minutes. It can go on for hours and hours and hours more. You’ll have tea parties, and singalongs, and mock battles, and you’ll get the shit kicked out of your little GameBoy ninja by the kid’s little GameBoy ninja.

And you’ll do it until someone has the decency to come rescue you, or until the kid has to go to bed. Those are the only options — these little bastards are like Terminators. They don’t tire. They don’t wear down. Hell, half of ’em don’t even break to piss; they just do it right there in front of you, and keep on truckin’. It’s frightening — they’re like little wound-up machines that won’t stop. Ever. I’ve slipped more than one kid a ‘ruffie’, just to get away with my sanity intact.

(Well, intact-er, anyway.)

But maybe I’m insensitive. Maybe I should suck up the unease, and hang out with the kids to help better their lives. Right? Wrong. Because, you see, I’ve really got nothing to offer them, either. They just don’t seem to believe me when I tell them.

Take bedtime stories, for instance. I’m an adult; I’ve been around the block a few times. You’d think I could tell a good bedtime story, right? Well, no. Hell, you people have read my stories — they’re all about drinking, and morons, and blow-up sheep sex dolls. What kind of sugarplum dreams would that give children? And I can’t exactly pull material from television; I’m not watching Mister Rogers or Barney on a Tuesday night, you know. I could probably tell them of stories ‘ripped from the headlines’ out of Law & Order, or maybe something juicy from Coupling. Really, what else could I use for inspiration? Family Guy? South Park?

(Even I have the good sense to leave Mr. Hankey and Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls out of this.)

So it’s probably just best if we leave each other to our own little worlds. We’ll both be happier that way, and neither of us will have to have the nightmares any more. I think it’s best that we just move on.

But I won’t begrudge you Halloween.

(Not while I’m married to a normal, child-appreciating woman, anyway. But if I ever turn her… oooh, my lights are going to be so off on Trick-or-Treat night. You wait and see, you little buggers.)

So for now, feel free to come by.

(And up our thirty-seven steps to the porch. Maybe I’ll thin your herd out yet!)

We’ll have candy for you — Kit-Kats and Snickers bars, M&Ms and Baby Ruths. Come one, come all, and we — meaning my wife, most likely, while I’m upstairs hiding — will pass out the goodies, as is our adulty duty. But don’t think this is getting you anywhere, all right? Don’t be bringing over your toys to play with, or shit like that. I’m a reasonable man, but if I have to, I’ll lock you in the basement with our kid-munching Halloween monster. You have been warned.

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