Through the house give glimmering light,
By the dead and drowsy fire;
Every elf and fairy sprite
Hop as light as bird from brier;
And this ditty, after me,
Sing, and dance it, trippingly.
First rehearse your song by rote,
To each word a warbling note:
Hand in hand, with fairy grace,
Will we sing, and bless this place.
— William Shakespeare
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene II)
The gray-haired man sat tapping his fingers on his knee, without noticing tiny flickering lights under drooping dahlias, but he was aware of the darkening sky. He did not notice three raven nests in the tree across the street. A little girl followed the flickering lights, crying the whole way, closer and closer to where the man sat in the dark.
He heard her weeping by the gate, and shouted “Take your tricks elsewhere! No treats here!” He had been guarding his yard from the pitch-black of his porch for 25 years, not letting any trick-or-treaters through the gate, all lights off.
The crying got louder. “Go away, you can’t trick me!” He shouted again, unable to see anything with the sun sinking fast. He heard hiccups, then even louder wailing. He flipped the floodlights on, against his usual policy entirely. In the wash of yellow light, all the flickering twilight fairies hid, and the ravens called out, restless.
He sighed and approached the gate for the first time in 25 years on Halloween. In the light from his floodlights, he saw a little girl with blonde curls stuck to her wet cheeks. Tears were rolling down from her eyes, and dangling on the strands of her hair like dew. The straps of her pink butterfly wings had slid off her shoulders, and she clutched a pillow case tightly in a fist. She looked just like his daughter, Ella Mae, all those years ago when he caught her sneaking out to trick-or-treat behind his back. He had yelled at Ella Mae, and now she lived on the opposite side of the country.
“What’s the matter, girl?” He asked gruffly.
“I’m lost,” she sniffed, her voice wobbling like a top spun too long. She blinked her eyes in the yellow glare, tearing running freely down her cheeks. A raven cawed in its loneliest tone, but the gray-haired man did not seem to hear it.
“Lost?” he said, softening his tone a bit. “Well, where’s your home?”
“I don’t know,” she wailed, wings sliding farther down her shoulders. “It’s chitchu, chachu, oh, that’s not it!”
“Oh, Frank, she’s an adorable butterfly.” His wife appeared at his elbow, with a plate stacked up with mounds of candy. The little girl noticed lights flickering at the edge of a line of towering cleome, and the raven cawed a welcome. “Darling, do you want a candy?”
The little butterfly took a candy, and her smile lit up her whole face.
“I’m Glenna. What’s your name, sweetie?” Glenna was using her nicest tone, the one she saved for babies and puppies.
“Alissa,” the little girl answered.
“Why are you out by yourself?” Glenna asked.
“Dolf is a wolf-erine.” Alissa said. “And he was going ’round with his friends. I wanted to go with Dolf, and I begged, and Mama said I could. Dolf said I had to keep up. I dropped my flashlight, and when I found it in the dark, Dolf was gone. I didn’t know which way he went. I walked and walked, but I couldn’t find him anywhere. Now I’m in trouble.” Alissa said with a wobble in her voice again.
“Frank, do you know a boy named Dolf?”
“No, and she said her road name was chitchu or chachu.”
“That’s not it!” Alissa started wailing again.
“Could it be Charles Street?” Glenna asked.
“No.” Alissa hiccuped.
“Chester?” Frank asked. Alissa shook her head, but she stopped crying again, catching on to this new game. She said no to Chambers, Atchinson, and Charleston streets, too.
Just then they heard a commotion at the far end of the short dead-end street.
“No point in going down there,” a voice was heard to say clearly. “Mr. Crankypot will chase us off.”
“Crankypot!” Frank said slowly. Glenna gasped, and looked at her husband. A raven flew to a telephone wire, and the lights flickered uneasily in the cleome. Glenna saw them flickering, and she smiled a secret smile.
“But the light is on,” a disembodied female voice said, and seemed to be coming this way, under the pines toward the shining yellow light.
“Jean, come back!”
A young girl dressed as Storm from the X-Men strolled up, bag of candy in hand. “Trick-or-treat,” she said, a bit uncertainly.
“Have a candy, dear.” Glenna said over her husband’s vast intake of appalled breath. Jean took a candy. Then she noticed Alissa. “Hey, there you are! Ralph is looking everywhere for you! Hey, guys, Alissa is here! They have candy!”
A whole gang of X-Men look-alikes, a pink fairy and a devil came down the street, and each gladly took a candy from Glenna and patted Alissa’s curly blonde hair. A dad was there with a tiny ladybug, complete with bobbling antennae. The pink fairy helped Alissa adjust her wings. The devil took two pieces of candy when Glenna wasn’t looking. The raven cawed a coarse laugh.
“We’ll go get Ralph!” The X-Men and the devil ran off, munching candy, bearing heavy-looking bags of treats.
“What street does she live on?” Glenna asked. She could still hear her husband’s hoarse breathing. She looked sideways at the blue flickering lights.
“Chattanooga,” Jean said. “She’s my neighbor.”
“Chattanooga Street!” Glenna exclaimed. “We would have gotten around to that one eventually.”
“My name is not Crankypot!” Frank suddenly exclaimed. Silence met this pronouncement.
“Well, what is your name?” The pink fairy wanted to know.
“Why do you hate Halloween so much?” Jean asked. “You never have your light on, and my brother said you yelled at him last year.”
“I was new in this neighborhood twenty-five years ago,” Frank started. “I spent hours carving a pumpkin, and someone smashed it all over my driveway.” Frank said, breathing fast. “Why should I give candy out to kids who would smash my pumpkin? I wouldn’t let my kids collect candy, so I don’t owe candy to anyone else!!”
“Oh, Frank, that was years ago,” Glenna said sadly.
“I’m Jason Powell, sir, and, I’m sad to say, I smashed your pumpkin,” said the dad holding the hand of the ladybug.
“Daddy,” gasped the ladybug.
He turned to his daughter for a minute. “I know, sweetie, but everybody makes mistakes. You have to grow up and admit them and decide not to make them anymore, sweetie.”
“Okay, daddy,” the ladybug nodded, antennae bobbling. He took a deep breath and turned back to Frank.
“I’m awfully sorry, and I have no excuse,” he continued. “I was so angry all the time then. My dad used to carve our pumpkins, and he moved out during the summer. He didn’t want anything to do with me any more. I was mad all the time. But that’s no excuse. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Frank said, and he found it was. Glenna smiled with satisfaction. The twilight fairies danced happily, but only Glenna and Alissa noticed. Suddenly, the whole world seemed full of light, color and magic again even though the sky was dark. The raven returned to his nest and settled down for a raven doze. Frank shook hands with Jason. “Your ladybug is very cute,” Frank said with a smile.
“I’m a babybug!” The ladybug corrected.
“Alissa! I told you to keep up! I’ve been looking for you forever!” A voice carried clearly down the street, and soon a Wolverine raced into view. Alissa’s breath hitched at this evidence that she was in trouble.
“You should have made sure she was still with you.” Glenna pointed out calmly, offering him a candy, which Ralph dropped into his bag with a smile.
“You’re right. Well, thanks for finding her,” Ralph said generally. “Mom wants to see her, so we have to go,” he added, then he towed Alissa off toward Chattanooga Street, both waving madly, Alissa’s wings drooping again but her tears dry.
Glenna and Frank handed out candy all night, as word spread among the costumed folk that old Crankypot wasn’t so cranky after all. Blue lights twinkled, barely visible in the dahlias.
“Happy Halloween!” Frank called after the last trick-or-treater.
Glenna heaved a huge breath. “More kids than I ever thought possible,” she said happily. She had turned on all the lights in their house, and it looked bright and welcoming for the first time on Halloween night. Monster music blasted from speakers, and she hummed along. Frank started inside. She slipped a few pieces of candy under the bench for her twilight fairy friends, winking at them over her shoulder.
“Why did you have candy?” Frank asked as she passed through the doorway.
“I knew sooner or later, we’d need it. I’ve been buying it for 25 years.”
“Twenty-five years of candy!”
“Don’t worry, the kids ate it.” Glenna snickered. Frank started laughing, too. The twilight fairies chased each other all over the garden.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham