A Brief History of Halloweens
When I was little, Halloweens were dark Christmases. I loved being scared. I loved dressing up. I loved candy. I loved the smell Jack O Lanterns gave off when they are sweating from the candle heat.
Halloween is a strange tradition and brings with it strange things.
These are some stories about some Halloweens. The songs are friends with the stories.
1. AC/DC, HIGHWAY TO HELL
We did the séance the weekend before Halloween because Debbie had to spend the weekend with her dad and he lived all the way in Palo Alto. It was going to be the first time we weren’t going trick or treating together.
Bon Scott had died earlier that year and we thought he was the one wearing the devil horns on the cover of the Highway to Hell album so that was who we were attempting to summon.
We turned off the bedroom lights, lit a candle and propped up the album. Debbie put her hands in mine and said, all serious-like, “Let’s begin.”
2. ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, TELEPHONE LINE
The twisty cord that stretched from the kitchen and down the hall not long enough to reach the living room when you wanted to talk to your best friend Shannon without her having to hear the swears from your parents fighting.
That cord the one you watched your dad wrap around your mother’s throat before slamming her up against the oven and repeating, “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT IT’S HALLOWEEN! YOU TAKE THEM! I’M GOING TO FUCKING NEWELL’S!”
3. QUEEN, IT’S LATE
That Halloween, after the egging, was the first and only time my older brother let me hold him while he cried. It was at the benches in front of the school. I was dressed as a giant baby. He was Batman. The plastic mask on the ground in front of us broken; its elastic band trailed off one side like some tapeworm coming out of Batman’s ear.
“I fucking hate those guys!” The hundredth time he’d said this so far.
“You smell like eggs. It’s late. Let’s go home before we get in trouble.”
The pink fleece of my one-piece feetie pajamas wet and snotted at the shoulder.
We got in trouble.
4. THE ROLLING STONES, PAINT IT BLACK
“I just wanted to use soap,” he said. “Lenny and Danny were the ones saying, ‘Paint it! Paint it black!’ So we did.”
“And if Lenny and Danny told you to jump off a bridge, would you?” My dad was pissed.
My brother just sat there with his head down, silently crying. He was scared. He had never been arrested before.
“Mr. Drexler said if the kids would clean up all the smashed pumpkins, take the rest of them out of the pool, clean all the eggs off the garage door and get the paint off the car windows he won’t press charges.”
My dad took his glare off my brother and looked at the cop. The cop looked at my dad and did this grin-shrug-head shake and said, “Halloween.”
5. SMILEY LEWIS, I HEAR YOU KNOCKIN’
My mom didn’t have her nervous breakdown until a week or so after Halloween so I didn’t think too much of it when she kept singing the chorus of this song every time the kids came and knocked on our door. She always kind of sang stuff like that. But I did sort of think something was wrong when she’d open the door and scream, “TRICK OR TREAT!” at them. Repeatedly. Until they ran back down the walkway or started crying.
6. NICK GILDER, HOT CHILD IN THE CITY
I dressed like Apollonia from Vanity 6 for my first slutty Halloween.
My friend Shannon’s boyfriend, who was a senior, drove us to the city so we could go to the Exotic Erotic Ball. She was a slutty “Like a Virgin” Madonna. Her boyfriend Mike had on bike shorts, Doc Martins, a top hat, cane, white collar and cufflinks. His eyes were painted Clockwork Orange.
We were all too young to get in but Mike knew someone. I forgot my purse in the car and ran back to get it. Walking down a busy San Francisco street, in lace teddy, stockings and heels, this song was my soundtrack.
7. PHILLIP BAILEY DUET WITH PHIL COLLINS, EASY LOVER
When I was a fat kid, I would do anything for candy. A little girl fat kid. There’s always a man for that and you sometimes knock on their door and they just know, somehow. And you are the one they invite in. “Better candy back here.” And you feel so bad afterwards. And you still eat the better candy.
8. ALAN O’DAY, UNDERCOVER ANGEL
I was a slutty angel and he was a sparkly red devil. All sequins and skin. That goatee shit all over his chin, mustache waxed to freak-curls. He kept trying to remove my mask. I kept forcing him to take more shots. He said his name was “Coven Master” so I said my name was “Whore Fuck.” Neither of us believed anything the other one said. Even later, in the bathroom, when the mirror broke and we both were bleeding.
9. JEFF BUCKLEY, SO REAL
My parents went to Reno for a weekend, as they sometimes did, and left us in the care of my mean, racist, paternal grandmother.
My brothers and some friends hiked through this gulley we always played in to a place all the kids knew as “Seven Cliffs.” We divided into teams and had a major rock fight. My older brother got my little brother in the forehead pretty good and he screamed and started crying. It was bleeding super bad.
He cried most of the way home. His face was a combination of blood, dirt and tears all mixed together and dripping.
When we got home–bracing ourselves for my grandma’s wrath and dreading her calling our parents–she didn’t believe us. It was almost Halloween and she was mad that we would try to trick her like that. Something so real she thought was so fake.
Swear to God.
10. PHIL COLLINS, IN THE AIR TONIGHT
At a pre-Halloween sleepover, this song on repeat, it was discussed by all attendees that Phil Collins was singing about a boy he saw drowning and a man who could’ve saved him but instead, watched and did nothing.
“Why didn’t Phil Collins save him?”
Nobody said anything and then that drum part kicked in and we all made drumming motions with our hands for the hundredth time and started laughing.
11. RADIOHEAD, HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY
Afterwards, we’d always weigh our pillow cases. My nightly take usually averaging around five pounds. My older brother covered more ground than I could so his average was a few pounds higher. My younger brother’s always less than mine.
I hid my pillow case in a bucket in the back of my closet. Not so that my brothers wouldn’t find it, so that my mom would believe I had thrown it all away like I said. She was concerned that “I was getting so fat.”
I’d eat the candy when I knew I was alone. When I knew nobody could see me more than I already felt they didn’t.
–xTx is a writer living in Southern California. She has been published in places like The Collagist, PANK, Hobart, Puerto del Sol, Smokelong, Monkeybicycle and Wigleaf. Her story collection, Normally Special, is available from Tiny Hardcore Press. Her chapbook, “Billie the Bull” is forthcoming from Mud Luscious press. xTx’s story, “The Mill Pond” just won the 2012 storySouth Million Writers Award. She says nothing at www.notimetosayit.com