Judith turned the corner onto Elm Street. Her eyes narrowed into evil slits. The maple tree in her front yard, its leaves a Halloween-appropriate palate of red and orange, now wore a soggy white crown of toilet paper. Rage flowed through her veins and pumped her legs in long strides. Attached to her right hand, a four year old dressed in skintight black leather stumbled. Her miniature whip fell to the sidewalk.
“Slow down, Mommy. I can’t walk fast and carry my candy all at once.”
“I’m sorry, sweetie. Do you want Mommy to carry you?”
“No. I want to walk.”
Judith’s abdomen felt like her internal organs had contracted gigantism. “If you let Mommy carry you, you can eat candy while we walk.” The girls raised her arms. Judith scooped her up and broke into a trot.
Judith barged through her front door, and the girl slithered down her torso like it was a greased pole. “How did the neighbors react to our little dominatrix?” her husband asked. “Did you tell everyone she was Catwoman like I suggested?”
Judith jabbed her hands on her hips. “Who did that to our tree?”
Sven’s confused expression ambled to the window. He pulled back the curtain. “I can’t see anything with all the light from the Halloween nativity. Can I turn off Baby Pumpkin?” Judith yanked the plug from the outlet. Sven pressed his face close to the glass. “Oh yeah. Looks like we got TP’ed. Huh.” He sat down on the couch. “Kids will be kids.”
Judith rubbed her temples. “You put Cassie to bed. I’ll go get the bastards that did this.” She clamped her teeth around a hunting knife. Broad streaks of mascara underlined both eyes. She ripped off her mom bluejeans to expose mom black sweatpants. “Get the shotgun. Shoot anyone besides me who comes to the door.”
“You realize that it’s Halloween, right? And that we don’t have a gun in the house?”
Judith looped a bandolier laced with stun grenades across her chest. “Have it your way. Where do we keep the tear gas canisters?”
“On the spice rack. Next to the Szechwan peppercorns. I keep all the spicy stuff together.”
Despite the evening’s chilly autumn bite, sweat dripped from Judith’s body when she returned. Sven sat cross-legged in front of the TV, his jaw slack from an Xbox-induced stupor. “I have to take a shower. Hogtying teenagers in harder than you’d think. But the tree’s clean now. You’re responsible for for any straggling trick-or-treaters.” She heard the doorbell ring twice over the hiss of hot water.
A towel entombed her hair when she ambled into the living room. Her eyes caught the ghostly, oversize weeping willow that again anchored her front yard. She screamed and threw the towel at the front door. “Dammit, they did it again.” She glared at Sven. “What are you giving out for treats? When I was a kid, we TP’ed houses giving out crappy candy.”
Sven hit pause on Spider Smoosher IV. A mid-air bedroom slipper filled the 60 inch flatscreen. “I ate all the Almond Joys as soon as you left. The only other things we have in bulk are olive oil and toilet paper. Toilet paper seemed like the least messy option.”
Caleb Echterling is dressing up as logical positivism for Halloween this year. His short story “Haikuzilla” won first prize in the 2016 Bartleby Snopes Dialogue Contest. He tweets funny fiction using the clever and mysterious handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his writing at www.calebechterling.com.