October 31st 2007 – It’s 5:30pm as I get off the bus around the corner from my house. It’s already dark and as I walk up the road, feeling tense, tired and frankly like shit I can already hear the noise waiting for me around the corner.
Sure enough as I turn into my road I see the groups of kids. There’s at least six or seven separate groups, maybe more. As I walk up the road I see a group of them try my door and walk away disappointed: knowing they will soon be back.
I let myself into the house and I barely have time to turn on the lights and close the curtains before the knock on the door comes. I go to the door and open it: a group of three or four goblins are stood in the darkness – none of them taller than my knee. Just inside the door is a small tub of fruit-flavoured lollipops – each individually wrapped. I hand the lollies out and close the door. Less than three seconds later the door is knocked again.
And so it goes for the next hour and a half – a constant stream of kids out Trick-or-treating. Some come with Appropriate Adults (a term that will come to have more significance when they begin Helping The Police With Their Enquiries in another year or two), but most don’t. After two hours I’ve still accomplished little more than chop some vegetables and turned the gas on and have barely sat down.
Still, at least this lot make an effort: each set of kids are dressed up as witches, goblins, ghosts or have faces painted like spider-man. Back when I lived at my mum’s house we only ever used to get one or two groups per night and I clearly remember a night when I opened the door to two fourteen year old lads wearing jeans and a t-shirt. As I looked at them one of them sheepishly took a bottle of washing-up liquid and stuck the nozzle between his teeth. “What are you supposed to be?” I asked. The lad looked down, shamefaced, “A ghost from the future” he replied. I shook my head, “No, you’re not” I said and closed the door in their faces. But that was then…if I was to send any of these four year olds home without a treat they’d probably put a brick through my window for starters.
Finally the steady stream turns to a trickle. Even in my area where kids are a ready source of income (child benefits) and a cheap alternative to turkey at Christmas, there are only so many groups that can visit in one night. Foolishly I allow myself to relax – thinking that it might all be finally over for another year.
The door is banged again – rather more loudly. With a sigh I go to the door – thinking that what I really need right now is a nice lie down and some food in my belly.
I open the door and the first thing I see is a man in jeans and a vest. He’s about 30-35, maybe older and stocky with close shaved hair and breath that reeks of alcohol. He leans in closer to me and I look at the bloodstain on his forehead, trace the line down his face to his vest. He leers drunkenly into my personal space, forcing me to retreat slightly, ‘You gotta help me’ he drawls, his words slurred and broken, ‘I’ve been in a hit and run – the driver just drove off.’ He pauses and his face breaks into a dangerous grin, ‘Trick or treat!’ he says in a tone of voice that might as well be saying ‘Give me your money, I have a knife’
I glance down at the little kid that’s out with him – no more than four or five years old and, shaking slightly, I turn and pick up a lolly for the drunk: wanting him gone as quickly as possible. Then I bend down and look at the kid ‘Here – take two’ I say, offering him the sticks. The man looks down at the kid, ‘Oi’ he growls, ‘Don’t be #@$£ing greedy’
‘No, it’s ok’ I say, offering the sweets again before standing up.
The man accepts the lollies for what they are and grabs the kid by the hand, starting to leave. I watch the kid for a second: my heart feels heavy knowing that there is no one in that child’s life who is emotionally mature enough or who cares enough to stop and say ‘You’re not taking that kid out: you’re too drunk’
That kid has no hope: no chances, nothing.
I close the door and turn on the TV: but the noise is not enough to block out the static in my head.
And in that moment I feel the tiniest piece of my hope for the future curl up and die.