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Why couldn’t Elizabeth buy the candy? He’d gone into the office early and met with vender reps all morning. He missed those long leisurely, pre-recession luncheons paid for by the reps. All afternoon he’d dealt with a ridiculous personnel problem. How could full-grown people act like hormone-driven teens at work? And now he had to stop and get candy. She’d left a voice mail that he should be home before five with candy.
He didn’t mind that she didn’t work. He made enough money for them to live comfortably now. And he appreciated that she had worked the whole time the children were growing up.
Thank goodness they were all grown up and had been very little trouble in doing it. There’d been no going down to the local police station to retrieve them. Not even meetings with various and sundry school officials about major infractions. What problems there had been Elizabeth had handled.
Shopping for candy should have been a quick in and out deal. He never imagined how many women waited until the last minute to buy Halloween treats. Why did they bring their over-tired kids? Probably fresh from daycare. Shopping in that crowd would probably be the biggest nightmare of the night. Those were, no doubt, the little darlings who would be ringing his bell from five until nine.
Oh, yes, the doorbell and strangers coming to the door after dark. With his dog, that should make for a quiet, peaceful evening. Mungo would be hoarse by morning.
And, no, he would not dress up in some ridiculous costume to hand out candy.
Elizabeth wasn’t there when he got home. She complained about never going out. He didn’t like going out. He was “out” all day. He liked to come home, have a quiet dinner, watch a little TV, and go to bed. He took her out. To eat. Sometimes to a movie. She said they hadn’t been to a movie since the last Star Trek movie. That didn’t sound right, but he didn’t keep track of things like that. Besides, she could go out whenever she wanted. He wasn’t one of those overbearing, macho men who had to have their thumb on “the little woman” every minute.
Had she said where she was going? Probably. Maybe she said something about Christmas and going downtown. That didn’t sound like Elizabeth. He wished he hadn’t deleted the voice mail.
She’d left him stew in the fridge.
Four-forty-five p.m. He considered himself a competent adult. He turned on the news and put a bowl of stew into the microwave. Mungo bounced around his feet. She apparently had not fed the dog. The microwave dinged as he set Mungo’s dinner on the floor. Before he could get to the microwave, the doorbell sounded. Mungo barked like mad and raced to the door.
He hadn’t put the candy in the jack-o-lantern bucket yet. Kids didn’t care about that stuff. He tore the candy bag open and dropped hands-full into a skull bucket, a sparkly princessy bucket, and a grocery bag.
He turned on the porch light and returned to the dinging microwave. Mungo returned to his food. Damn. The stew had splattered all over the microwave. Elizabeth hated it when he forgot to use the cover.
The doorbell again. And he still hadn’t put the candy in the pumpkin bucket. Mungo was off like a rocket – a loud rocket.
By eight o’clock he’d run out of candy. He scrounged through his sock drawer and found two rolls of quarters. But the trick-or-treaters were getting bigger. How many quarters should he give a kid bigger than him, who wasn’t wearing a costume as far as he could tell, and was carrying a king-size pillow case half full of loot? Even Mungo was intimidated.
Nine o’clock and his stew was still in the microwave. Where was Elizabeth?
He turned off the porch light, cleaned up the microwave, and made himself a cheese sandwich. He opened a beer and dumped half a bag of chili cheese corn chips on his plate. He found a movie on the TV. A war movie. He liked Tom Hanks. After this evening, explosions and machine gun fire would be calming.
One-thirty a.m. The doorbell and Mungo woke him. He didn’t understand where he was. There was no more candy and no more quarters. The time glowed red on the cable box. Some kind of zombie thing stumbled across the TV screen. The doorbell rang again. Mungo was going crazy. He shut the dog in Elizabeth’s sewing room. Where was that woman?
He switched the porch light on and looked through the peep hole in the front door – the 180-degree jumbo bronze security viewer he’d spent less than $20 on and more than two hours installing.
And there, on the brightly lit front porch stood two of the biggest cops he’d ever seen, one on either side of Elizabeth in a Santa suit.