Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Halloween and what I could give to trick-or-treaters that would make them squeal with delight. Unfortunately, many of my efforts have turned out to be less than rousing successes.

Take, for example, the year I decided to hand out packs of colorful smiley-face stickers instead of candy. I imagined the trick-or-treaters also having smiles on their faces when they saw them.

I figured wrong. For one thing, the really young kids didn’t know what the stickers were and tried to eat them. And the older kids’ expressions clearly told me where I could stick my stickers.

Still, the next morning, when I spotted dozens of smiley faces stuck all over my car in the driveway, I convinced myself my treat had helped the kids unleash their hidden creativity.

The next year, I bought small paper Halloween bags decorated with witches and pumpkins. I then painstakingly filled each with assorted wrapped penny candy (fireballs, root beer barrels, caramels, Tootsie Rolls, etc.) and stapled them shut.

The kids actually looked scared when I handed them the sealed bags.

“What’s in here?” one little boy hesitantly asked as he held the bag with only two fingers, in a way that someone might hold a bag of manure.

“It’s a surprise!” I said.

“Will it bite me?” he asked.

Through years of trial and error, I finally found something that no red-blooded trick-or-treater could complain about: full-sized chocolate bars. The first time I handed them out, I finally got the reaction I’d been seeking for so long.

“Wow! Awesome!” one group all gasped in unison. “Big candy bars! Thank you, lady!”

Not so awesome was my husband’s reaction when he had to eat scrambled eggs for dinner three nights in a row because I’d spent all our grocery budget on the chocolate bars. I mean, they certainly weren’t a nickel apiece anymore, like back when I was a kid. No, they were 10 times that much.

“How many candy bars did you give out anyway?” my husband asked me at the dinner table the night after Halloween. He stabbed a piece of egg with his fork and then held it up and stared at it as if he were trying to use mind power to transform it into a T-bone steak.

“About 75, I guess,” I said.

“There didn’t seem to be nearly that many kids, judging by the doorbell.”

“Well, that’s because quite a few of them had sick sisters or brothers who couldn’t come out trick-or-treating,” I said. “So they asked me for candy bars to take home to them.”

My husband rolled his eyes and shook his head.

“Those kids were pulling the oldest scam in the book on you! There are no sick sisters or brothers. If they like your candy, they’ll make up stories like that just to get some extra candy for themselves.”

So the next year I bought fewer candy bars and vowed not to give out any for the supposedly sick brothers or sisters. If a kid wasn’t well enough to go out trick-or-treating, I decided, then he or she was going to be out of luck.

Unfortunately, it rained so hard that Halloween night, the only kid who ventured out was dressed like the Gloucester Fisherman. I ended up with loads of candy bars left over. My husband and I ate so many of them during the next few weeks, we actually could see the cavities popping out in our teeth and hear our arteries hardening.

So this year, with Halloween just around the corner, I once again am faced with the dilemma of what to give the trick-or-treaters, especially with my drastically reduced budget.

“I was thinking maybe I’ll get a bunch of dimes and hand one out to each kid,” I said to a friend the other night. “After all, what kid doesn’t like money? And it’ll be much cheaper than buying some overpriced candy I might end up getting stuck with.”

“Dimes?” she repeated, laughing. “This isn’t the 1950s! You can’t buy anything, not even penny candy, for a dime anymore.”

“Well, what would you suggest then?” I asked.

“I suggest that on Halloween you lock the doors, shut off all the lights, and don’t answer the doorbell. You’ll save a bundle that way.”

I think she really could use a smiley-face sticker.


Sally Breslin is an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net.

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