This is a true story. The year is 1983. I was 14 years old.
I caught up with Jukes and the guys at Dweeb’s place right after dinner on the hottest Halloween Night on record. We were all there; me, Jukes, Bag’o’Donuts, DV, Miller and Dweeb, and we had the place to ourselves, Dweeb’s dad was out with some new skank, but we weren’t planning on staying long. Halloween Night!
Me and DV were ninjas, some sweet gear bought from the we’re-not-worthy, 86-page glossy color catalogue from Asian World of Martial Arts.
We had no-shit, for-real tabi and climbing crampons (hand-and-foot!), as well as smoke bombs and our everyday-nunchukas. DV swiped his Dad’s katana and wakizashi and looked bad-ass.
Jukes was a zombie, poorly done. He had some old clothes on and smeared his eyes with black.
Bag’o’Donuts was a clown straight off the shelf. Plastic poncho printed with 4 color clown-suit graphics and plastic mask with the most tripped-out clown face the Taiwanese could think of.
He looked like he was 5 and we jagged him off about it for a while until he almost started crying.
Miller was a football player, and since he was a football player, it wasn’t much of a costume.
But his parents were poor so we didn’t give him much shit about it. He didn’t have a ball, though, and Dweeb gave him his for the night but Miller said he didn’t want it and Dweeb got pissed off, like he always does, until Miller said “why I want the fuckin ball man? I cant carry it and my candy bag, Dweeb!” and Jukes goes “Yeah Dweeb, shut the fuck up!” and Bag laughs.
Me and DV strike assault poses and look indifferent.
Dweeb gets surly and throws the ball away and Jukes laughs again and says “Fuckin Dweeb, why you such a surly motherfucker? Man can’t run for 20 and get the sweet now can he?
Why you always gotta be such a fuckin dweeb, Dweeb?”
Bag piped up, “Where’s your costume, Mike?” (Bag always called Dweeb by his real name)
Jukes cuts in “Yeah Dweeb, what are you going as? Lame-ass pirate like last year? Man that was so lame!”
Miller says “What’s wrong with pirates? Pirates are cool. Why don’t you lay off Dweeb, man, you just looking to fight tonight.”
Jukes says, “Shut up Miller” and asks Dweeb again what costume he’s wearing.
Dweeb says “I’ve got it upstairs, lemme go change. Ok?”
Me and DV begin the slow-mock – a slow motion, soft-touch battle with fist and leg.
Miller plops on the couch and says “Man I’m so hungry, I can’t wait to get that candy. How much you think we’re gonna get? 2 bags? 3?”
Jukes and Bag both start yammering about the likelihood of bodacious amounts of candy given that they are so much bigger and stronger than last year and can thusly cover more distance and obtain more loot. Halloween always ran from 6 pm to 10 pm. We were planning on being out until 11 pm at least, figuring people wouldn’t risk the tricks from such a scary bunch of kids and would have to give us candy no matter what time it was.
They were planning the route, a slash-and-burn affair, skipping all the old people houses and the dead-ends, and places like the top of Foxboro Drive, where you couldn’t cut across to another street, when Dweeb appears in the doorway. He is costumed.
Jukes and Bag immediately stop arguing and stare, open-mouthed.
Dweeb is clad, head-to-foot, in genuine Stormtrooper armor, straight outta Star Wars.
He even had the rifle.
Bag just whistles, a long rolling tweet of amazement, and Jukes, well for the first time in all the years I had known him, Jukes was speechless.
Dweeb looked amazing. We all jumped up and were crowded around him, flinging questions and touching his costume. Jukes ripped the rifle out of Dweeb’s hands and was running around going “Pyoo, pyoo!” at imaginary enemies.
We all chased him, grabbing and yelling and Dweeb was shouting “Gimmebackmygun!”, and Jukes finally took a header over the corner of the coffee table and there was a crash and Jukes starts bawling like he did that time we all took a tumble down Doc Leeson’s back hill and Jukes tore his knee up on a real jagged boulder, and the room stops.
Dweeb is on Jukes in a second, grabbing for his gun, while Bag and Miller run to Jukes and start peppering him with questions and jagging him off for being such a jerk. DV and I say nothing, staring open-mouthed at Dweeb, who is holding the now-broken genuine Stormtrooper rifle, the look on his face, strangely, of acceptance as if he knew, all-along, that this would happen.
Jukes is still bawling about his shin, which is scraped pretty bad, Miller’s got Jukes’ pantleg raked up and he’s poking the bloody slash to piss off Jukes, who howls and tries to hit Miller but misses like he always does.
Bag is still hollering at Jukes, “Why you such a dumbass Jukes, why you such a stupid jagoff? Why you always gotta mess everything up, you stupid jackass? You broke Dweeb’s gun man.”
Dweeb shuffles off towards the garage, his head down like always.
Jukes finally gets Miller off him and he pulls himself into the lounge chair that Dweeb’s dad had saturated with one million stinky farts over the years, and we knew it as the Shit Chair. Jukes was now sitting in the Shit Chair. The rank-out began anew. Bag dropped to the ground clutching his sides, consumed with laughter, screaming “Jukes you’re in the Shit Chair, Shit Chair boy! Jukes is the King of Farts!”
Miller and I started making fart noises as loud and as fast as we can, and DV is bent over, waving his ninja-clad butt at Jukes. Jukes gets out of the chair, fast. He plops onto the floor and then has to scramble away when he realizes he’s still leaning against the orange-brown Shit Chair.
After a few minutes of ragging on Jukes, the group goes quiet again. Dweeb still isn’t back from the garage, and none of us want to go and find him, thinking he’s probably sitting in the dark, crying like a girl, and no one wants to deal with that.
Miller finally gets to his feet, we all knew that if anyone was gonna go check on Dweeb, it would be Miller, but as he’s heading for the garage, Dweeb reappears. His gun is whole and he’s got a strange look on his face, like a smile that couldn’t quite make it all the way to the other side of his face.
Bag said “What gives, Dweeb? You had two guns or what?”, and Dweeb shakes his head and says “Nah. Duct tape and white spray paint. Its still a little wobbly,” and he flexes the gun a little, showing where he taped it, “but it should still be ok, I guess.”
DV lets out a whoop and we scramble into action. The night is young, the candy bowls unplundered and we had hours ahead of us. Up the stairs and out into the sweltering night. This was a rogue night, a summer runaway that had no business lurking in October. The sun had only been down for maybe 20 minutes but it was still almost 80 degrees.
We planned on hitting the rich neighborhood first, the candy was bigger, better, and sometimes you could get more than once piece if the person liked your costume or you were friendly enough.
We even came across a place where they weren’t home and they had left a heaping pile of candy on a silver platter with a sign that said, “Take one”!
Yeah, we took it all. We did leave the platter though. Jukes said we should take it, pawn it at the store, get twenty bucks for it, but Miller told him to shut up, said “We ain’t thieves, man, I ain’t no thief and why the hell you wanna steal stuff for, Jukes? You just gonna spend the money on firecrackers and titty mags anyway! Then you’re broke again, dumbass Jukes! Seriously, man, you need to …” Miller didn’t get to finish his sentence because Jukes had, during this public shaming, been turning a bright shade of red and breathing like a mad bull and when Miller called him a dumbass he bellowed just like one and charged him, head down, exactly like they teach you not to do in football.
They crashed together, Miller was caught off guard and staggered a few steps, but he was built like a brick house, small but solid and Jukes bounced off him and fell to his knees right in the middle of the street. Jukes came up yelling, fists windmilling, head down; the classic angry child’s assault. Miller looked stunned. His eyes were wide and his mouth was open and the rest of the guys were yelling at Jukes to stop and what the hell and I didn’t do anything, I just gawked with the rest of them. We never fought. Never. Maybe some guys did on a regular basis, but we never did. There was nothing to prove. We all knew our places and we didn’t rail against them.
Jukes was breaking the rules. Sure, Miller had jagged him about stealing the plate, but that was nothing worse than what Miller usually gave Jukes crap about, and he called him a dumbass twenty times a day, sometimes.
Jukes had snapped. His eyes were glassy with tears, his mouth was a fanged shred in his face, a roaring babble of cursing and angry glossolalia boomed from it, and he look like he had seen something so terrible that his tiny brain had popped like a water balloon. Like someone had killed his dog and smiled while they did it. While Miller did it.
Jukes launched himself at Miller, crazed animal full of rage and Miller did what only Miller could do, and the way Miller did everything was by not thinking, but by just reacting and making his own luck, his own magic. Miller did a shuffling stutter-step, it looked like a step and a head-bob with a little dance attached to it; any boxer would have recognized it. A fist like a crusty rock appeared out of nowhere, a graceful arc to it, a perfect parabola that ended at Jukes’ head. Not his face or his jaw. Nowhere he could get really hurt, maybe hurt real bad for a long time, not even near his ear. Miller clubbed him on the side of the skull, near the back where it starts to slope down to the neck.
It was like a cartoon almost. The angry, charging bull bearing down on the seemingly innocent man and at the last second the man pulls out a huge sledgehammer and wallops the stars out of the bull, who lays unconscious at his feet.
Jukes was out cold.
We all stood there, no one said anything. Jukes was lying on the ground, and he wasn’t moving.
Miller bent down and checked that he was still breathing. His face had drained of color and his eyes were wide and showing white from the shock of the last 20 seconds.
He goggled at us. He said “I just wanted him to stop. Crazy bastard!”
No one said anything.
That was the end of the our Last Halloween.
We drifted apart after that, to our own lives, to new friends, to new experiences.
Jukes was fine. He never retaliated or anything. We all just pretended like it never happened and we all decided, unspoken, that whatever bonds we had were now dissolved.
I grew up and moved away, and every once in a while, on Halloween, I remember that strange, glorious, terrible, wonderful night.