Elsie watched studiously as her mother, Laura, stretched and pulled a mouth-watering batch of salt water taffy. It was Elsie’s favorite of all the treats that her mother prepared every Halloween.
Around the kitchen were several more goodies including orange-colored popcorn balls, caramel apples, suckers, peanut brittle and the Holiday themed ‘graveyard fudge’, which featured a gummy worm on each delicious piece. Even though modern times called for store-bought candy, all of the neighborhood parents fully endorsed Laura’s traditional values and enjoyed the treats along with their children on Halloween night.
“Would you like to help mommy?” Laura asked.
Elsie nodded her head up and down enthusiastically while Laura placed a small piece of the sticky sweet substance in her palms. The candy felt warm and gooey in Elsie’s hands as she proceeded to mimic her mother’s taffy-pulling method.
“Daddy’s going to be home soon to take you and your brother trick or treating. Did you decide which costume you’re going to wear this year?”
“I’m going to be a princess this year, mommy!” Elsie replied, her little five-year old hands working the taffy diligently.
“I see.” Laura smiled and reached her hands out to relieve Elsie of her duties. “Why don’t you go ahead and get dressed sweetie. You can help mommy finish afterward.”
Elsie responded with a huge grin as she tore off through the kitchen and family room toward her bedroom down the hall. Next to Christmas, Halloween was Elsie’s favorite holiday, and she was terribly excited to see what wonderful candy she could collect this year on her trick-or-treating adventure.
“Devin!” Laura called out to Elsie’s older brother. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, mom,” he replied from the family room where he was playing video games. Devin was excited about Halloween too, but his first priority was conquering the new “Dragon Masters” video game he had received for his birthday just two days earlier.
Laura turned her attention back to the taffy as she began rolling it into rope-like strands for cutting. This year, she had chosen to make the taffy cherry flavored so that the red color would seem natural. Laura had only included a slight amount of Mr. Dumont’s blood in the corn syrup / water mixture she used to make the taffy, but the crimson-red tinge would have made it difficult to use any other color.
“I’m home, honey.”
Laura heard her husband, Gary, walk in the front door and address Devin about the absence of his costume. She was annoyed with her son’s disregard of her instructions, but soon the situation was remedied as Gary shut off the video game and whisked Devin away to his bedroom to get changed.
“How was your day?” He asked as he walked into the kitchen and hung his car keys on the empty hook beneath the large ‘Countdown to Halloween’ calendar.
“Busy,” Laura responded wide-eyed. She began cutting the ropes of taffy and placing small, one-inch pieces of it on pre-cut wax paper wrappers.
“Looks good.” Gary snatched a piece of taffy under Laura’s watchful eye. “Cherry. Nice choice,” he added with a wink.
Laura smirked back at him since Gary knew exactly why she had chosen that flavor. He moved in closer and gave her a kiss, the cherry flavoring on his lips making for a sweet moment of romantic bliss.
“You know we did the right thing?” Gary said as he allowed for a few inches of space between himself and Laura. “I know our beliefs are our own and we promised never to force them upon anyone else. However, Mr. Dumont deserved what he got.”
“Oh, I’m in full agreement my dear.” Laura turned her attention back to the taffy. “Mr. Dumont is going to give back a little piece of himself this Holiday to every one of the households he terrorized in some way or another.”
Laura’s mind turned back to the first time she and her husband had met Mr. Dumont nearly 10 years ago. He was a cranky old man who always seemed to go out of his way to cast darkness over his fellow neighbors. She couldn’t remember a week having gone by without an incident of him yelling at one of the neighborhood children for playing too close to his yard or making too much noise while he was trying to take a nap.
Laura’s tolerance of Mr. Dumont finally came to an end a few days ago when Elsie came home crying as a result of Elsie’s cat, “Mr. Whiskers”, disappearing. It was well known that Mr. Dumont made open threats about anyone’s pet that happened to wander on to his property, and over the years many of the pets living around the neighborhood had disappeared under suspicious circumstances. When Laura confronted him and he did nothing to deny his involvement, she decided it was Mr. Dumont’s turn to disappear.
“What’s that wonderful smell?” Gary inquired.
“Meatloaf,” Laura responded with a devilish grin. “And, it’s ready, so would you please round up the kids? I want them to have something of substance in their stomachs before they indulge in all that candy.”
“Kids!” Gary shouted from the kitchen. “Dinner’s ready!”
Laura rolled her eyes at her husband’s method of summoning their children. Elsie ran into the kitchen and dove in to her chair wearing her princess outfit while Devin followed closely behind sporting his Darth Maul costume.
“Meatloaf?” Devin groaned. “But, mom, we always have pizza Halloween night.”
“Not this Halloween,” Laura affirmed. “This year, we’re celebrating All Hallows’ Eve in the tradition your father and I grew up with. A home cooked meal made with a very special and secret,” she leaned in toward Elsie and gave her a slight tickle on her belly, “recipe.”
“What’s the secret, mommy?” Elsie giggled.
“I’ll tell you some day when you’re older.” Laura looked over to her husband to share in the ‘inside joke’.
While Laura and her husband had grown up in more traditional households that engaged in ‘unique’ culinary practices monthly, they only indulged in the family tradition on rare occasions. The world had become extremely public, making it difficult to get away with anything, especially when coupled with all of the advances in forensic science. In fact, the only other time in the last couple of years they had participated in such an act was when they ‘removed’ a convicted child molester from their community the previous summer.
“You kids ready to go trick-or-treat?” Gary asked as he stuffed a large bite of meatloaf into his mouth. Thoughts of vindication for his daughter’s pet, as well as relief from Mr. Dumont’s constant harassment of everyone in the neighborhood, made the delicacy that Laura had prepared that much more savory.
“I am, dad!” Devin responded, as he chugged down his glass of milk.
“I’m a princess, Daddy!” Elsie added enthusiastically.
“And a beautiful one at that,” Gary acknowledged. “Now kids, let’s make sure to invite everyone we see tonight to drop by the house later for our famous post trick-or-treating party. Your mother has worked extra hard this year to give everyone a very special treat.”
Both Elsie and Devin nodded affirmatively as they jumped up from their chairs to go grab their goodies bags.
“Guess that means they’re ready,” Gary chuckled as he stood up from the table and grabbed his keys back off the hook. “I promise we won’t be too long, honey.”
“Make sure you’re not, my dear husband.” Laura unwrapped a dark red sucker and placed it seductively in her mouth. “Because after all the trick-or-treating and parties are done with, you and I have our own All Hallows’ Eve tradition to celebrate.”
“I love traditions,” Gary added with a knowing grin.
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