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Early vampire turns me into a sucker

Columnist Dan Conradt says when Halloween visitors come early, the random candy in the house can either be a fantastic treat or a horrible trick.

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I felt disoriented, the way you often do when you’re awakened in the middle of a Sunday-afternoon nap. Where am I? What time is it? What day is it?

Finding a vampire at the door didn’t help.

“Trick or treat!” he said through the screen, fangs slurring his words.

He was dapper in a Bela Lugosi kind of way. Make-believe blood had trickled from the corner of his mouth and stood out brightly against pasty-white skin. The stiff collar of a flowing black cape framed his face and matched the color of his Brylcreemed hair.

He was adjusting a clip-on bow tie when I answered the door.

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At 4 feet tall, he might have been more “Eddie Munster” than “Bela Lugosi”.

And he was a week early. I think.

I wasn’t having much luck shaking-off the post-nap disorientation, and the mini-Dracula cleared up some of my confusion: “It’s me … Michael.”

Michael was a friend’s son and lived around the corner from my house. Three years earlier I’d been invited to his sixth birthday party, which happened to be on the day the Vikings played the Packers; the purple-and-yellow frosting on the cake and crock pot of cocktail wieners made me wonder if the party was really for Michael or his dad.

“Hey, Michael.” I said, pushing the screen door open. Part of the mystery had been solved, but there was still the question of timing.

“Aren’t you a little bit … early?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said, and the look on his face went from menacing to disappointed. “We’re going to my grandma’s house next weekend, and I’ll have to go trick-or-treating there. I wanted to stay here so me and my friends could go trick-or-treating together, but my mom said I’ll have to wait until next year.”

Then he smiled a big smile that looked out of place on the face of a 9-year old vampire.

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“My mom bought this costume from a catalog. She said I should come show it to you.” He held out his arms, and the cape flared like a pair of oversized bat wings.

That still didn’t explain the plastic jack-o-lantern.

“You look awesome, Michael.” I said. “Hey, you know where a vampire keeps his money? In a blood bank.”

Vampires apparently don’t have a sense of humor.

“Well, uh … have fun at your grandma’s house. Tell your mom and dad I said ‘Hi.’”

But I’d overlooked the “treat” part of “trick-or-treat”.

He gave the plastic pumpkin a discreet shake that reminded me of the bellman who carries your bag to a hotel room, then lingers uncomfortably until you realize he’s waiting for a tip.

I hadn’t gotten my Halloween candy yet, and the only treat I had in the house was a chocolate bar I’d bought from a co-worker whose daughter was selling them as a school fund raiser. It cost me eight dollars, but it was a huge candy bar … a pound of dark chocolate with almonds. I was planning to eat it while binge-watching Alfred Hitchcock next weekend.

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Then I remembered the mints.

They were in an antique ceramic bowl that once belonged to my grandmother. The bowl had become a catch-all for things that would be easily lost without a home of their own … paper clips, a couple of postage stamps, 11 pennies and an assortment of mints that had come with restaurant checks.

Some of them were nearly as antique as the ceramic bowl.

I gave Michael’s plastic pumpkin a surreptitious glance. Empty.

A handful of mints would look pretty chintzy all alone in there, especially if most of them were wearing little wrappers with the name of a pizza parlor and an invitation to “Please call again.”

And I did eat a lot of those little cocktail wieners.

I reluctantly pulled the chocolate bar out of a kitchen cabinet.

“Wow!” he said as I slipped the treat into the smiling jack-o-lantern. “Thanks, Dan!”

He jumped off the porch and ran toward home, vampire cape flapping behind him.

I hope he doesn’t tell his friends about the treat he got at my house; I could just imagine word spreading through the third-grade grapevine that I was handing-out family-sized candy bars.

Dark chocolate with almonds.

I’m afraid everyone else is going to be disappointed.

Because everyone else is going to get a mint.

Dan Conradt, a lifelong Mower County resident, lives in Austin with his wife, Carla Johnson.

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