On Halloween, the parents sent their kids out looking like me.
— Rodney Dangerfield
So, I was chauffeuring, chatting, teasing my mother-in-law and her 94-year-old older sister, both riding in the back seat of my car. I asked them what costumes they had planned for the senior center Halloween party.
“I don’t know, ”my mother-in-law responded. “What will you be wearing?”
I tried to be nonchalant.
“I usually went trick-or-treating as a devil,” I said. “Sometimes I was a pirate or a skeleton, but every other year I seemed to go to the devil.”
They kept listening, so I kept talking.
“It was Mama’s idea when I was 5 or 6. Who knows why?” (I thought I heard two snickers.)
“Store-bought costumes weren’t in the budget, so she sewed a little devil costume. Probably made it out of an old bed sheet. Cheaper, you know. Soaked it in red dye.”
My audience appeared curious where this story was leading. Frankly, so was I, and continued.
“I wasn’t really a bad devil … Just mischievous. (pronouncing it mis-CHEE-vee-US, like my Sunday school teachers used to.)
“I’d hide my sisters’ dolls or chase their cats, or (my favorite) lock myself in our only bathroom and just read a book for an hour, while they begged to be allowed inside because … they had to go.
“They would give up trying the door knob and eventually run off to to tell my mother. That’s when I’d quietly slip out of the bathroom, but leave the door closed.
“When they returned with Mom in tow, she would try the door and it would open easily. Their credibility shot, they usually didn’t go looking for me. That was good because I was usually now hiding under their bed, ready to grab an unsuspecting ankle.”
My passengers laughed politely.
“Around fifth grade,” I said, “I outgrew the costume, so I just wore the mask. Then it disappeared.”
“Did you really do all that?” my great-aunt-in law asked while I waited for a light to change.
“I don’t doubt it,” my mother-in-law answered before I could.
“Yes,” I assured both my passengers. “I even returned to deviltry in college.
“I had a cheap devil mask from a fraternity Halloween party (old habit) and kept it. A few months later a bunch of us decided to go see the movie The Exorcist and I slipped it under my coat.
“Somewhere during the movie’s heightened suspense, I put the mask on. Then I began to slowly turn and look at the people seated me around me.”
“What happened?” two voices asked me from the behind.
“It was suggested I leave, so I did,” I said. “Never did see the ending, but I imagine the devil got blamed for a lot of stuff that he really didn’t do.
“I know what that’s like,” I assured them.
Reach Bill Kirby at email@example.com.