I feel bad for the pumpkin jack-o-lanterns that dot our street. Gouged by overzealous parents, their vegetable mouths have already started to pucker. Life in the natural world is kind, though. Tossed out like garbage and abandoned in land fills, those Jacks will return to the earth. Eventually.
I exchange laughs with the great big fat ones across the street. Their owners use electric candles that blink like strobelights. We place a bet for which kid will fall down in a seizure. It happened once years ago but I'm the only one who remembers. My plastic memory last longer than my batteries.
Quiet! A little girl approaches.
I flash my lights a little brighter. I take pride in being a good performer.
She gingerly takes a step. She's dressed as Little Red Riding Hood.
I wonder where her parents are and make out a disheveled shadow standing back on the sidewalk, hands glued to his phone.
I shine my light a little brighter. Some kids need more encouragement than others.
"Daddy?" the little girls squeaks.
Daddy keeps staring at his phone. It casts a ghostly pall on his already pale face.
I hear a grunt. We both take this as a yes.
The little girl crouchs over her candy pail, making herself small. She looks around the dark entryway. My owners usually go overboard with the holiday and turn the whole front yard into an animatronic scarefest. The porch would normally be lit up like a dozen Christmas trees haunted by ghosts and goblins and sometimes my owners disguised as scarecrows waiting to pounce.
They're getting divorced this year. All my Halloween friends languish in storage, their fates unknown. A plate of candy on a chair and I are all that's left to tell the world this household is celebrating.
The clouds advance quickly, smothering the moon. It's dark. I suck out more juice from my batteries and glow brighter.
The little girl looks behind her and sees her daddy still looking at his phone. He looks up, we can both sense his scowl in the dark.
"C'mon, we have the whole block left," he bellows.
She nods bravely.
A small hand reaches out for the candy dish. I shine as bright as can. My owners should have change my batteries. I will forgive them more than they've forgiven each other.
The little girl grabs the first piece of candy she can and runs back to her father. In her rush she stumbles down the stairs, taking me with her. As she hits the pavement, so do I.
My light goes out.
Face down I can still hear and feel the ground beneath me. A rush of heavy footsteps is followed by gruff words. I see the little girl out of the corner of my eye being lifted up and away.
A sneakered foot kicks me away.
At least now I can gaze up at the stars and wait. I wonder where my owners will carry me off to.