"'Beggars' Night" is a free-verse poem about Halloween in the Monster House. The fun begins when the doorbell rings...
My wife was in the kitchen,
carefully killing Hershey Kisses with a mallet,
when the doorbell rang.
"Stall them!" she said urgently,
pushing me toward the door.
I opened the door and found
six ghosts on the porch.
Some of them wore modern clothes
and held plastic pumpkin buckets.
Others, dressed for earlier eras,
clutched paper bags or pillowcases.
"Trick or treat!" they chorused.
"Guys," I said gently,
"it's not even all the way dark yet."
Indeed, I could scarcely see them,
their translucent forms faded by the setting sun.
"Your porchlight is already on,"
the tallest one said, pointing to
the burned-out bulb in its gaslamp sconce.
Right. The bogeyman and the lurking shadow
had been helping with the decorations.
"Okay, okay," I said,
lifting my hands in surrender.
"Let me go see if the candy is ready."
My wife handed me some of the dead kisses,
hammered into little silver coins.
"This is all we have so far,"
she said. "The caramel-corn pops
are still in the oven and
haven't cooked down to carbon yet."
When I got back to the door,
the little old lady ghost
was standing on the porch,
cooing over the children.
I gave a handful of candy to each of the kids
and left the rest of the bag with her.
Then I went back inside.
Just then the bogeyman came downstairs
dressed as Mary Poppins.
"I smell something burning," he said.
"We're making caramel-corn pops,"
"Honey!" my wife hollered.
"I need the fan to clear some of this smoke
out of the kitchen!"
I went upstairs to find the portable fan.
When I came back down,
the little old lady ghost
floated through the door
and waved her empty hands at me.
High traffic night already.
"Stall them," I advised her over my shoulder
as I lugged the big box fan into the kitchen.
I heard the doorbell ring
and the door open.
"Duuude! Great costume!"
yelled the bogeyman,
and cracked up laughing.
I put the fan down, then
returned to the living room to see
Death standing on the porch
dressed as a bunny.
He wore fluffy white mittens
and floppy white ears with pink velvet lining.
Black whiskers and a pink nose adorned
a little white cheek-mask stuck over his bare skull.
Above the mask, his eyes glowed like sparks
in their boney sockets.
He had covered the blade of his scythe
with crinkly gold foil.
"Why are you wearing a lampshade?"
Death said to the lurking shadow.
The lurking shadow shimmied,
making the fringe dance on the pumpkin-orange lampshade.
"I am a lightbulb," he declared. "See me shine."
Then he turned on the flashlight underneath the fringe.
"Let me just go find the goodies
that we made for adults in impressive costumes,"
the bogeyman said to Death,
then headed into the kitchen.
My wife came out carrying a basket
full of carbonized caramel-corn pops,
along with another bag of kisses.
"Here, this should hold them for a while,"
she said, handing everything to me.
"Stick around," I said to Death.
"You can help us kill more candy."
The doorbell bonged. Once again,
the little old lady ghost and I
passed around the treats.
We waved at the shimmering children
as they scampered down the steps.
The bogeyman came back
with a cereal bowl full of rum balls
still soaking in rum.
With a flourish, he set the rum on fire
and handed the whole bowl to Death.
"None of that low-fat, good-for-you nonsense
for us," he said.
The grinning reaper laughed
and munched on his rum balls.
"Now this," he said, "is a treat to die for."