A gust of wind momentarily drowned out the sound of my deep, frantic breathing. I raised my arm and discreetly wiped the sweat from my brow. It was a freezing cold night but the adrenaline flowing through my system rendered me oblivious to the icy temperatures. I peered through the leaves, remaining as still as possible . . . waiting. There was serious business to take care of.
It was Halloween night and I was hiding in my mother's flower bed. Dressed from head to toe in black, I was blending in better than a tangerine on the set of Tallafornia. I hated Halloween like I hated townies. For me, it meant spending the first of November scouring the parish for any animals that'd been driven away by the local kids and their fireworks. Believe me, some of our ladies could give Steve McQueen a run for his money.
The garda chopper had been called out on occasions and one year we were close to issuing a missing bovine alert on the local radio. It wasn't just the cattle either, the previous year our poor dog had gone walkabout for a week only to be found the following Sunday in the church vestry. Poor Father Joe got an awful fright.
Halloween was to me what Paddy's day was to the Pioneer association: a pain in the bollocks. It was a separate irk though that had me nestled amongst my mother's geraniums. It had been five years since our pumpkin had lived to see the month of November. It had become something of a tradition for the local children to stick a banger into our jack-o'-lantern and stand at our gate laughing as a monsoon of orange goo rained down on our house.
Having done some research, I discovered that the pumpkin terrorism began the very same night my mother gave out the leftover spuds from the dinner wrapped up in a kitchen towel to a group of trick-or-treaters.
To this day we've tried everything to try and bribe the little brats into leaving our pumpkins be. In 2010, mam handed out Ferrero Rocher but still our pumpkin was pulverised. The following year a slab of ice cream bigger than Marty Morrissey's forehead sandwiched between two wafers (the expensive ones) hadn't been enough to fend off the pumpkin Jihad.
I whipped out my phone and cupped my hands around the screen to prevent the back-light giving my position away (I'd seen it in a movie). It was 7.30, they should have been here by now. Had they spared our pumpkin? Would he finally get to see a crisp November sunrise? I thought about vacating my position. I'd somehow managed to get compost into my left sock and it was beginning to get uncomfortable. I'd had my weekly shower already.
A murmur from down the road brought about a resumption of stealth mode. I was a shadow, a creature of the night, a ninja; perfectly camouflaged and at one with the darkness, there was no way I could . . .
'Flash! Ooooooooooooohh. Saviour of the universe.'
Damn it. "Mam what's wrong, I'm out in the garden trying to catch these little whoors," I whispered down the phone.
"What? Yeah, I want gravy. Wait is it the stuff out of the packet?. . . Ah for God's sake Ma, no I don't want that shite, I'm alright. OK, OK, OK, I have to go. Bye, bye-bye-bye-bye-bye-bye."
I put away my phone, cursing the fact that I would be forced to dine on dry roast beef that evening. The voices on the road grew louder. They were getting close. I began to make out what they were saying and indeed, who was behind the mystery voices. I could tell that one of them was Bobby Cadden; a little toe-rag from down the road. He was the cockiest, cheekiest little bastard you could meet, but probably the best under 12 in the parish. It was a case of give the ball to Bobby in games and expecting him to pass it was like expecting the Pope to endorse one of Rihanna's music videos. I'd hated him ever since he'd made a fart noise while I was giving the under 10s a pep-talk at a training session.
I looked on as the group of lads crept down our driveway and headed for our lantern. Every fibre in my body urged me to leap out and batter the intruders but with all my might I resisted. Revenge was a dish best served cold. I was on a reconnaissance mission, gathering info; identifying who it was that was vapourising our festive fruit year after year.
Though it was impossible to tell through the darkness, a split-second spark from the lighter illuminated the culprit's face as he ignited his banger.
Cadden, you little shit.
* * * * *
I sprang up from the couch as the doorbell rang.
"I'll get these ones Ma!" I bellowed as I jogged towards the front door. I eagerly swung it open and surveyed the scene before me. Four fresh young faces glowed back at me. Unfortunately, none of them belonged to young Cadden. Disappointed, I lazily dipped my hand into the nearby treat basket and threw a few sweets out before slamming the door shut in their faces. Maybe he wasn't coming?
But I hadn't even reached the couch before the bell sounded again.
Sure enough it was him and his mates. Their faces oozed innocence. The cheek. I reached for some sweets, as well as some bottles of fizzy orange that I'd 'prepared earlier'.
I managed a wink and a smile as they left, resisting the urge to cackle like an evil genius.
I was still laughing quietly to myself as I walked into the bathroom to dispose of the evidence. I wrapped the empty laxative bottles up in toilet roll and placed them in the bin.
Bobby and the lads were in for an explosive Halloween.
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