Saturday, September 15, 2012

Trick or Treatin' Jesus Christ.

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I was fortunate enough to grow up in the last decade of the truly old-fashion Halloweens. It was a time when cavities, stomachaches and Ouija boards were the only things that conjured up fear. Abductions, child obesity and candy tainted with poison or razor blades were scary ghosts of future generations. Back then, there were no bite-size candy bars. Each was as big as our fists and when gathered in an old pillowcase, weighed as much we did. It was a era when a kid could be, well...just a kid. And on Halloween night all the kids on my street rushed home from the school bus; crammed a hurried dinner down their throat and put on their costumes. One could see little eyes peeking through fogged windows excited and impatiently waiting for the streetlight at the corner to come on. Its shimmering mercury glow announced to the neighborhood that darkness had arrived; it was time for the bewitching hour to begin.

Like potions in a black cauldron, ghouls, ghosts, and goblins magically appeared on the streets and mixed and mingled with their counter parts: angels, princesses and on that particular year, the greatest of all evil eradicators, the Prince of Peace.

For as long as I’d been Trick or Treating, I had also been going to Sunday school. When I was nine years old, I took the greatest step a Christian boy could take and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Shortly thereafter, I was baptized in front of the entire congregation of Bellefontaine Baptist Church. As a born-again Christian, it was my duty to put off the old sinful ways of a normal boy and start learning to be a good boy. This meant I had to stop doing the “bad” things my old self had already gotten used to; like riding my bike off the roof of Mr. Dotson’s shed, shooting my brother with the BB gun and sticking those soggy toilet paper wads on the ceiling of the boy’s bathroom.

I was a new creature in Christ; a born-again boy, one who went to bed on time and took out the trash when I was told only two or three times. I even said my nightly prayers. So when Halloween came around that year of my Christian conversion, I decided I wasn’t ever going to dress up like anything evil again. No bloody vampires. No fanged werewolves. Not even a crazed zombie, the easiest of all evil costumes to create. I was on the straight and narrow path of Goodness and my Halloween costume had to reflect my piety.

And so it came to be, one Sabbath morning as I was walking from Sunday School into what mom like to call Big Church, I strolled by a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall with a shower of lights shining upon it. He was standing at a door and had a peaceful and loving countenance about him as his right hand stretched out as if he were knocking on the door. I stopped and reverently observed the picture. Hmmm. Jesus. Door. Knocking. I got an idea. No, it was more then an idea. It was an inspiration from God!

I hustled home and rummaged through my closet and found an old raggedy pair of sandals. I then borrowed my old man’s terry-cloth robe; found a straggly pirate’s beard from a past costume and when I put them all together, I was the world’s first, and to the best of my knowledge, the only—Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ.

Can I hear an Amen?

I had the costume but there was something missing. Everyone knows that Jesus loved to hand out those little colorful pamphlets so several weeks before the big day, I asked Mr. Cain, my Sunday school teacher, if I could have a handful of those thingies the missionaries gave out. He explained to me they were called “tracks’ and told me they were brief stories on how a person could go to heaven and live with God for eternity. He then asked me why I wanted them. I smiled proudly, stuck out my chest and announced, “I’m going to be a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ for Halloween.”

Now Mr. Cain had known me my entire life and he had known my un-saved character. When a goldfish showed up in the baptismal tank one Sunday, he knew the culprit behind the devilish deed. When the choir sat down one beautiful morning after singing, “Just As I Am” and the echo of a farting whoppie cushion resonated pass the pews and into the front foyer, Mr. Cain, along with the rest of the laughing congregation, turned a raise eyebrow in my direction. The thought of me acting saintly in any manner, made him chuckle out loud but he gave me a box of tracks anyway.
The final days of October dragged on like Reverend Elsworth’s closing prayers; torturing my soul and sweet tooth with anticipation. They say an idle mind is the Devil’s playground so to kill some time I drew up a map of all the un-saved people in my neighborhood. The Heathens. The Lost Sinners. The ones who needed to hear the Word of the Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ.

 I circled the Bergsteins and Kohens houses on my map with a big red marker. The Dodridges with their loud rock and roll music blasting away at all times of the day and night also got circled. But the one house who needed salvation more than any other; the one surely on a one way train to Hell was our next door neighbor, the Kennison’s. It wasn’t really “the Kennison’s” who needed to be saved; it was Mr. Kennison specifically. Mrs. Kennison was as nice as a playful kitten. She’d sometimes make us Kool-aid ice cubes and there wasn’t a summer when she wasn’t handing a bag full of delicious, juicy tomatoes over the fence to mom. However, Mr. Kennison, was a totally different character. He always had a mean and strained look on his face like he was eternally constipated. He couldn’t talk in a normal voice, he was constantly screaming as if he was talking to someone while pushing a lawnmower. At night when his dog wouldn’t come in right away, he’d curse so loud and long that stray dogs often showed up on his porch just to shut him up. But what made Mr. Kennison the meanest man on the block wasn’t any of that; it was the fact that he shot squirrels with his pellet gun. At least that’s what mom said made him the meanest man on the street.
While Mrs. Kennison spent most of her life planting flowers and vegetables in her garden that would make the caretakers of the Garden of Eden jealously green with envy, Mr. Kennison made a career of swooshing away birds and rabbits and shooting squirrels on the prowl for a ripe tomato or tulip bulb.
“And that’s just mean!” My mom would say and I’d shake my head in solemn agreement but secretly inside the thought of shooting a squirrel with a pellet gun was deliciously exciting and conjured up more delight in my mind then the aforementioned shooting my brother with a BB gun. It was the adolescent ecstasy and the envy of every boy on the block. But I was no longer like every boy on the block. I was a re-borned boy.

The big night arrived and I quickly transformed into the Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ and a second after the mercury streetlight shined, I hurried over to the Kennison’s house.
Knock, Knock. I pounded.
Mr. Kennison’s grimacing face opened the door.
“Tricketh or treateth, ye participant of this pagan holiday.” I commanded in my best Jesus voice.
Mr. Kennison starred down and inquired.
“What the hell are you, a hippy?”
“No. I’m Jesus Christ.” I announced.
That threw him off a bit but at the same time mildly amused him for a second then he said, “Well that’s nice but even Jesus doesn’t get any candy without a joke. Do you know one?”
I eagerly shook my head yes and said, “Pretend that I’m in heaven. OK?”
Mr. Kennison agreed.
“Knock, knock.” I chanted.
“Who’s there?” he replied.
“Not you, you sinner!” And with those words, I handed him a track that explained in full-color cartoons how he could live forever in heaven. Then I gave him a loving Jesus smile and turned to save the rest of the neighborhood.

The dark night was going heavenly. I was witnessing to ghosts and goblins and aspiring to lay healing hands on the prettiest witches that passed me by; sometimes they’d drop their pillowcases full of candy and run. I’d simply pick them up and tossed them into mine and preach as they scurried away.
“The riches of the wicked are stored up for the righteous!”
I’m not sure, but I think I may have even talked a Scooby Doo into becoming a Christian.

My mission had got me so wrapped up that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going and suddenly I found myself standing on a street beyond the boundaries of my Trick or Treatin’ zone established by my mom and dad. Across the way was a group of kids standing in front of a house that I could have swore was used in that horror movie my parents refused to let me see. You know the one, where the woman gets stabbed in the shower? In the silent of the night I could plainly hear each kid double dog daring the other to race up the path and knock on the front door of this haunted mansion. No one was accepting one another’s challenge.
It was then when one of the boys noticed me standing curiously by myself on the other side of the street. Maybe it was the Bozo or maybe it was the Batman, but whoever made the comment thought he was being funny when he loudly shouted.
“Hey look its Jesus. Let’s see if he’ll do it!”

They all turned and looked at me and I knew in an instant what they were thinking.
Now I had been going to church my entire life and I knew one thing for a fact; Jesus wasn’t scared of ANYTHING. And since I was a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ, it was up to me to be just as fearless. So I said a silent prayer to Him and proceeded to walk bravely up that dark path past the smoking tombstones, through the gigantic cobwebs and over the body parts sprawled out across the lawn.
In the back of my mind, I thought I could hear the theme song of the Twilight Zone playing as I approached the house but it wasn’t just my imagination it really was blaring on the television behind the window as I stepped onto the porch. On the door hung a sign that said, “Trick or Treaters will be eaten and below the words was a picture of a cauldron with what looked to be young arms and legs floating in a brew stirred by an evil witch. This door looked nothing like the door Jesus was knocking on in the picture at church. The thought weighed heavily on my mind as I knocked loud enough for my heathen spectators to hear. A moment later everything in the house went silent.

And then black.

“It’s time.” A low evil voice whispered from behind the door.
I have to admit, I shook. I didn’t want to shake, I was there on a mission from God and therefore I was supposed to be bold and brave in the face of my enemies, not to mention, the entire throng of kids watching me. But the voice that grumbled on the other side of the door sounded so eerie, so bone-chilling cold that my heart began beating twice its normal speed which sent electromagnetic shocks down my spine that caused every limb from my nose to my toes to pulsate and quiver.

I stood there shaking. I didn’t risk knocking again. I rationalized in my small, possibly soon-to-be-eaten brain that maybe they didn’t hear the knock or they’d ignore it and go back to watching the Twilight Zone. I would live and could walk proudly back and say in a smug and religiously demeaning voice, “No one was home.” But the darkness from inside the house broke and a glowing red light permeated from beneath the bottom of the door, coloring my trembling toes red.
I could feel the cowardly Trick or Treaters standing in the street take a deep gasp in unison that tugged at the back of my robe. In a sad sense, I was mildly happy and relieved that they were there to act as witnesses should I become a ten year old Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ martyr.

Clonk. Silence. Clonk. Silence. Clonk.
Footsteps came closer and closer.
The handle turned slowly and the door squeaked open.
With each parting inch, red light poured forth until an ocean of amber flowed from the doorway momentarily blinding me. When I gathered my eyesight, there standing in the horror of a little kid’s way was Satan.

Now in my nine years of treat or treating, I had seen many Satans. Heck, they were as common as witches and hobos. But this wasn’t your normal everyday Halloween Satan. This was the biggest, most horrific, evilest-looking Prince of Darkness I had ever seen in my life. His horns weren’t attached to his head with a black plastic headband like the kind they sold at Ben Franklin. They actually protruded from his forehead and his eyes were bloodshot and possessed. But what validated to my soul that this was the REAL Satan, was the glowing cigarette bobbing between his lips. Only the real Satan would be puffing on a Winston.
He gave an evil laugh and I watched in horror as the cherry on the end of the cigarette bounce up and down. It hypnotized me just long enough not to notice the chain saw he was holding in his hands.
He held it up over his head and pulled the handle.
A burst of grey smoke and a Ggggrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggrrrrrrrr rang out around my ears.
My brain instantly shouted to my kidneys,
“Pee! Go ahead Harry, pee in your pants. It’s OK, just do it. NOW!!!”
And I would have too, had I not been wearing my dad’s robe and I didn’t have an audience of my peers standing behind me. Right there, I would have diddled in my drawers like a toddler in training pants.

They say in extreme tragic situations people often display signs of supernatural power. Old ladies have been known to lift cars off of loved ones and children have been known to jump out of four story burning buildings without a scratch. In that instant, something supernatural happen to me; I actually felt like I was Jesus Christ and did what any ten year old Jesus Christ would do; I hauled off and kicked him square in the groin and ran like hell.
I think I heard a faint groan and perhaps he may have cut himself in two with the chainsaw but I didn’t care. I didn’t even look. I just bolted down that sidewalk and into the street. The group of kids watching the whole nightmare parted like the Red Sea and I ran through them. And I ran. And ran. And I didn’t stop running until my holy feet hit the heaven of my front porch.

That was the last time I was ever a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ. For many years I kept the whole story secret. Mostly because I was ashamed of my cowardliness and felt that I had let Jesus down. But I got older and as I look back at it all, it’s rather humorous and now I share my story to whoever wants to lend an eager ear. To this day, I can honestly say, I’ve never met anyone who could say they’ve had the nerve or the pleasure of kicking Satan in his privates.

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