Crabby McAppleton was probably the meanest man in Vinegarroon County. Children never came anywhere near his house on Halloween because there were no treats there, only tricks.
Tricks that left kids squalling like frozen harpsichords, wet, bedraggled, Jedi warriors without their light sabers, ghosts scared sheetless. Occasionally an angry parent would come a calling but they always left Crabby’s unsatisfied, often at a dead run. After a while people quit trying altogether and left the mean old coot alone.
Which is why he was surprised one Halloween to hear a soft, timid knock at the door.
“Who goes there?” he rumbled, opening the front door, which squeaked in a most annoying manner. Beneath him stood a little girl, one Lisabeth Crunkle, who had approached on a dare and regretted it most wholeheartedly.
“T-trick or treat,” her voice quavered. She held out her sad bag of goodies as Crabby glowered down at her. It had been so long since anyone had dared come to his door that Appleton had neglected to prepare any mean tricks so he was at a loss as to what to do.
Lisabeth’s friends, meanwhile, hid in the shadows, sorry they had ever put her up the scheme.
What is this “eternal love” thing that everyone wants but no one wants to give?
Then Crabby McAppleton did a most unexpected thing—he invited Lisabeth inside!
Her friends were both agog and aghast.
“This is all your fault,” Sylvia Beechnut scolded Brad Antlee.
“What do you mean? I didn’t see you trying to stop her.”
This went on for a few minutes before Sylvia said, “We’ve got to do something. We can’t leave her in there with him.”
“I guess you’re right.”
Reluctantly, the children crept to the window and peeked inside. What they saw amazed them for Lisabeth Crunkle was sitting at a small table opposite Crabby McAppleton who was pouring tea for her.
“Would you care for another petit four, my dear?” he asked, extending a tray piled high with the small, sweet cakes.
“Thank you, sir, don’t mind if I do.” She took several.
“Why, that little pig!” Sylvia gasped. The children didn’t know what to do and argued amongst themselves for quite some time but the sight of their friend stuffing herself quite unselfconsciously with the delicious treats overcame their reserve and they went around to the door where Stanley Turgison knocked meekly.
After a time the door creaked open and there stood the dominating figure of Crabby McAppleton.
“Trick or treat,” they whispered.
He let them stand there for a moment before turning to Lisabeth behind him. “What do you think, my dear? Shall it be a trick?”
“Why, yes Daddy. I would like that ever so much.”
The children saw, to their horror, that their young friend was not seated any more but hovering in the air. There was the smell of sulfur and her eyes glowed like a demon’s. “Hee, hee, hee, hee,” she cackled.
“Ah, yes, my little friends. Let me introduce you to my daughter Lisabeth. She passed away after a long illness in 1954.”
“It was 1955, Daddy.”
The children ran into that dark night as if the hounds of Hades were pursuing them, their sacks of goodies dropped forgotten, followed by sound of delighted laughter.