True to their word, she was ugly.
Her ancient veins puffed up and deflated as whatever passed for blood made its way through them. Her green-tinged face was creased with more wrinkles then there had been time. A large wart on the end of her pointed nose beamed a ready-to-pop crimson. It never would burst, of course, but it was fun for the kids to watch and anticipate the icky mess that would follow.
The Witchiepoo Max had all this and more going for it according to the directions. When plugged into an outdoor socket, she moved a silver tray about in her withered hands with the finely honed, long, purple fingernails, offering brave trick or treaters sweets.
The Canbys were the only people in the neighborhood with the Max. No one ever saw much of them. They were solitary, and that led to all kinds of spooky stories about their true nature. Why they went to the expense of buying this animatronic Halloween figure to give out Charleston Chews was unknown. Perhaps they feared what tricks might happen to their home if they offered nothing. This way, they got to give out candy without anxiety or the need to face their costumed visitors.
The Canbys’ state-of-the-art electronic helper was everything you would expect in a real witch: A black cloak; a large, pointed hat as dark as this moonless night; and a well-worn broom tucked under one leg, as though prepared for flight.
The motion detectors in the Max’s bulbous eyes, which pulsed yellow through the bloodshot markings, sensed approaching children and brought her to “life.” She offered the kids the candy on her tray and uttered a dozen cackle-filled phrases (seemingly from her pointed teeth and shriveled lips), including, “Take some of my offerings, children,” “Halloween is my favorite night of the year,” and “Come closer. I won’t bite you.”
She was a big hit with the tiny superheroes, vampires, princesses, and more. They all giggled at what Witchiepoo could do, and each took one full-sized chocolate-and-marshmallow bar from her shiny tray.
Seven-year-old Joey Salmantini was unsure about walking down the cobblestone path to the Canbys’ front door. He really wanted a Charleston Chew – nobody gave out full-size candy bars anymore, just “fun” size – but that witch. . .
His heavy-set mother had told him they wouldn’t be visiting too many houses because her legs were bothering her again. The entire Salmantini family, Joey included (in school, the mean kids called him “Joey Salami”), was full of bigger people, which made the boy feel embarrassed. He hoped that, in the twilight, no one would see the stretchy fabric his mom had sewn into his extra-large Superman costume so it would fit again this year.
“Joey,” Mom urged him, “go or don’t go.” That chocolate bar in the yellow wrapper was calling his name, and he could see that the supply on the tray was dwindling fast.
Frightened, Joey looked at his mom through the sweaty Superman mask’s eye slits. “Will you come with me?” His mother sighed at the thought. Joey held out one chubby hand. Mom took hold of it (partially out of love, but more to hurry him along), and they began their short trek.
The boy clenched his eyes so he wouldn’t see Witchiepoo. Not a minute later, he slipped and almost fell on his face. Mom caught him, but, like he could read her mind, he heard “Clumsy” rather than “Are you OK, sweetie?”
Joey tried to focus on the chocolate object of his quest. He looked down at his feet as he and Mom slowly approached the house, occasionally stopping or moving aside to make way for other costumed youngsters. To Joey’s ears, the Max spoke more menacingly with each step forward he took:
I’ll get you, my pretty!
What did you bring me this All Hallows’ Eve?
Aren’t you a handsome child?
One more step brought Joey to Witchiepoo. His head was level with the nearly empty candy tray. Mom let go of her son’s hand so he could take a Charleston Chew before they were gone. Maybe then they could go home?
Joey looked up at the black-clad figure looming over him, whispered his part of the transaction – “Trick or treat” – and, relieved, reached for his reward. Witchiepoo grinned widely, which she hadn’t done all night, and let go of the tray. It hit the cobblestones with a clang, scattering the few remaining candy bars at the other trick or treaters’ feet.
She grabbed the boy’s empty hand, pulled him to her, and held him tight. He screamed for help through his mask’s tiny airhole, but the shock of what was happening confused the few adults near the Canbys’ door long enough for Witchiepoo, or whatever it truly was, to mount her broomstick. She cackled and announced, “I won’t need food for a week!” In a flash, the crying trick or treater and the evil thing soared into the moonless night.
Mom screamed. Her son, who was afraid of heights, reluctantly held on to the broom’s “pilot.” The snapped electric cord – ripped from the socket at takeoff – bobbed behind them like a tail, sometimes catching momentarily in Joey’s Superman cape.
The witch was proud of the act she had put on while waiting for just the right child: Plump and meaty. Joey had no idea what awaited him, but he wished he had snagged that Charleston Chew.
This story was published last Halloween by Wyldblood.
Mike has had over 150 audio plays produced in the U.S. and overseas.
He’s won The Columbine Award and a dozen Moondance International Film Festival awards in their TV pilot, audio play, short screenplay, and short story categories.
His prose work has appeared in many magazines and anthologies.
In 2020, his screenplay Die Laughing was a semi-finalist in the Unique Voices Screenplay Competition from Creative Screenwriting Magazine. The following year, his TV pilot script “The Bullying Squad” was a quarter-finalist in the Emerging Writers Genre Screenplay Competition.
Mike is the writer of two short films, Dark Chocolate and Hotline.
In 2013, he won the inaugural Marion Thauer Brown Audio Drama Scriptwriting Competition. In 2020, he came in second. For several of the in-between years, he served as a judge.
Mike keeps a blog at audioauthor.blogspot.com.