Chocolate Beggars

Helen Huang, Staff Reporter

EMMA BOISSE

I stare at my ten-year-old sister. In her costume, Kristy looks like a skinny Christmas tree.

Wearing a dress adorned with tree ornaments would be okay if it were actually December. But it’s not. The sidewalks are buried in fallen leaves, not mounds of snow that haven’t been seen since last year. That one family who already has its lights up isn’t getting any compliments on them. Maybe that’s why the mom hurried to the pumpkin patch an hour ago, to make their house fit in better on Halloween night.

I grimace and rub my braided bracelets, swipe at my messy brown hair. Halloween. Stupid, stupid holiday. It’s that time when it’s legal for annoying strangers to crowd on your porch to beg for free candy. Some get offended when they read the KEEP CALM AND GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE poster I always put up, so over the years I’ve also had to deal with muttered curses, angry parents, and a giant obscene sign drawn on my door with black Sharpie.

Honestly, if those people want all that candy, they can just move on to the next house. Mine doesn’t have decorations for a reason. Unless you count that Sharpie drawing, which seems to have its own special effect.

Kristy tugs on my sweater sleeve, bringing my attention back to her. “Come on, Emma,” she says, in that sweet, high-pitched whine of hers that can win over any heart except mine. I avoid looking at her face, which is painted a ghastly monster green. “The sun’s going down. Everyone’s already outside trick-or-treating. Let’s go!”

I groan and remove her sticky fingers from my sleeve. The red fuzz has already trapped beads of her sweat. Ew. “No, you can go alone,” I snap. “You’re ten, not some baby in a stroller. Mom dropped you over here so you could trick-or-treat while she was on a date. She never mentioned babysitting to me.” I stride across my cramped living room, past the rickety sofa arm she’s sitting on. “By the way,” I add, pausing before entering the kitchen, “Get off the arm, Kristy. You’re too heavy to be on there, and heavens know I don’t have the money to buy new furniture.” I snort and mutter to myself, “Good old college debts.”

I’m feeling the beginnings of a chocolate craving, so I head towards the painfully small refrigerator. I throw open the door and scan the shelves. Soggy burger buns, packaged hot dogs, a couple Pepsi cans in the very back corner. None of the expensive gourmet chocolate I love. Ugh. I sigh, close the door, and lean against the kitchen wall. It has peeling paint, like the rest of my apartment-sized house. Everything stinks of poverty here, save for the two golden boxes stacked on my counter, which, unfortunately, do not hold any more of their cocoa-dusted truffles.

Clunks ring against the wooden floorboards. I glance up and see Kristy staggering into the kitchen in her cheap high heels. She stops by the plastic dining table and crosses her arms in her kiddish way. She looks more pouty than usual.

I suppress the urge to roll my eyes. “Okay,” I begin. “Kristy, I’ve already said it, you can go trick-or-treating by yourself. There’s hordes of families out there, little kids just like you. No one’s going to be stupid enough to hurt you.”

“No,” Kristy huffs. Her eyes narrow, and her chin juts out. Her standard stance of defiance. “You know Mom wouldn’t want me to go alone. I’ll be scared, Em. There’s that new place with creepy things. I don’t want to go there by myself!”

I twist my bracelets in frustration. “Don’t call me Em. And if you don’t want to see zombies and skeletons, just don’t approach that house.”

“But everyone’s saying they have the biggest candy bars!”

“And there are a hundred other places with lots of the same candy.” I brush past my sister and grab my polka-dotted coffee mug from the table. “It’s always the same stuff,” I call over my shoulder. “Mass-produced, horrible taste. No need to go there, Kristy.” After all, the world has Godiva.

“Please, Emma? I’ll be good, I promise.” Kristy has switched tactics. Her voice is more innocent now, pleading. She peers up at me with puppy dog eyes.

Cute enough to make others go ‘Aww!”, maybe, but not me.

“No.” I make myself sound harsh, to discourage her from any more whining.

Please!”

“No!”

“Please, oh please, oh please…”

“I told you, no.”

Kristy huffs again and turns away. I toss a strand of my hair out of my eyes, straighten my bracelets while holding the mug. “I’m going to be right in my room with some nice coffee and a laptop. If you need me, that’s where you’ll find me.” I walk away, over to the coffee maker, and lift it. I pour myself a cup of steaming coffee. My hand reaches out for creamer.

Kristy’s passes the can over to me. I throw a glance at her, surprised. How did she sneak up beside me so quietly? Especially with those ridiculous heels of hers. There’s a clever look on my sister’s painted face, one that doesn’t belong with a ten-year-old, and suddenly, I’m a bit suspicious. “What is it?”

“Emma,” Kristy says carefully, “Maybe the new people will give us Hershey’s. Or Snickers.”

I actually do roll my eyes then. “Hershey and Snickers are both cheap, mass-produced—”

“But they’re chocolate!” Kristy bursts out. She points at my two sad, empty boxes. “You don’t have any of your chocolate left. Maybe you’ll get more if you come with me. Please, Em?” She pouts again. “At least you’ll have some kind of chocolate, even if it’s not the million dollars kind.”

I cross my arms and study Kristy. I ignore how she uses my nickname, thinking over what she’s just suggested. It’s true, Hershey’s and Snickers are disgusting compared to Godiva and my truffles, and I don’t want to be the one begging for free candy. But my chocolate cravings can get intense, and when they strike, the whole world might as well point the black Sharpie sign in my direction. That’s how chocolate-deprived I’m starting to feel.

I sigh and set down my coffee mug. “You better find me a costume,” I mutter grumpily. “I’m not going out to beg without some sort of disguise.”

RIYA MATTU

In the newly-built, newly-furnished Mattu family home, another ring from the doorbell alerts the teenage daughter who’s stayed behind. Riya smiles as she imagines the next child who’ll skip away with a happy grin. She’s glad she decided to buy the biggest candy bars.

There’s another ring, more urgent now.

“Coming!”

Riya dashes to the door, gripping the edges of the giant tub of candy in her arms. A few Hershey’s bars spill out, but she lets them fall to the floor without bothering to pick them up. Trick-or-treaters are usually kids, and kids can get impatient. She doesn’t want to keep any of them waiting on Halloween, of all special nights.

Riya skids to a halt, unlocks the door, and throws it open, expecting to see another adorable group of witches and Batmen.

Instead, she finds herself staring at a tall, skinny, messy-haired woman of at least twenty-five years, dressed in a fuzzy red sweater and pants, black boots, and a buckled belt. A fake white beard is pulled over her lower face, and the pom-pom at the end of her Santa hat dangles forward. A young girl giggles at her side, clad in green tulle and Christmas tree ornaments. Green paint smudges her cheeks.

The woman smiles awkwardly. “Uh, hi. Trick or treat. Don’t suppose you have any chocolate bars?”