A Prank in Three Acts:

Act I:

Eighth grade:

Too old to go trick-or-treating and too young to really raise hell. Not artistic enough to create a really gory seasonal tableau and too Halloween-crazed to allow the holiday to pass without commemoration.

The solution: Dig out old jeans, an old coat, old shoes, old gloves. Stuff them with newspaper and staple them together. Mount a gruesome green rubber mask in place of the head. Put a hanger down his back, tie it with twine, tie it to a hook on the porch, and arrange him in a menacing and lifelike stance.

Now stand back and watch as pint-sized witches and ghosts and ballerinas and soldiers creep up to the front door, their backs against the opposite wall, their eyes riveted on the strange unmoving monstrosity standing so near. Watch them ring the doorbell, hold out their treat bags, and whisper "Trick or Treat", their eyes never leaving the monster on the porch, ready to leave their candy behind and bolt for the safety of their parents out at the sidewalk, at the first sign of movement in the green zombie. Watch them scurry back with their candy, relieved to have escaped the clutching claws of childhood horror...

Act II:

Ninth grade:

Too late in the evening, the remembrance dawns of last year's horrific triumph. Can the dummy be remade in time? Not this time...but there is time to dress oneself up in the old clothes, to tuck newspapers in at the collar, the wrists, the ankles, to wear the old rubber mask (with sunglasses on underneath to disguise the eyes). Is it possible to stand stock-still for hours on end? No, better to sprawl limply against the wall on the porch, a puppet with its twine cut, a sleeping terror, a zombie ready to rise from its rest.

And again, the pint-sized Frankensteins and vampires and Barbies and cowboys creep up to the front door, nervously watching the unmoving beast at their feet. "Is it alive?" some whisper. "No," comes the reply, "It was here last year. It's full of newspaper." They fill their bags with candy. And start to walk away. And the zombie lurches from its prone position with a savage snarl, its hand slapping the ground right behind them. And with speeds undreamed of, they run to their waiting parents and hurry on, some still shivering and hysterical, to the next house and the next bag of treats...

Act III:

Tenth grade:

Too many other duties call, and there will be no dummy, either stuffed with newspaper or high school kid, this Halloween.

But all the children at the door make a point to ask where the zombie is this year...

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