“Tighten up, Felicia,” says Felicia. “Two more houses and you’re done.” She wrings the sweat from her bandit mask then stuffs it into the pocket of her stretchy jeans. How long has her fly been down? “These stretchy jeans came straight from hell,” says Felicia, zipping up. She leans over a blue mailbox, murmuring ad jingles and trying not to vomit, as the shortie princesses pass by with their parents.
“What are you supposed to be?” asks a preteen gremlin in a surgical mask. “A fat old lady?”
“Fuck off,” says Felicia. “Halloween is for everybody.” She’s got thirty years and seventy pounds on the gremlin, making her infinitely better at trick-or-treating. His plastic bag barely bulges, while her flannel pillowcase is almost at capacity. She peers into its gaping maw and begins to salivate, which induces a coughing fit. “You will feast tonight, Felicia,” says Felicia, when she catches her breath. Precisely once a year everything goes right for her.
Rich neighborhoods are known for the superior quality of their candy giveaways. Five city blocks of Georgetown will net Felicia enough booty to take her through November. Sours are her favorite. If it doesn’t make her mouth pucker into a butthole, it’s barely worth opening. No to caramel apples. No to toothbrushes. Yes to Jolly Ranchers, but predominantly greens. No to things that taste like coconut. Her stomach is killing her so she sucks down a WarHead’s bitter medicine.
A solitary witch skips by wearing goggles and holding a plastic pumpkin bucket. The bottom hem of the girl’s black gown collects more filth than the bristles of her broomstick. Felicia tails the witch to the next townhouse, the kind you live in if you’re a United States senator. They make their way up the stairs through the warm gauntlet of jack o’ lanterns. “Go ahead and do the bell if you want,” says Felicia, feeling weak in the jeans, and the witch rises gratefully to her tiptoes.
“Trick-or-treat,” they both say when a statesman answers the door in a werewolf onesie. He seems surprised to see a middle-aged woman standing at eye level on his stoop, brandishing a pillowcase. Maybe he’s from the country. When he removes his merkin of a monster mask, Felicia feels intrigued by his presidential aura, but she’s disappointed that his candy bowl contains only Tootsie Rolls of pygmy stature. Felicia takes a healthy handful.
“Excuse me, ma’am…,” says the werewolf, likely preparing to make a speech of some kind, and that’s when Felicia pukes into his azalea bushes. The witch screams and makes a run for it. Fussy little snot. She probably gets free chocolate on Valentine’s Day, too.
“Listen,” says Felicia, when she’s finished spitting sugar over the railing. “I’m a little under the weather. Can I get a soda or something?” She feels feverish. Her forehead could definitely benefit from the Arctic roll of a cola can.
With a degree of hesitation the werewolf abandons his candy on the stoop for children of the rich to rifle through and escorts Felicia into his front hall. “Of course, of course,” he says, being neighborly even though Felicia had to ride three different buses to reach his neighborhood. “Please wait here for a minute.” Felicia waits by the coat rack for a quarter of a minute. When her guts cramp up again she moves to a velvety couch in the living room. Someone has taken the time to arrange decorative gourds in an autumnal crescent around the fireplace. One wall of the room is just pillars. A substantial jar of candy corn sits on the coffee table next to some news magazines. Felicia thinks she has a good chance of guessing just how many candy corns are in the jar because in grade school she once won a jellybean-counting contest that no one expected her to win.
She clings to her pillowcase, which now weighs the same as a bag of human skulls. She wipes her sweaty brow with the bandit mask in her pocket, then sneezes into the tassels of a throw pillow. An icy female voice carries from the next room. “…a grown woman begs you for treats then vomits on our doorstep and you roll out the red carpet? Meanwhile the rest of us are here trying to secure our nation’s borders and fight an epidemic.”
“You let in those Mormons the other day.”
“That’s different. Have you ever met a sick Mormon? Sick people don’t ride bicycles. Sick people do the exact opposite of that.” Felicia realizes that the wife thinks she has that deadly hemorrhaging virus that’s been going around the world. What a stupid idiot.
“Very well,” says the werewolf. “I’ll ask her to leave, or…”
“I just saved all our lives, Mark. You’re welcome in advance.” The werewolf rounds a white pillar rubbing something into his finger webbing that Felicia assumes to be hand sanitizer.
“We seem to be out of ginger ale,” says the werewolf. “Is there anyone I can call, or…?” Felicia’s coworker Macy Something lives near Dupont Circle, but she only has her email address. And one time Felicia caught Macy spitting in the French fry grease at work so she punched her in the boob.
Felicia bends double over her pillowcase, feeling nauseated and stressed out. So what if she is a woman of hearty appetites? It’s called living, and she only gets to do it one night a year. With her skull between her knees, she opens a Fun Size Snickers. “Maybe this act is part of your costume, or…?” says the werewolf. As if anyone is that committed. Felicia probably just contracted flu from one of those unclean superheroes on her Halloween beat and this has nothing to do with eating a Twizzler off a public toilet seat four days ago. A skinny, whorish wife appears in front of the fireplace, wearing yellow rubber gloves.
“Oh hello,” she says. “I was just washing some dishes.”
The Fun Size Snickers made Felicia feel less woozy, so she opens a miniature Reese’s. Peanut butter is her ticket out of this hellhole. If Felicia had a cat, she’d name it Peter Pan. But people keep refusing to give her their cats.
“Your house reminds me of Las Vegas,” says Felicia, who has seen a lot of television commercials about Las Vegas.
“I think you mean Tuscany,” says the wife.
“Only if you can make a good living there as a stripper,” says Felicia.
“Before you go,” says the wife, using a fire poker to nudge a gourd back into formation, “for I know you have a long night of adult trick-or-treating ahead of you, I’m curious to hear what you do for a living. Do you often travel on business to exotic locales? Or maybe you work at an international airport, or as an orderly in the infectious disease unit of a hospital?” Felicia in fact works in the food court at Dulles International Airport but she will not give this rangy woman the satisfaction of knowing that. Felicia is starting to feel like the only person in this townhouse without a flesh-eating virus.
A fluffy white cat jumps onto the couch and begins licking flecks of vomit from Felicia’s t-shirt. “Oh my god,” says the werewolf’s wife. Felicia loosens her sneaker laces and then curls up in a ball on the luxurious cushions. Her stomach is a fandango of assorted flavors.
“Let me just…,” says the werewolf, swiping the throw pillows that prevent his guest from relaxing into the full depths of the couch. Felicia sees that the only nearby vomit receptacle is her trick-or-treat bag, and that is just not happening. If worse comes to worse, she’d rather puke into the jar of candy corn.
“May I use your toilet?” she says, directing her question to the werewolf because he alone can act like a grown-up around bodily functions.
The wife looks momentarily panicked, then claps her rubber gloves together. “Mark,” she says with epiphanic zeal, “do you still keep that tarp in your gun closet?” She calls for Jack Junior upstairs while the werewolf reluctantly excuses himself from the room. Felicia gags, then finds herself holding a fun-sized pool of throw-up.
“What the fuck, Mom?” says a teenager who was obviously interrupted halfway through applying full David Bowie makeup. He seems like the kind of kid who goes to bed every night with Starlight mints on his pillow.
“We need a hand real quick,” says the kid’s mother, “but try not to breathe.” Felicia breathes on everyone freely because she is a mammal. The werewolf returns and helps his wife spread a blue plastic sheet on the Oriental rug below the couch. “You’re doing it wrong,” she tells her husband.
“Take it easy, Jen,” says the werewolf.
“Ma’am,” says the wife to her houseguest, “would you mind rolling onto this tarp?” Felicia doesn’t want to walk to the bathroom, so she evacuates the couch with a thud. The family carries her to an upstairs bathtub like a fancy whale on its way to an aquarium.
Mother and son are responsible for the part of the tarp that holds Felicia’s bottom quarters, and the werewolf is responsible for the part with the head. As the latter backs everybody up the stairs, he gazes into Felicia’s eyes with a face that so much reminds her of nougat and caramel that she wants to take his Sugar Baby nose into her mouth and then just see where her instincts lead her. She can tell that he’s doing his very best not to jostle her in the tarp. Felicia wiggles around appreciatively, which loosens her stool.
Felicia sits on the toilet and listens to the werewolf conspire with a 911 operator outside the bathroom door. She briefly passes out with her stretchy jeans around her ankles, and is aware of having a small, fugue-state orgasm. “No room at the inn,” says the werewolf after he hangs up the phone.
“You’re kidding,” says the wife.
“Drunken robots and vampires and things have laid siege to all the ambulances. But they’re going to send a hazmat team.”
“Whatever you do,” the wife says, addressing whomever, “don’t touch your eyeballs.” This lady must hold her Junior League meetings at CDC headquarters.
“If I catch what she’s got and have to miss Suzie’s glam rock party I will be so pissed,” says JJ.
“No one’s missing any parties,” says the werewolf. “That’s the last thing we want.” He cracks the bathroom door and winks at Felicia as though there’s a private party in their future, one with bowls and bowls of complimentary refreshments. She waves a wad of toilet paper at him like a flirty handkerchief.
Ten minutes later Felicia’s body is arranged on the tarp in the front hall, the fly of her jeans left open to antagonize the wife. “Where’s my candy?” she asks the werewolf, but the doorbell rings before he can answer. Felicia’s body blocks the doorway, but when the three members of the hazmat team enter the townhouse, they step over her with ease. Two of the men sport convincing panda bear costumes under their yellow jumpsuits.
“Don’t tell me you’re trick-or-treating as well,” says the wife.
“Panda bears are immune to human fevers,” says one of the panda bears. “Which makes us doubly resistant.”
“Sir,” says the non-panda to the werewolf, “I’m going to need you to remove your costume.” After a brief struggle with the zipper, the werewolf costume drops to the walnut floorboards and the non-panda puts it on over his hazmat suit. The hairy mask barely fits over his respirator. The wife takes it upon herself to line up the eyes.
“Not bad,” she says.
“How many candy corns are in that jar?” says a panda, reconnoitering the ground floor.
“Four hundred twenty-nine,” says Felicia.
“By god she’s right,” says the husband. “I counted them myself.” Felicia wishes she could just dazzle people for a living. She feels delirious, but still manages to spot Jack Junior on the couch gobbling up candy from her pillowcase. That little weasel.
“Not the sours,” she moans.
“Is this tarp coming with us?” says the second panda.
“Please help yourself,” says the wife. “You can take the couch too.”
“It looks comfortable as shit,” says the hazmat werewolf, running his finger along the wife’s naked forearm—her skin so tight it gives off a glare—then snapping one of her rubber gloves like a middle school bra strap.
“What else you got?” says the first panda.
“I would be all right with your taking the rug, and the contaminated candy belonging to that doughy woman on the floor,” says the wife.
“Not this candy,” says Jack Junior, his teeth coated in chocolate film. Felicia wishes he were closer so she could try to have a nosebleed on him.
“Don’t eat that poison,” says the wife, fancying herself in charge of all the household’s most basic activities. Felicia’s butt toots in defiance.
“You can take my son as well,” says the wife. “He’s now infected.”
“Can do,” says the hazmat werewolf. “We’ll quarantine him along with the couch.”
“You’re very kind,” says the wife. Her gloved hand lingers in thanks on the werewolf’s furry bicep.
“Great,” says Jack Junior. “I guess I’ll just go back upstairs and remove the androgynous makeup it took me an hour to apply.”
“No, keep it on,” says the first panda. “We have a dedicated ward for kids like you.” He examines a pistol that he’s presumably stolen from the gun closet.
“That sounds wonderful,” says the wife. “Did you hear that, Jack Junior? Say, you gentlemen don’t have a ward for consenting adults, do you, hahaha?” The hazmat werewolf whispers something into her haircut. Felicia overhears “electrolytes” and “dick chlorine” and a word that could be either “serum” or “semen.” He wraps it up with “hemorrhaging organ,” and they both giggle.
“Thanks for nothing,” Jack Junior tells Felicia. He kicks her in the sole of her sneaker as he marches out the front door. His father throws a small gourd at the back of his son’s head, but hits the stroller of a chubby spaceman who is way too young to be trick-or-treating.
“I’m leaving the cat,” says the wife. “Because she’s as good as dead. And I’m leaving you, Mark. Same reason.” Her husband stands there in his boxer shorts, looking unbothered. Felicia can’t wait until all the sick people clear out. She thinks that she and Mark have what it takes to be Surgeon General and First Lady. It’s been a long time since she blew her nose in front of anyone.
“I like Halloween more than Christmas and my birthday,” the second panda announces to his partners as he slips the husband’s leather wallet into the pocket of his hazmat suit. “There’s always so much mischief afoot.”
“I like epidemics more than plane crashes and animal extinctions combined,” says the first panda, cocking his new pistol. “Where to next?”
“To quarantine some sexy nurses and requisition a new microwave.”
“These guys,” says the hazmat werewolf, pulling the wife into an embrace. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
“I’ll just grab my purse,” says the wife, grabbing her purse.
When the hazmat team, the son, the couch, the pillowcase, the rug, and the wife are gone, the husband drags the tarp toward the fireplace and opens a bottle of chilled pink wine. He and Felicia take turns drinking from the bottle and fondling Peter Pan. Felicia feels her heart melting from within. “As far as I’m concerned,” she says, “your whole family can just go fuck itself.” The husband makes a nest around Felicia with 429 candy corns, then begins licking the perspiration from her neck.
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” he says. “You’re so sweet inside.”
“No shit,” says Felicia. “That’s always been my way.”