Owen and his pals sat in the back of the classroom shooting spit balls at classmates trying to focus on the lesson. There was nothing worse than hearing Mrs. Kirby’s screeching voice go on about something that happened two centuries ago. She was hell bent on assigning homework — even though most kids would be out trick-or-treating. Besides, it was Friday. As soon as the bell rang, the boys rushed out of the building like it was on fire.

“You’re it!” Owen shouted, punching Cooper on the shoulder and running through the courtyard.

Jackson jumped off the concrete stairs to catch up to them. He liked pretending to be a ninja. His mom had started teaching him gymnastics at the age of five. She was a coach at the local Y. “Hey, guys. Wait up!”

“I thought ninjas were supposed to be stealthy,” Owen reproached.

“Well, you guys took off without me,” Jackson argued, swinging his nunchucks. “I just wanted to catch up.”

“Coulda still snuck up on us.”

“Why would I do that?”

“Because that’s what ninja’s do.”

“Eh, who cares. Don’t listen to him, Jackson.” Cooper wanted to change the subject. They were headed down Broad Street towards their neighborhood.

“So, what are you guys going to be for Halloween tonight?” Cooper asked.

“Dress up is for sissies.” Owen remarked as he threw a rock at a barking dog.

“And you’re one to talk,” Jackson responded. “I thought you were going to be Pennywise?”

“Nah, I changed my mind.”

“Why?” Jackson continued to question.

“Because I told you. Dress is up for girls.”

“Whatever. I’m still gonna be a ninja. My mom made these wrist shields and ninja stars out of cardboard. They came out pretty awesome.”

“Really? That’s gonna be sick!” Cooper said with excitement. “Your mom is so cool.”

“And hot.”

“Shut up, Owen!” Jackson put up his fists.

“What’re you gonna do?” Owen pulled out a pack of Black Cats from his pocket.

“Where’d you get those?” Jackson put down his fists.

“My parents buy them every 4th of July from this firework stand on the outskirts of town.”

“Really? And they let you bring them to school?” Cooper asked.

“NO! I took them from the cupboard in my dad’s office.”

“What are you gonna do with them?” Cooper and Jackson asked in unison.

“I dunno. I thought we could light them up as we go trick-or-treating.”

“That’d be cool,” Jackson agreed. “But we gotta be careful.”

“Well, duh.” Owen shook his head.

“We should light one up now. Do you have more for later?” Jackson asked.

“Yeah, we got tons. I could get some before we head out.”

“Let’s do it!” Jackson shouted, performing a back-flip.

“I dunno about all this, guys.” Cooper was concerned.

“Well, what’re you going to be for Halloween?” Owen asked. “A sissy?”

“No. A Jack-O’-Lantern. Like the one from the movie we watched. I got the mask.”

“You’re going to be a pumpkin?” Owen smirked.

“How cute.” Jackson balked.

“Say whatever you want. I still don’t think fireworks are a good idea.” The boys had arrived in front of Cooper’s house. “This is my stop.”

“Okay, see ya, Cooper.” Jackson waved him off. “We’ll meet you at the corner of Shady Lane at dusk.”

Jackson turned back to Owen. “So, are we gonna light it up?”

“Yeah. Let’s find a pumpkin.”

“I think he went inside.”

“Good one,” Owen laughed, fist bumping Jackson. “But I was thinking we could find a carved pumpkin to put the firework inside.

“Oh, right.”

Jackson and Owen looked around at the houses in the neighborhood for a lone pumpkin they can swipe.

“Looks like the Johnson’s left out their pumpkins. They’ve been on vacation.” Jackson pointed to the house catty-corner to Cooper’s.

The Johnson’s front porch was lined with carved pumpkins. Each with different designs. They decided to walk over. The gate was left unlocked. As they approached the front porch, Owen noticed a bowl of candy sitting on a table with streamers and other holiday décor.

“I thought you said the Johnson’s weren’t home?” Owen asked.

“They’re not.”

“Someone left out this candy.”

“Must have been one of the neighbors.”

“Well, looks like I’m gonna take it.”

“Let’s just grab a pumpkin before someone questions why we’re here,” Jackson said as he round-kicked one of the pumpkins, smashing it to pieces.

“Calm down, ninja. They’re full-size Snickers in here.”

Owen opened his back pack and grabbed for the bowl to empty it when a voice was heard through loud speakers.

“Put that bowl down!” The voice roared. They couldn’t tell from where it was coming.

Owen dropped the bowl, and Jackson face-planted into the grass as he tried to do a front-flip and round-kick another helpless pumpkin.

“Take a step back.” The voice commanded.

Jackson and Owen obeyed, creeping towards the road.

“Are you sure no one was home?” Owen whispered to Jackson.

“Totally — at least that’s what I overheard my mom say to my dad.”

“Shut your mouth. Keep walking, and don’t look back.” The voice began to laugh.

“This doesn’t sound good,” Jackson said. “My mom’s going to kill me if I get in trouble.”

“You’re not going to get in trouble. We just have to get out of here fast.”

“Wait! What about the firework?” Jackson remembered.

“Oh, shit.” Owen pulled out a pack of Black Cats and lit it up with the lighter he found in his dad’s office.

“Well, throw it!” Jackson shouted.

It was supposed to land in one of the pumpkins lined up along the Johnson’s front porch, but Owen didn’t toss it far enough. As the firework went off on the dry grass, Jackson and Owen ran towards Shady Lane in hopes of no one catching them. They left the gate door swung open.

*  *  *

Cooper noticed his pals across the street as he walked out of his house. In fact, he had seen them walk over after he left them and went inside. The sun was setting in the sky, and it was almost time for them to meet at the corner of Shady Lane. He figured he might try to catch up to them. The sound of the Black Cats going off was deafening. Smoke filled the street. They were going to be in trouble that’s for sure. He put on his Jack-O’-Lantern mask and ran up to them as they made it out of the Johnson’s gate and started howling. Owen and Jackson screamed in terror. He was the voice they heard over the loud speakers. The Johnson’s had asked him to put out a bowl of candy and watch over their house. “It’s what happens when you call me a sissy,” he thought.

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