“I think a supervised event in the hall as a fund raiser would be an excellent idea,” remarked Mrs Amanda Bracken, the headmistress, to the Parents and Citizens Association meeting. “I don’t know how trick or treating works in places where people are used to it but the school received complaints last year about children knocking on doors and demanding sweets.”
One of the younger mothers asked, “How is that the school’s responsibility?”
“According to some people, Mrs Lancing, it is the school’s responsibility to control and monitor children’s behaviour at all times, even out of school hours. Even if those children are not and never have been our pupils.”
So it came to pass that at five o’clock on the 31st of October the otherwise sensible teachers Elvira Madden and Dorothy James were presiding over a fuming cauldron while wearing green stage makeup and fake facial warts as they waited to scare the children who were about to giggle and squeal their way through the haunted house labyrinth that had been set up through the school hall. They had their script, they had their organising committee-approved treats to hand out and now they had a cat.
“Where did he come from?” Dorothy asked Elvira as she watched the magnificent black tom wrap his way around Elvira’s ankles.
“I have no idea,” replied Elvira as she looked down at her feline admirer. “He’s not wearing a collar but he’s obviously not a stray, he’s too well looked after.”
“At the moment he looks like he wants to belong to you,” laughed Dorothy, then a bell rang. “We’d better take our positions, they’re opening the doors.”
The cat gave Elvira’s leg a final rub and ran off.
Then the children arrived. Years Five and Six who had no younger brothers or sisters to take care of came through in dribs and gaggles. Families of children careened through wildly separated, not always at the fault of the eldest. Dorothy noted that the Shrimpton twins came through separately but not alone, while Melissa Wright was trapped in some professionally made costume that, although effective, looked extremely uncomfortable.
About half of Elvira’s class came through clutching a parent’s hand, some with a just younger brother or sister, determined to prove they were a ‘big kid’ too, in tow. The Grimolochins were a surprise, not in that his father had brought him, but because Joe Grimolochin, normally a brave and happy boy, was clinging to his father’s hand and looking around fearfully. He was dressed as a lion, but he was a very unhappy lion.
“I checked,” his father was saying, “and there were none in here before the doors opened.”
“I know,” came Joe’s anguished reply, “but I can smell them. They’re here somewhere!”
“I can smell them too,” his father agreed, then assured him, “but the rats can’t get you while I’m here.”
“So,” cackled Elvira in character, “the young master is afraid of rats? Why tonight of all nights?”
“Because tonight they could be dressed up to look like something else so you can’t see them coming.” Joe added, “But you can smell them around and you don’t know where they’re going to come from.”