There must have been a thousand pumpkins on this tree, hung high and on every branch. A thousand smiles. A thousand grimaces. And twice-times-a-thousand glares and winks and blinks and leerings of fresh-cut eyes.
And as the boys watched, a new thing happened.
The pumpkins began to come alive.
One by one, starting at the bottom of the Tree and the nearest pumpkins, candles took fire within the raw interiors. This one and then that and this and then still another, and on up and around, three pumpkins here, seven pumpkins still higher, a dozen clustered beyond, a hundred, five hundred, a thousand pumpkins lit their candles, which is to say brightened up their faces, showed fire in their square or round or curiously slanted eyes. Flame guttered in their toothed mouths. Sparks leaped out their ripe-cut ears.
Sly does it. Tiptoe catspaws. Slide and creep.
But why? What for? How? Who? When! Where did it all begin?
“You don't know, do you?” asks Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud climbing out of the pile of leaves under the Halloween Tree. “You don't really know!”
“Well,” answers Tom the Skeleton, “er—no.”
In Egypt four thousand years ago, on the anniversary of the big death of the sun?
Or a million years before that, by the night fires of the cavemen?
Or in Druid Britain at the Ssssswooommmm of Samhain's scythe?
Or among the witches, all across Europe—multitudes of hags, crones, magicians, demons, devils?
Or high above Paris, where strange creatures froze to stone and lit the gargoyles of Notre Dame?
Or in Mexico, in cemeteries full of candlelight and tiny candy people on El Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead?
The Halloween Tree, my favorite Ray Bradbury book. I remember stumbling across it at my grandparents house one summer and absolutely loving it. I managed to pick up not one, but two copies of the book since then. The imagery of the book closely describes the feeling I used to get as a young kid living in Transylvania County (you know, the birthplace of Count Dracula and all cool Hallowe'enish things).
But the crisp air?
The crunch of dry leaves under your feet?
The feeling that summer is gone,
winter is coming?
Of Christmas carols dominating the radio for the next two months?
Not so much here in South Florida.
Bunny is sitting outside in her shorts,
the little hellions some kids to show up,
yell the obligatory “Trick or treat!” before loading their outstretched bags with sugar bombs.
I'm sitting inside,
where the A/C is keeping the place cool.