Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet: A Short Story

“You’ll scare the kids, Lester.”


Five-year-old Lucy, whom both parents spoiled, bolted into the room giggling and wailing at the top of her little lungs as she sang her Halloween melody.

“Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat.”

“Oh, my God, she’s so cute,” Nora said.

Lester put down his beer.

“I taught her that song my father taught me and his father taught him,” he said. “I loved back when I was a kid going to all the neighborhood bars trick-or-treating for cash, potato chips and Mounds bars. That’s all gone now. Nobody lets their kids go to bars alone anymore. Then there’s the pandemic.”

“Lester, please, she’s just looking for approval.”

“I’m looking for approval.”

Starting to sing again, Lucy stopped mid-word.

“What’s in them sheets, daddy?”

Seven rolled dummies between five and six feet long, wrapped in white sheets and stuffed with worn holey underwear and ripped T-shirts Nora used for dust rags, lined the floor by the front door. Lester had tied twine around their necks and ankles.

“COVID corpses,” Lester said.


“What’s corpses, daddy?”

“Dead people.”

Little Lucy backed up, raising chocolate-smudged hands in front of her face.

“Me don’t like dead people, daddy.”

Nora ran to her daughter’s side, clutching her tightly as Lucy hid her face against Nora’s blue-jeaned hip.

“Goddammit, Lester, knock it off.”

“Kids today need to learn. Their dumb parents need to learn. Thomas Jefferson said the masses are asses. It’s in the Constitution. I’m killing two birdbrains with one stone here.”

Picking up the spray paint, Lester shook the canister over his shoulder like he was mixing martinis in a James Bond movie. Pointing the can, he pressed and held down the black plastic button. “COVID 19” appeared dark and ominous across the first dummy’s chest. Like a man possessed, within minutes Lester finished spraying his message across all seven fake cadaver chests.

“You’re sick, Lester,” Nora said.

Lester took immediate offense. Hyperventilating, his fleshy cheeks flushed red as the dunked Mackintosh apples he bobbed for at the Halloween party where he first kissed Nora in the hay loft when they were 14.

“They’re 21st Century mummies, Nora. Old movie mummies don’t cut it anymore,” he said. “Everybody laughed at them. Nobody better laugh at these. COVID’s some serious shit”

“We’re vaccinated, Lester,” Nora said. “We’re safe.”

“I’ll wait in line for dog shots if I can get them,” Lester said. “Every one of these little buggers out trick-or-treating could be infected, their bodies bloated with germs just waiting to give us the COVID. You want that, Nora? You want to open us up to the COVID?”

Propping open the screen door, Lester dragged each dummy down the front steps. Lining one next to the other like a mass grave on the news in Bosnia or Serbia or some other Third World massacre scene, he reached for the sign he painted earlier and laid out to dry on the driveway. Sticking the wooden stake into brown grass on the tree lawn beside the sidewalk, he stepped back and admired his work.

The sign said, “WEAR A MASK OR DIE.”

“Who’s the dummy now, Nora? Huh, Nora? Who’s the dummy now?”

The first response hit within seconds. A woman holding a lit cigarette in the same hand as her small daughter’s hand screamed. Her husband, with whiskey and blue cheese dressing on his breath, squared thin shoulders above a bloated beer belly and advanced on Lester. Just moments before the family had been belching together coming home from eating chicken wings at the bar up the street that had set up outside dining picnic tables for the pandemic. Quickly getting wound up, the man looked like he was about to have a stroke yelling and spitting droplets at Lester.

“You scared my kid! You scared my wife!”

Lester screamed back.

“Where’s your mask? Where’s your mask?”

Little Lucy ran back into the house, down the basement stairs and hid under the ping pong table. Nora fainted, losing her fluffy Star Trek Captain Kirk bedroom slippers when she fell, hitting her head on the concrete porch step on the way down. When police and paramedics arrived, an EMT waved smelling salts under Nora’s nose.

Nobody smelled her feet.

Nobody knocked on their door to trick-or-treat on Halloween, keeping social distance – just the way Lester liked it.