James Benger

Halloween 1988

Dad dressed me up in his clothes,
complete with gun belt and hat
(wouldn’t give me a real pistol, though)
“There, you’re a cowboy,”
and off we went,
our first time for real trick or treating
(Halloweenin as Dad called it).

It all felt so official,
the first time living in a real neighborhood,
with actual neighbors,
and a city-ordained septic tank,
and mailboxes and stuff.
It felt like we’d finally made it,
and we were going to
live like those folks on the tv.

We ambled down the gravel road,
parents trailing a little behind,
knocking doors, marveling at
Halloween candy that wasn’t the
mints from the dish at the Pizza Hut
in town where Mom waitressed.
We went all the way to where
gravel Marquette Avenue butted up with
paved Clinton Street, then turned around.

Our last stop was the trailer
across the gravel from our place.
We’d only been in the neighborhood
a couple months, but the
blue and white singlewide
had been there even less.
The owners invited us in.
He was a shirtless skinny man
with an impressive brown mullet,
and she was the epitome of
late eighties hairspray queen.
I remember a year or so after that night,
she came over to our place
when I had the flu to make sure
I was drinking enough orange juice.

The trailer was sparsely furnished;
two chairs and a coffee table.
A half dozen varieties of
dollar store candy
amidst a hastily swept dusting of something
I no longer think was confectioner’s sugar.
There was a giant moose head
mounted to the dimly lit
faux wood panel wall.

I asked the man where the moose came from.
He said:
“Done got me that one.
Put up one bitch of a fight, though”
I asked where the rest of the animal was.
“Oh, he’s out there. Whyn’tcha go on out,
make sure his backside’s still there.”
I did and it wasn’t.

Not long after that,
Mom and Dad got us out of there fast.
My brother walked off with
an entire bag of circus peanuts.
I forgot my candy.


James Benger is the author of two fiction ebooks, and three chapbooks, one full-length, and co-author of three split books of poetry. He is on the Board of Directors of The Writers Place and the Riverfront Readings Committee, and is the founder of the 365 Poems In 365 Days online workshop, and is Editor In Chief of the subsequent anthology series. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and children.