Is This Living?

“Trick or treat!” shouted little Billy for like the fiftieth time.  Billy’s grandpa moaned, but his dad just smiled.

“Not yet tiger,” Dad said.  “Wait till we go out tonight.”  Dad roughed up Billy’s curls and gave him a quick kiss on the top of his head.

Grandpa was less impressed.  “You going to let him out of the house looking like that?” Grandpa said.  “In my day I wouldn’t get caught dead in a pirate costume without a sword and an eye patch.”

Dad placed the pirate hat he was holding onto Billy’s head.  “Hey tiger, why don’t you go find a nice big bag to hold all the candy you’ll be getting tonight,” Dad said.

“Arrr!” yelled Billy as he tore out of the room.

Dad turned back to Grandpa.  “What is wrong with you?” Dad asked.

“Like you need to ask,” Grandpa said.  “Things should be pretty transparent to you, or did you suffer from brain damage recently?”

“Okay, point taken, but taking it out on Billy?” Dad said.  “That’s low, even for you.”

“It wasn’t for the kid.  It was directed at you.  Billy didn’t even notice,” Grandpa said.

Dad shook his head.  “Look, I said I was sorry.  I didn’t realize the nursing home was going to be that bad.”

“Maybe if you ever came to visit every once in a while you might have noticed me slowly wasting away.”


“Sleeping in my own feeces.”


“Getting hit with a mop repeatedly.”

“Okay, stop right there.  There was never anything said or shown about you being beaten with a mop,” Dad said.

Grandpa held his hands in front of himself.  “It was when they were cleaning up the fecal matter on the floor that dripped from the bed.”  Dad put his hands on his hips and Grandpa relented.  “Okay, so it wasn’t hard, but the point is they didn’t care and neither did you.”

Dad walked right up to Grandpa and said, “Look, I let you come and live…”  Dad stopped short at the grimace Grandpa was making and took a proverbial and real couple of steps back, “okay, come and stay with us.”

Grandpa smiled a bit at his small victory.  “You got that one right because this is definitely not living.  And let us get one more thing straight.  You had to take me in, but I can come and go when I want to.  The four walls of this house can’t keep me in.  I am my own man.”

“Really, your own man?” asked Dad.

“Okay, you win that one,” Grandpa said.  “Still if you had just visited a couple of times I might still be living in a nice nursing home, not…” Grandpa looked around for the right word.  “existing here.”

Dad sighed.  “I get it, trust me, I get it.  Still, try to be nice to Billy.  He didn’t do anything wrong,” Dad said.

“Like I said, Billy didn’t get a bag big enough for all the candy.” Grandpa changed course midsentence since Billy reentered the room.

“Really Grandpa?” asked Billy holding out his bag.

Dad laughed.  “How about we go out and see how fast that one fills up?  I’ll grab a spare bag though, just in case.”

“Whose going to hold the full bag?” asked Billy.

Grandpa shrugged.   “I sure as hell can’t.”

“I will hold it,” said Dad giving Grandpa a dirty look.  “Grandpa isn’t the man he used to be.”

Grandpa looked like he wanted to spit bullets.  “You win that one, for now, but your day is coming.”



The streets were alive with ghosts, goblins, superheroes and of course, pirates.  Billy showed Grandpa his half full sack.  “See, it’s still pretty big,” Billy said.

Dad, checked out the sack.  “Yep, you have plenty of room.  Let’s see if we can change that,” Dad said.

“But I was showing Grandpa it,” Billy said.

“Yeah, he was showing it to me,” Grandpa said.

“Let’s pretend Grandpa doesn’t exist,” Dad said, shooting a pleading look at Grandpa.

Grandpa took the hint and rubbed his hands together in mock anticipation.  “Yeah, pretend I don’t exist.  It will be fun.”

Billy giggled and ran to another house.  Grandpa continued, “Just like your old man.”

Dad kept watching Billy and muttered under his breath.  “Dad, give it up or you’ll be dead to me.”

Grandpa fell into a pissed silence.  Dad allowed himself a peek over his shoulder at Grandpa and smiled a bit sadly.

More trick-or-treaters walked past Dad and Grandpa.  Grandpa whistled at one of the moms trailing behind.  “What is she, like fifty?  Isn’t she too old to be wearing that short of a skirt?” asked Grandpa.

The group didn’t seem to notice.  Dad, wheeled around again and whispered, “Dad, stop it.”

That caught the attention of the woman Grandpa had been referring to.  “Excuse me?” she asked.

“That’s what I was saying,” Grandpa said.  “There is no excuse for what you are wearing.”

“Sorry about that,” Dad said.  “I burped and was asking to be excused.”

The woman didn’t look like she believed the whole story, but decided to let it go and move on with the rest of her group.

Grandpa watched her go.  “Sure treat me as if I’m not here,” he said.

Dad was about to reply, but at that moment Billy came back after another successful candy conquest.  “Where should I go to next?” Billy asked.

Dad pointed at a blue house down a ways.  “We can go there,” Dad said.

“Or we can go to old man Johnson’s,” replied Grandpa pointing at the creepiest house on the block.  The light was on, daring trick or treaters to venture onto the porch, but old man Johnson had a reputation.  No one went close.

Of course Billy didn’t know any of the stories, so he pounced on the idea of getting more candy from a door that wasn’t crowded.  Before Dad could say anything, Billy was off like a rocket.  Dad was about to yell at Grandpa, but then noticed that Grandpa was already on the way to old man Johnson’s house as well.  “Damn,” Dad said before he started after the two of them.

Billy got to the door and rang the doorbell.  He pulled open his sack and turned on his smile.  Old man Johnson opened the door with a loud creek.  “What do you want?” he practically yelled.

Billy was intimidated, but he really wanted that candy, so in a clear voice he yelled back, “Trick or treat.”

Old man Johnson was hardly impressed.  He gave Billy quite the stare down.  “What about if I decide I want a trick?” he asked.

Billy looked around.  Grandpa was behind him and his dad had almost caught up.  “I don’t have a trick.”

“Then nothing for you.  No trick, no candy,” old man Johnson said smugly.

Grandpa held up his hand to stop Dad at the bottom of the steps.  He mouthed the words I’ve got this.  Dad shook his head, but held his position.  This was going to get very interesting.

Billy was lost as to what to do.  He was about to cry when Grandpa bent over and whispered something in his ear.  Billy smiled and looked back at old man Johnson.  “Okay. I’ve got a good trick.  If I do it though, you need to give me all your candy.”  He pointed at the large bowl of treats just behind the old man.

Old man Johnson smiled.  “Son, if you can scare me you can have the whole damn thing, but I’ll warn you.  I’ve been in a war.  Nothing you can do will scare me.”  He took the candy bowl from the chair in the hallway and put on the porch between himself and Billy.  “Do your worst,” he said.

Billy smiled and looked at Grandpa, “Ready?” Billy asked.  Grandpa nodded and so did old man Johnson.  “I’m going to make a ghost appear,” Billy said.  “Abracadabra, Grandpa appeara!”

Grandpa manifested himself right there, becoming as solid as he could in his present state, Old man Johnson recognized him right away.  “Henry?” asked old man Johnson, “Is that you?  I went to your funeral.”

Grandpa laughed.  “Boo!” he said, frightening old man Johnson back into the house, leaving the bowl of candy unguarded.

Dad came up the stairs and smiled as Grandpa faded back to his more ethereal state.  “Looks like the candy is all yours, tiger.  Good thing Grandpa thought of bringing that extra bag.”

Billy began shoveling the candy into his sack.  Grandpa smiled at his son and pointed towards Billy.  “There are advantages for a man with my condition,” Grandpa said.

Dad tried to put his arm around Grandpa, but it went right through.  “It’s good to still have you around.”

Billy held up his full sack and gave it to Dad.  He then grabbed the empty sack and began running down the street yelling, “Trick or treat!” at the top of his lungs.  Dad and Grandpa took off after the little guy laughing all the way.

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