TAKE ONE ONLY • by Hank Shepherd

The kids were running up and down the street like crackheads jacked up after their latest fix. It was that worst night of the year, the one before All Saints Day. For the past three years, two little shits had egged my house and TP’d the tall oak on my front lawn. I was sure it was the Sullivan brothers. Sean and Michael were punks and everyone knew it, but I had to get ’em red-handed. Damn near caught them last year, if it weren’t for that stupid garden gnome Marie put at the end of the flower patch. Tripped over it and sprained my ankle. Little bastards had a good laugh over that, I’m sure.

But this year would be different. Once they stepped onto my lawn, I’d be ready.


Dusk gave way to night, and with it the trick-or-treaters’ ranks thinned. The little ones, under the watchful eyes of their parents went home, pumpkin buckets half-full. The tweens stayed out a bit longer, looking to fill their pillowcases to the brim.

It was the custom in our house to put out a single bowl filled with candy. Marie would leave a sticky note attached to the rim saying, ‘Take one only.’ Needless to say, few listened. Some years we would return home to see even the bowl gone.

I continued our tradition, even adding a note to the rim, as Marie would’ve. She was always so soft on them, even the pranksters. ‘They’re just kids,’ she would say.

She wasn’t the one that had to clean up after the little criminals. She wasn’t the one that had to pay the mortgage on this goddamn house those punks would egg and douse in toilet paper.

All the same, I missed her.

From the window of the den, I watched the porch like a hawk. Costumed kids would run up, see the bowl, and take a handful of candy, ignoring the written instructions completely. The practice went on until some fat, little Dracula emptied the contents of the bowl into his pillowcase. Sniggering, he crumpled up the note, and dropped the bowl, lid-down, on the porch.


By midnight, the streets were empty, save for the cars. The joyriders would come out after all the trick-or-treaters had gone home for the night. Every dumb kid with a pair of keys and a six-pack would attempt to reenact their favorite scene from The Fast and the Furious.

But that was just the half of it.

It was time for the trick part of trick-or-treating. The time of the pumpkin-smashing, egg throwing, grave defiling hooligans. The Sullivan brothers.

There was a dark flash under the streetlight. Two shadows rushing out of view. I didn’t get a good look at their faces, but sure as shit, I knew it was them.

“C’mon, you bastards.”

A car ripped past my house and then I saw ’em on the lawn. Tall slender things in dark clothes. Long athletic frames with runners’ legs and cannons for arms. One with a role of TP and the other holding a carton of eggs.

The Sullivans.

I ran out the back door, and scooped up the little surprise I’d laid out earlier that day. Marie would’ve never approved. When I ran it by her last year she just shook her head and said we’d be lucky not to get arrested, let alone sued.

The sound of cracked eggs and grunts of effort echoed through the walls. I took my surprise in hand and ran round the side of the house, gliding over the moon-shone dew. Their sounds grew louder. Squeals of juvenile exhilaration and howls of pubescent shenanigans filled the Halloween air like a banshee’s moan.

That’s when I saw them. Sean Sullivan, aged sixteen, was chucking eggs at my front door and siding, while his little brother, Michael, aged fifteen, concentrated on papering my only tree with ass wipe. Even in the night, I could see their ginger hair and bright freckles. Delinquent eyes smiling in crazy zeal at the property destruction.

“Hey, Sullivan boys!” I called out.

They froze like two deer caught in high beams.

Time for my little surprise.

The nozzle roared. A torrent of cold, pressurized water hit Sean right between the eyes. He doubled over and fell to his knees. The HydroJet Maximizer at work. Strongest power washer on the market. Customer reviews said it could spray the chrome off a trailer hitch.

Michael swore and pivoted.  I aimed the HydroJet at him and hit him right in his freckled face, sending him to the grass like a ragdoll.

Sean staggered to his feet and grabbed Michael by the scruff of his neck.

“This guy’s fucking crazy,” Sean yelled. “Go!”

I alternated the HydroJet between them, enjoying every second.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something moving fast down the street. A car, with the headlights turned off.


The dripping, shivering Sullivan boys staggered into the street, oblivious.

I turned it off. “Watch out!”

Sean Sullivan turned and gave me the angriest bird I’d ever seen. “Fuck you!”

The brakes squealed.


The DA’s office wanted manslaughter. Tried to say I helped cause their deaths. The driver, some kid hopped up on speed and Jack Daniels, was already looking at hard time. In the end, no charges were filed; word was they had a difficult time seeing a jury putting away an old white guy for spraying a couple of vandals with a hose.

There was a civil trial. Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan wanted their pound of flesh, and then some. Unfortunately for them, Sean and Michael weren’t angels, and the jury realized that quickly. We came to a reasonable settlement.

Halloweens come and go. To this day, I still leave out a bowl of candy, just like Marie did. But nobody, not even the fat little Draculas, dared take even one.

Hank Shepherd is a queer, pessimistic writer from the Chicago suburbs. He writes about food, sex, nihilism, and anything else that strikes his fancy. His work has previously been featured in (b)OINK.

If you enjoyed this story, show your support on Patreon.

Rate this story:
 average 3.5 stars • 32 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction