THE GAME IS ON • by L.H. Maxwell

Ding-Dong! Ugh, I think to myself while walking, head cocked, to the front door. I lean back for one last glimpse of the television before reaching forward and turning the knob. “Trick or treat,” the children holler before the door opens fully. “Wow, nice costumes, very scary,” I mutter with undisguised indifference. A few pieces of candy miss the children’s bags. I hear them hit the porch simultaneously with my closing of the door. How many of these darn ghouls and goblins do I have to deal with tonight? Doesn’t anybody watch football? It’s Monday and the game is on!

Ding-Dong! Ding-Dong! Ding-Dong! Geez! “Hello, the game is on,” I shout at the door, “they’re in the red-zone, come back later!” Okay, two-minute warning before the half. I get up during the commercial break and put the candy outside on the walkway, with “please take one” scribbled on some junk-mail envelope and propped against the bowl. Halfway back to the sofa, I am stopped in my tracks. Ding-Dong! Ugh, I walk pouting back to the door and look out the peephole.

A ninja and an astronaut lurk outside. “It says to please take one,” the spaceman warns the ninja. Good kid, I surmise while watching and listening in, but hurry up, the game is on. “I’m gonna take a whole bunch,” the ninja states as he doubles back for more. What a punk! I open the door and holler, “Santa saw that,” as the ninja runs away. As he hears the door open, the child turns to look, slips on the icy sidewalk, and begins to whimper as candy goes flying. You can’t kung-fu karma, kid!

With curtains drawn, and the porch light off, I plop back down because the game is on. I nervously shove chocolate in my face, from the trick-or-treat bowl resting on my lap. The candy’s all mine now, you greedy ninjas. It’s a good game, a tight matchup, and my team is making a fourth-quarter comeback, or so I hope. My two-year-old sits quietly in the recliner, dressed as a cow, eating her last bit of candy. Her mother had to work late, so I am on Halloween duty. A quick and freezing fifteen-minute trick-or-treat session started our evening — well, that’s all I could squeeze in before kickoff. The toddler had mentioned she was cold, so of course I jumped on the opportunity to bring her back home. First snow of the year, and perfect timing too; the game is on!

My daughter doesn’t speak much, but she sadly stares at her empty candy bag. I offer, but she doesn’t like chocolate. I do, and that’s probably why that’s all I bought for the trick-or-treaters. I sit on the edge of the sofa, about to fall off, with my heart pounding because the game is on. The toddler peeks behind the curtains at the street and the many trick-or-treaters going by. I lean over for a glimpse, but all I see is the sideways snow. Then my daughter sighs and drops her tiny head. Ugh! I am such a loser! I get up and grab my little girl. “You’re going to need a second set of gloves this time,” I tell her.

We head out the door, leaving the candy bowl on the walkway again, this time with no scribbled envelope. House to house we go: us, the ghouls, and the goblins, squinting through the darting snow. The toddler is thrilled repeatedly, newly ecstatic at every door as I yell “trick-or-treat” for her. I catch the game in pieces, as many homes have it on loud. I see the other team in the kneel-down formation, and realize the game is lost.

Shortly thereafter, we walk inside with tight faces, red noses, and frozen toes. I help my frigid daughter out of her wet cow suit, hand her the candy bag, and tell her to dig in. She gives me the biggest hug, then starts to rip and tear. I grab us each a blanket and turn on the television. Overtime, how? The game is on!

L.H. Maxwell writes in Anchorage, Alaska. He is a married father of three. He writes for the creative output, and because he found himself watching too much television.

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Every Day Fiction