THE BEST HALLOWEEN EVER

My name is Chloe and the best Halloween ever happened last year when I was 7 years old. That was the year my Grandpa Andamo and Grandpa Lucky made me the best costume ever and we had the best time ever. We got in a little trouble, but that was fun, too.

My family has always lived in the same neighborhood as my grandparents. My mom was one of Grandpa Andamo's two little girls, and she married one of Grandpa Lucky's three boys, and they had my older sister, Jennifer, and then me, Chlole. Oh, I guess I already told you my name. That's my real name, but Grandpa Andamo has always called me Little Puppy. He said when I was born, I was cute as a little puppy. It's kind of silly, but I like it. Grandma Vickie says I'm a lot like Grandpa Andamo – like two peas in a pod, she says. I love Grandma, but I hate peas. Besides, just think what would happen if the kids at school heard someone call me a pea.

As long as I can remember, I'd been going across the street to Grandpa Andamo's house to watch Saturday morning cartoons. We'd sit on the floor at the coffee table and eat Frosted Flakes in Grandma Vickie's crystal bowls. Like Tony the Tiger says, "They're Grrreat!" We'd watch "Muppet Babies" (my favorite) and "Bugs and Tweety" (Grandpa's favorite). His favorite on that show was the Roadrunner. "See, Little Puppy," he'd say. "The Roadrunner never gets mad, he just keeps zipping down the road, no matter what the coyote tries to do to him." Grandma Vickie would just shake her head at him, and laugh, but I knew what he meant.

Anyway, right before Halloween, my mom, both my grandmas and all my aunts went on a 4 day shopping trip to New York. They go every year, but this year Jennifer was 16 and she went, too. She used to watch cartoons with Grandpa Andamo and me, but she got too old for it, she said, and was more interested in boys and clothes. Boy, I hope I don't end up like her. I live in blue jeans and tee shirts – that's good enough for me! And boys – I won't even go there! Anyway, my dad and all my uncles went on a fishing trip - that might have been fun, but nobody asked me – so I was staying with Grandpa Andamo. Grandpa Lucky stayed home, too. He said he was too old to freeze all day in a tiny boat to get a fish dinner. He'd just go to the Fortuna II. I'm glad he stayed because he was teaching me to play pool, and I was getting pretty good. He even bought me my own kid sized pool stick. I have the coolest grandpas! Once a stupid boy at school sneered and told me they had been gangsters back in the old days. He wanted to make me feel bad, but I thought it was REALLY cool! And that's what I told him – "COOL!" All my friends were very impressed.

Anyway, it was right before Halloween, and my mom had left me a fairy princess costume. It had belonged to Jennifer and she had been all twinkly and weird, walking tip toe around the house and waving that stupid wand. No way was I going to be some stupid fairy. I had another idea, but I had to wait until mom was gone to ask Grandpa Andamo.

"You want to be a what?!" he said, making us peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the kitchen. "Little Puppy, you can't be serious."

"But Grandpa, I saw it on one of those retro shows and I think it would be cool!"

"I don't know. It doesn't sound like a good idea. Your mom and grandma might not like it so much."

"It wouldn't be too hard to make, I don't think, and I could wear my tap shoes like I wore in the dance recital. You said I was really good."

"You were the best one there, Little One, but this is very different."

"Please, please, please, Grandpa! It would be so cool!" I gave him my best little puppy face. I was just 7, but I knew what worked.

He took a bite of his sandwich, thinking as he munched, and took a drink of milk. "Let's call your Grandpa Lucky and see what he thinks. We can talk about it, OK?"

"Sure! Can I call him now?"

"Finish your lunch and then you can call him." He shook his head. "But don't get your hopes up."

I wasn't too worried. My dad said Grandpa Lucky let me get away with stuff he would never have let my dad get away with when he was a kid and that he spoiled me. Like that was a bad thing.

I called him, and pretty soon he was sitting in the kitchen with us, drinking coffee and listening to my plans.

He turned to Grandpa Andamo. "Do you really think this is a good idea? I mean, dressing up our 6 year old granddaughter as – "

"Grandpa, I'm 7."

He looked at me and shook his head. "When did you turn 7?"

"Last May. Remember, you let me have a pool party and cook out for my friends at your house?"

"Oh yeah, I remember. I still have BBQ sauce in my pool filter." He looked over at Grandpa Andamo.

"Why don't we just dress our 7 year old granddaughter up as a bottle of scotch and send her out trick or treating? That should go over just as big."

"Oh, Lucky, is it so bad? She has a tap dance she made up. She would look pretty cute, you know."

"And I can dance just like in the commercial," I added. "I have my tap shoes and the tights to go with them. We'd just need to make the rest. Maybe I could get extra credit at dance class. I think it would be very educational. Please, Grandpa Lucky!"

"You know, Honey, you're 7 but you are really going on 32." He sighed and took another drink of coffee. "I'm pretty sure we'll regret this, but it's OK with me."

"YEA!" I shouted, and hugged them both. We went to the office store and got all the supplies we'd need and worked past dinner on my costume, so we had to order a pizza – YUM! When my costume was finally done, I put on my tights and shoes, and a pair of white shorts and a tee and tried on my costume. It had a piece cut out so I could see out the front and I admired myself in the mirror.

I looked exactly like the dancing red, white and blue pack of cigarettes I'd seen on that show about old commercials. It was almost like a flag! It fit over my head and had armholes on the side and three big construction paper cigarettes coming out of the top. It was so cool!

"Lucky," said Grandpa Andamo, "maybe we should put the Surgeon General warning on the side – you know – make it educational."

"Oh, sure. That will make it less objectionable."

"And maybe we should put some small eye holes on the sides. We don't want her blinded like Scout in that ham outfit in To Kill a Mockingbird."

"Andamo, you read To Kill a Mockingbird? I'm impressed."

"Don't be silly. Vickie rented the movie."

"Oh." He turned to me. "Well, kiddo, how do you like it?"

"Oh, Grandpa I love it! I'd hug you but my arms don't reach as far with the box in the way. The kids at school will think it's so cool!"

"Wait a minute, kiddo! I thought you were just going trick or treating in this. I don't think you can wear it all day at school."

"It's not for school, Grandpa. We don't have regular Halloween parties like we used to when I was just a kid in kindergarten. Now we have Happy Fall Festival parties where we eat cupcakes and play Fall games."

"Fall games?" said Grandpa Andamo. "Like what?"

"I don't know, but the teacher said they'd be fun. No pin the tail on the donkey, teacher says that's animal cruelty. No bobbing for apples – germs you know. Oh, and no Halloween decorations, like ghosts and stuff – it represents witchcraft and black magic. You know, religious stuff."

"So what's left?"

"I think it's educational stuff – but at least we get to eat cupcakes while we do it. Oh yeah, I forgot I need 35 cupcakes for school on Wednesday."

"I'm glad you remembered, since this is late Monday night – only cupcakes?"

"Other moms are bringing other stuff."

Grandpa Lucky picked up the phone and started to dial. "I'm sure the dessert chef at the restaurant can do the cupcakes. How about some goose liver pate or roasted turtles on a stick?"

"Ewww, Grandpa! That's gross!"

"Well, I offered."

"It could be good Halloween finger food," chuckled Grandpa Andamo. "But how are the kids at school going to see your costume?"

"There's a Fall Festival Carnival at school Halloween night. There are games and stuff, and prizes for the best costumes. I know I could win! We can go can't we?"

"We'll see. I'm pretty sure it's past my bedtime, but we'll see."

I was so thrilled. I knew that meant we'd go.

When I got home from school on Halloween I was so excited, I ran upstairs, put on my costume and went downstairs to let Grandpa Andamo know I was ready to go.

"Little Puppy, it's only 3:30 in the afternoon. It won't even start to get dark for a couple of hours. We can't go until it's dark."

"I don't know if I can wait that long. I'm so excited I might explode all over the place!"

"If you do, you'll clean it up," he laughed, and sat down at the kitchen table. "You know, you're just like your mother – so excited, so anxious to get started. No patience. We used to sit and play 'Sorry' until dinner time. You want to play?"

Well, I really wanted to start trick or treating, but it was early, and I liked playing 'Sorry' with Grandpa. So we played (I was winning) until Grandpa Lucky brought over dinner. It was strogenough, or something, on noodles, with salad and green beans. I like green beans. They're not bad for vegetables. We were talking and having so much fun I almost forgot I was waiting to go out! Almost. We put away the leftovers, cleaned up the kitchen and Grandpa Lucky helped me slip back into my cigarette box costume. I took my pumpkin bucket to carry all the treats, both grandpas slipped into their coats and off we went.

Our first stop was Mrs. Percy next door. She was a nice lady, even older than my grandpas. Her husband had died when I was in 1st grade, and she was always a little sad after that. She gave me one of her homemade popcorn balls, and invited us in so I could perform my dance routine, but Grandpa Andamo said I might scratch up her floors with my taps so I did it on her porch. She smiled and said I was the best dancing cigarette pack she'd ever seen, and the cutest. I thanked her and did a little curtsey. Grandpa Lucky said maybe I should be like Scout and go as a ham next year.

"What next year?" laughed Grandpa Andamo. "She's a perfect ham this year."

We all got a good laugh out of that.

Next we went to my friend, Klara's house. Her mom answered the door with a bowl of granola bars, but her smile kind of disappeared when she saw me.

"Well, hello, Chloe," she said. "Who made your costume, sweetheart?"

"Grandpa Andamo and Grandpa Lucky helped me, but it was my idea. Do you want to see my dance?" I'm not sure, but I think she looked like she was sucking on a sour lemon drop, except I know that she doesn't believe in candy. At Klara's last birthday party, we had some kind of vegetable cake. "Not right now, dear. Do you gentlemen think that's an appropriate costume for a 6 year old?"

"I'm 7, Mrs. Brisbane. Remember, I had that party at Grandpa Lucky's house?"

"That's right. I never did get those BBQ sauce stains out of her bathing suit. Your grandpas really let you get away with whatever you want, Chloe, don't they?"

"Just a minute, Kris –" Grandpa Lucky started. Grandpa Andamo put his hand up.

"Lucky, why don't you and Chloe go to the next house. I have to ask Mrs. Brisbane something." Grandpa Lucky gave a small nod of his head and we started walking next door to the Stevensons. I don't know what Klara's mom and Grandpa were talking about but he gave her a small bow and walked back towards us. Mrs. Brisbane's door slammed so loud I could feel the shock waves through my costume. Grandpa Lucky bowed to Grandpa Andamo, who bowed back. I bowed, although I don't know why.

"I assume that your discussion went well, Compadre," Grandpa Lucky smiled.

"Yes, I believe it was mutually enlightening. Hopefully, she will feel better."

At the Stevenson's I did my tap routine and they applauded and gave me one of those big, really nice yellow apples. We went to a couple more houses on my street – I danced and got a Snickers bar and some sugarless gum. I tap danced for almost every house, and soon my pumpkin bucket was pretty full, and I was getting tired. My school, John Glenn, Jr. Elementary, was only three blocks from my house and we made it there in time for the Happy Fall Carnival.

We followed the signs to the auditorium which was filled with kids and adults in costumes and some in regular clothes, like my grandpas. Mrs. Coronado, my principal, met us at the door. She was dressed like one of those Ballet Folklorico dancers in a beautiful red skirt and blouse and a red rose in her hair.

"Oh, Mrs. Coronado, you're so pretty!" I exclaimed.

"Well, thank you very much, Chloe. I assume that's Chloe in there, " she smiled, bending down to look into the eye slot. "That's an unusual costume."

"My grandpas made it for me, but it was my idea. I saw it on TV."

"I hope it won't be a problem, Mrs. Coronado," smiled Grandpa Andamo. "Chloe has quite the imagination, you know. Although she is quite correct. You are even more lovely tonight than usual."

"Oh, I do enjoy having you come by, Mr. Andamo. I can see now where Chloe gets her charm. I think she'll be fine. It's not politically correct, I suppose, but it's just for fun after all."

I really liked Mrs. Coronado. I saw Klara over by one of the games.

"Grandpa, can I go over by Klara?"

"Sure, Honey," said Grandpa Lucky. "Just stay where we can keep an eye on you, OK?"

"OK." Klara was dressed as a cowgirl, and it was really cute. She said she couldn't wear a cap gun because there was a no weapon policy at school, but she'd worn one while trick or treating. We sat down by the table that was loaded with fruit punch and apple juice and started comparing the contents of our buckets, which were pretty much the same, since we both went trick or treating in the same neighborhood. Klara's mom was helping with the bake sale table and I could hear her talking to another parent and to Mr. Fleischer, the 5th grade English teacher. I went to his class for advanced reading and grammar.

"Well, it's no wonder she runs wild like she does with family like that," Mrs. Brisbane whispered, although I could still hear her. "That Lucky and Andamo were gangsters back in the day – they ran an illegal gambling casino and God knows what else!"

"I thought they had a restaurant," the other lady said. "We've eaten there in the past and it was wonderful."

Mr. Fleischer snorted. "A lot of Mafia people ran restaurants as a front for other activities. Their children might run it legal now, but those two made their fortunes on the wrong side of the law, if you know what I mean. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a body or two in their past."

I didn't understand exactly everything they were saying, but what I did I didn't like. It was one thing for a stupid boy to say they were gangsters, but adults were another thing. I jumped up and stood in front of the bake sale table.

"You're a liar!" I shouted. "You're a big, fat liar! My grandpas were never criminals and you are a liar!" I knew I wasn't supposed to yell at adults, but I couldn't help it. I was so mad I was shaking.

Mrs. Brisbane looked down at me over a pie she was holding. "I suggest you lower your voice, young lady."

"I'm sorry, but you are a LIAR!"

"What's going on here?" It was Grandpa Lucky. "Chloe! What are you shouting about?" He stooped down to look at me. I was so mad I was shaking and I was afraid I would start crying in front of everybody there.

"She said you and Grandpa Andamo are criminals and Mr. Fleischer said you killed people. They are liars!" He stood up and glared at Mrs. Brisbane.

"Mrs. Brisbane, did you tell my 6 year old granddaughter –"

"I'm 7, Grandpa. Remember?"

"Did you tell my 7 year old granddaughter that Andamo and I were criminals and murderers!?!"

"It was a private conversation and she had no business eavesdropping. She needs to learn that that's impolite."

"MRS. BRISBANE –"

Suddenly, Grandpa Andamo was standing next to me. "Lucky, let's take a breath and step back a moment – OK?" He stooped down next to me. "Let's take this thing off for a minute so I can talk to you."

"Andamo –"

"I know, Lucky. Just a minute." They lifted the box off of me, and I could see the crowd staring at us. Grandpa Andamo took my hand and whispered in my ear. "I want you to apologize to Mrs. Brisbane."

"But she called you –"

"I know, Little Puppy, but you know you can't speak to people like that. What have I told you?"

"But-"

"What have I told you?"

"Don't get mad," I whispered back. He smiled at me and gave me a little kiss on my forehead. Then he stood up and laid his hand on my shoulder.

"Little One, I would like you to apologize to Klara's mother, OK?" I didn't want to, but if he asked me to I would.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Brisbane." I still knew she was a liar.

"Well, at least she's out of that obscene costume, that's something."

Grandpa Andamo turned to her and in a voice that gave me the shivers, said, "My granddaughter has apologized to you for her behavior. Don't you think it's inadvisable to further antagonize people you feel are professional criminals and murderers?"

The crowd was very quiet as Grandpa and Mrs. Brisbane looked at each other. Her mouth dropped open and she took a step back, throwing the pie in her hands at Grandpa. He ducked and it hit a really tall lady dressed like Mother Goose who was standing behind him. Lemon meringue pie dripped down her face. She tossed her cup of fruit punch at Mrs. Brisbane, but it hit another lady. That lady grabbed a chocolate cupcake and threw it back at her, then all heck broke out! There was shouting and the sound of furniture falling over as more cupcakes, a couple pies, cookies and cakes were flying. Grandpa Lucky grabbed me as a chocolate brownie with nuts flew by his ear and with Grandpa Andamo right behind us we headed for the door.

But just as we were about to go out, Mrs. Coronado came running in with a policeman right behind her. He stopped when he saw us.

"Hey! Lucky! Andamo! It's good to see you. I haven't seen you since Chloe's birthday BBQ at your house. Hi, Chloe!"

"OFFICER LANGDON, PLEASE!" Mrs. Coronado shouted as she pointed to the food fight.

He raised his hand over his head, holding one of those horn in a can things, and pushed the button. The loudest, most blaring noise I ever heard echoed off the walls and everyone stopped like statues.

"ALRIGHT, PEOPLE! LET'S SETTLE DOWN!" He turned to Mrs. Coronado, who looked a little dazed. "Did you want me to find out who those responsible are?"

"Um, no. I just needed the fight to stop. Thank you." She left us to go yell at the crowd. "Could we now start to act our ages, people?!"

"Lucky, Andamo, how are you doing?" said Officer Langdon. "Markie still talks about Chloe's birthday party, and my wife and I just love that recipe for BBQ sauce you gave us. We've had it at least once a month since then."

"I'm glad you enjoyed it, Chet," said Grandpa Lucky. "You'd be surprised how often it gets mentioned."

I looked back at the crowd of people and saw Mrs. Coronado, who looked a little frazzled, talking to those people covered with frosting or pie filling. Tables and chairs were being righted and food picked up off the floor. I saw Klara coming towards me with both of our pumpkin buckets.

"Here, Chloe," she said. "I saved your candy."

"Thanks, Klara."

"Sorry about my mom. She gets a little nuts sometimes. You're not mad at me, are you?"

"No, we've been friends forever. I'm sorry I called her a liar."

"That's OK. Hey, you want to go see all the squished cakes and junk?"

"Cool!"

So while my grandpas talked to Officer Langdon and a couple other adults I didn't recognize, Klara and I went to check out the mess left by the food fight, but most of it had been cleaned up, including my beautiful cigarette box costume. It had been stepped on, the cigarettes were torn and some kind of red cherry filing was smeared on the front. I was sad to see it ruined, but I was kind of tired of wearing it, and it was hot to wear it inside the auditorium. I didn't think I would win any prizes for it anyway, being cigarettes and all. Klara and I played some of the games when they got them going again and I won a stuffed poodle dog in the cakewalk game. Klara got third place in the costume contest, and got a trophy. My grandpas and I applauded for her, and then we headed home. I didn't have my costume to keep me warm, so Grandpa Andamo gave me his leather jacket to wear. I was pretty tired and Grandpa Lucky carried me with my head on his shoulder all the way home. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep.

Did I mention I have the best grandpas in the world?

I know it was the best Halloween ever, but I was thinking maybe next year could be even better if I tried that bottle of scotch costume Grandpa Lucky mentioned. I'll have to start working on my grandpas really early to get that one.