A Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ
For as many years as I’d been trick or treating, my grandma had been dragging me to Sunday school. It wasn’t that I didn’t like Sunday school. Because I did. I enjoyed the creative crafts we made and sat spell-bound listening to the amazing biblical stories my teachers told. I just didn’t like getting up early when it wasn’t a school day and I absolutely despised getting dressed up. However, grandma’s persistence paid off. When I was ten years old, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. Shortly thereafter, to the amazement of my grandmother and the relief of my Sunday school teachers, I was baptized in front of the entire congregation of Bellefontaine Baptist Church. Halleluiah.
Being immersed in water like John did to Jesus was an outward demonstration of an inner personal change. Or so the scriptures say. Baptism made you an official, certified, eternally-saved-from-hell, born-again Christian. Praise. Jesus. Now being “born-again” meant it was my duty to put off the old sinful ways of the heathen boy I used to be and start being a good boy. I had to stop doing the bad things my old self already had a hankering to do. Like riding my bike off the roof of Mr. Sexton’s old garden shed, shooting my brother with the BB gun and egging houses on Halloween who turned off all their lights, so they didn’t have to hand out candy.
I was a new creature in Christ. One who went to bed on time and took out the trash, not the third time, but the first time my dad told me. I picked up our dog’s poop with the discipline of a disciple and dried the dishes with the sweetness of a saint. I even said my nightly prayers. And God knows (because He never heard them before) I never did that. So, when Halloween came around in 1972, the year of my Christian conversion, I decided I wasn’t ever going to dress up like anything evil ever again. Nope. No bloody vampires. No fanged werewolves. Not even a crazed zombie, the easiest of all evil costumes to create. I was on the straight and narrow path of righteousness and my Halloween costume had to reflect my piety.
And so it came to be one Sabbath morning as I was walking from Sunday school into what mom like to call “Big Church”, I strolled past a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall. He was standing at a door and had a peaceful and loving countenance about him. His right hand was stretched out as if he were knocking on the door. I stopped and reverently observed the picture. Hmmm. Jesus. Door. Knocking. I got an idea. No, it was more than an idea. It was a divine inspiration from God!
I hustled home and rummaged through my closet and found an old pair of leather sandals. I borrowed my old man’s polyester robe and found a straggly pirate’s beard from a past costume. When I put them all together, I was the world’s first, and to the best of my knowledge, the only—Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ.
Can I hear an Amen?
I had the costume, but something was missing. Now everyone knows that Jesus loved to hand out those little colorful pamphlets to people at the grocery stores and airports. That’s why so many Christians did it. So several weeks before the big day, I asked Mr. Cain, my Sunday school teacher, if I could have a handful of those little pamphlets. He explained they were called “witnessing tracts’ and they told how a person could go to heaven and live with God for eternity.
“Why do you want them?” Mr. Cain asked.
“Because I’m going to be a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ for Halloween.” I smiled, stuck out my chest and proudly proclaimed. “And I want to hand out them “witnessing tracts” while I’m going door to door getting candy.”
Mr. Cain had known me my entire life. He also knew my pre-born-again personality. When several goldfish showed up in the baptismal tank one Sunday morning. He knew the culprit behind the devilish deed. And when a couple of the choir members sat down one sabbath after singing, “Just As I Am” and the farting echo of a whoopie cushion resonated pass the pews and into the front foyer, Mr. Cain, along with the rest of the laughing congregation, turned a raised eyebrow in my direction. The thought of me acting saintly in any manner made Mr. Cain chuckle out loud. But he gave me a handful of witnessing tracts anyway. Mr. Cain was a kind and giving Christian man like that.
The final days of October dragged on like Reverend Elsworth’s closing prayers. Slow. Painful. Torturing my soul and sweet tooth with anticipation. They say an idle mind is the devil’s playground. So to kill time I drew up a map of my neighborhood and circled the houses of all the unsaved people. The Heathens. The Lost Souls. The ones who needed a witnessing tract from the Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ. I circled the Cohens house with a big red marker. The Dodridges, with their perpetual pot smoking and rock and roll music always blasting away, also got circled.
But the one house who needed salvation more than any other. The one surely on a one-way train to Hell was our next-door neighbors, the Kennisons. It wasn’t really “the Kennisons” who needed to be saved. It was Mr. Kennison specifically. Mrs. Kennison was as sweet as a playful kitten. She’d sometimes make us Kool-aid ice cubes and there wasn’t a summer when she wasn’t handing bags full of delicious, juicy tomatoes over the fence to mom.
However, Mr. Kennison was a totally different character. He always had a mean and strained look on his face like he was eternally constipated. He couldn’t talk in a normal voice either. He was constantly screaming as if he were trying to out talk a running lawnmower. Brash. Belligerent. At night when his dog wouldn’t come in right away, he’d curse so loud and long that stray dogs often showed up on his porch just to shut him up. But that wasn’t what made Mr. Kennison the meanest man on the block. It was the fact that he shot squirrels with his pellet gun. At least that’s what mom said made him the meanest man on the street. While Mrs. Kennison spent most of her life planting flowers and vegetables in her garden, Mr. Kennison made a career of swooshing away birds and rabbits and shooting squirrels on the prowl for a ripe tomato or tulip bulb.
“And that’s just mean!” My mom would say and I’d shake my head in solemn agreement. But secretly, deep inside, the thought of shooting a squirrel with a pellet gun was deliciously exciting. It conjured up way more fun than that derived from the aforementioned shooting my brother with a BB gun. Squirrel hunting with a pellet gun was the adolescent ecstasy and the envy of every boy on the block. But I was no longer like every boy on the block. I was a born-again Christian boy.
The last night of October finally crept upon the calendar. I quickly transformed from a normal wild-mannered schoolboy into the Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ. A second after the mercury streetlight in front of our house began to glow, I hurried out the door. Like potions in a witch’s cauldron, ghouls, ghosts, and goblins poured onto the streets and mixed and mingled with their righteous counterparts: angels, fairies and princesses. And on that particular year, they were joined by the greatest of all evil eradicators. The Prince of Peace. The night was murky and chilled with an autumn breeze, but a fire of righteousness warmed my soul. I walked directly to the Kennison’s house.
Knock. Knock. I pounded on their door with the confidence of a tele-evangelist. Mr. Kennison’s grimacing face opened the door.
“Tricketh or treateth, ye participant of this pagan holiday,” I commanded in my best Jesus voice.
Mr. Kennison starred down with curiosity and asked. “What the hell are you, a hippy?”
“No.” I rolled my eyes at his ignorance. “I’m Jesus Christ.” I proclaimed.
That threw him for little dizzy and cause him to chuckle. “Well, that’s nice. But even Jesus doesn’t get any candy without a joke. Do you know one?”
I eagerly shook my head yes and said, “Pretend that I’m standing in heaven. OK?”
Mr. Kennison agreed.
“Knock, knock.” I chanted.
“Who’s there?” he replied.
“Not you!” And with those words, I handed him a witnessing tract that explained in full-colored cartoons how he too could be born-again and live forever in heaven. I gave him a loving Jesus smile, took a handful of Sixlets out of his candy bowl and turned to convert the rest of the neighborhood into Christians.
The evening was going heavenly. I was witnessing to werewolves and passing out tracts to gypsies, tramps, and thieves. I even tried laying healing hands upon a pretty little witch with an ugly, crooked nose. But she got scared, dropped her cauldron full of candy and ran. I picked it up and tossed it into my pillowcase.
“The riches of the wicked are stored up for the righteous. Proverbs 13:22!” I preached as she scurried away.
My mission had got me so wrapped up that I wasn’t paying attention. I suddenly found myself on a street beyond the boundaries of my trick or treating zone established by mom and dad. Not. Good. There was a group of kids standing in front of an old dark and dilapidated house. Scattered about its weedy and overgrown lawn, one could see the top of fake tombstone and giant spiderwebs. Everything about this place screamed playfully spooky. But in a psychotic killer and extremely scary kind of way. I could plainly hear the whispers of the kids on the sidewalk in front of the haunted house.
“That’s were Michael Calester got killed!” An astronaut said to a nun.
“I heard Satan worshippers live there and they kidnap children on Halloween to sacrifice to the devil.” Minnie Mouse whispered to a group of mummies.
Each began daring one another to race up the path and knock on the front door. But no one was accepting the challenge. It was then when one of the boys noticed me standing curiously by myself on the other side of the street. Maybe it was the Captain Kangaroo or the Lone Ranger, I don’t remember. But whoever made the comment thought he was being exceptionally funny when he loudly shouted.
“Hey look! It’s Jesus. Let’s see if he’ll do it!”
Everyone turned and looked at me. I knew in an instant what they were thinking. They were thinking exactly what I had always thought about Jesus. He wasn’t afraid of ANYTHING. And since I was a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ, it had suddenly fallen upon me to be just as fearless. “I’ll show them,” I said to myself and proceeded to walk bravely past the smoking tombstones, through the gigantic spiderwebs and over the realistic bloody body parts sprawled across the lawn. Dear. Lord. Protect. Me.
As I neared the porch, I imagined my mind was playing tricks on me because I thought I heard the theme song of the Twilight Zone playing. But it wasn’t a trick. It was real. Blaring from the television just in front of the window, I heard the famous twinkling hi-pinched cords. Du-du. Du-du. Du-du. Du-du.
I stepped on the porch. On the door hung a sign that read, “TRICK OR TREATERS WILL BE EATEN!” And below the words was a picture of a cauldron with what looked to be children’s arms and legs floating in a brew stirred by an evil witch. For a brief moment, I thought, “This door looks nothing like the door Jesus was knocking on in the picture at Big Church.” The thought weighed heavily on my mind as I knocked loud enough for my heathen spectators on the sidewalk to hear.
A moment later everything in the house went silent. And then black.
“It’s time.” A low, raspy, voice called from behind the door.
I have to admit. I was scared and began to shake. I didn’t want to shake. I was on a mission from God to prove that the Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ was as fearless as the real Jesus. We were both brave and bold, even as we stood at the gates of hell of a haunted house. That’s why I didn’t want to shake. But the voice that grumbled on the other side of the door sounded so eerie, so bone-chilling cold that my heart began beating twice its normal speed. Which sent electromagnetic shocks down my spine that caused every limb from my nose to my toes to pulsate and quiver.
I stood there shaking. I didn’t risk knocking again. I rationalized in my small, possibly soon-to-be-eaten brain that maybe they didn’t hear the knock. Or they’d ignore it and continued watching The Twilight Zone. I would live and could walk proudly back to my audience and say in a smug and religiously demeaning voice, “No one was home.”
But the darkness from inside the house broke as light as red as blood permeated from beneath the bottom of the door. The cowardly trick or treaters standing on the sidewalk took a deep gasp in unison. In a sad sense, I was mildly relieved to know they were there to act as witnesses should I become a ten-year-old Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ martyr.
Clonk. Silence. Clonk. Silence. Clonk.
The footsteps came closer and closer. The knob turned slowly and the door squeaked open. With each parting inch, more of the blood red light poured forth until I was momentarily blinded. When I gathered my eyesight, there, standing in the horror of a little kid’s way, was Satan.
Now, in all my years of treat or treating, I had seen many Satans. Hell, they were as common as witches and hobos. But this wasn’t your normal everyday Halloween Satan. This was the biggest, most horrific, evilest-looking Prince of Darkness I had ever set eyes on. His horns weren’t attached to his head by a black plastic headband like the kind they sold at Ben Franklin. His horns actually protruded from his forehead with drops of blood streaming from them. His eyes were bloodshot and possessed. But what validated to my soul that this was the REAL Satan, was the glowing cigarette bobbing between his lips.
Only the real Satan would be puffing on a Winston.
He gave an evil laugh and I watched in horror as the cherry on the end of the cigarette bounce up and down. It hypnotized me just long enough not to notice the chainsaw he was holding in his right hand. He held it up over his head and pulled the handle. A burst of grey smoke billowed in my face. An ear piercing Ggggrrrrrrggggggrrrrr rang out around my ears. It was at that exact moment when my brain instantly shouted to my kidneys,
“Pee! Go ahead Harry, pee in your pants. It’s OK, just do it. NOW!!!”
And I would have pissed all over myself right there and then, had I not been wearing my ol’ man’s robe and I didn’t have an audience of my peers standing behind me. Yep, I would have diddled in my drawers like a toddler in training pants. But I didn’t.
They say in extreme tragic situations people often display signs of supernatural power. Old ladies have been known to lift cars off of loved ones and children have jumped out of four-story burning buildings without an injury. In that instant, I experienced something supernatural. It was an indescribable spiritual jolt that infused me with the power of the Holy Spirit and caused me to do what any newly born-again, ten-year-old boy would do; I hauled off and kicked Satan square in the nuts and ran like hell.
I think I heard a faint groan and perhaps he may have cut himself in two with the chainsaw. But I didn’t give an owl’s hoot. I didn’t even look back. I bolted down that path and into the street. The group of kids watching the whole nightmare parted like the Red Sea. I ran through them. And I ran. And ran. I didn’t stop running until I saw Mr. Kennison standing on his front porch. I prayed with all my might he had his pellet gun handy just in case Satan was chasing after me. I hit his steps at full speed. He caught me in his arms with a look of fear in my face that drain the color of my cheeks.
“Good God almighty boy, you look as if you’d seen a ghost!” Mr. Kennison said and then looked out into the darkness beyond his porch.
“Worse!” I said. Then I attempted to try and tell him what had just happened. But I couldn’t. I was out of breath and panting like a marathon runner. The normal scowl perpetually implanted on Mr. Kennison’s face got soft and troubled.
“You OK son?” He put his hand on my shoulder and patiently waited for my answer.
It took a minute or two, but I finally calmed down enough tell Mr. Kennison my entire Satan story. When I got to the part of kicking the devil in the balls, he let out a laugh so loud that it still echoes in my ears even to this day. I begged him not to tell my folks. They wouldn’t like the idea of me doing something as un-Christian as that to anyone. Didn’t matter if it was Satan or not. Not to mention the fact I was out of my Trick or Treating zone. Mr. Kennison smiled the biggest smile I had ever seen him smile in the ten years I’d know him. He promised me that it was locked in the vault of his mind and it would stay there forever.
That was the last time I was ever a Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ. I put the costume away and remained an angelic, born-again boy for about another three weeks. Then I went back to my normal mischievous and sinful ways. Mr. Kennison started back at shooting squirrels for sport. One Saturday morning while mom was off garage-saling, Mr. Kennison was sitting on his back porch with a hunter’s stare in his eyes and his pellet gun on his lap. I could see a parade of squirrels bantering back and forth across his yard.
“I could sure use some help fighting off these little demons.” Mr. Kennison yelled across the fence and gave me a sinister grin. I hurried inside and grabbed my BB gun and then jumped the fence and climbed up on Mr. Kennison’s back porch. For the next hour, we shot those squirrels right in whatever nuts they happened to be carrying. Mom never found out.
We became good friends after that. You might even say, Mr. Kennison became like a surrogate grandpa. He took me fishing and helped me build a go-cart out of plywood and old lawnmower wheels. I don’t know if Mr. Kennison ever read that witnessing tract. But sometimes he and Mrs. Kennison did join us for Easter and Christmas church services. I felt sinfully proud when they did. Like I had something to do with them being there and by doing so I had earned an extra gold star on my heavenly chart. Funny how, as the years went by, Mr. Kennison’s perpetual grimace sort of faded away and his voice softened. I grew up and got married and had children of my own. The last time I saw Mr. Kennison before he died, I couldn’t help but notice his face, while old and wrinkled, had the countenance and serenity of another face that I once admired. Jesus. Door. Knocking.
For many years I kept the whole Trick or Treatin’ Jesus Christ story a secret. Mostly because I was ashamed of my cowardliness and felt that I had let Jesus down. But I got older and as I look back at it all, it’s rather humorous. Now I share my story to whoever wants to lend an eager ear. To this day, I can honestly say, I’ve never met anyone who could say they’ve had the nerve or the pleasure of kicking Satan where it counts.