A short story
Peter McIsaac shuffled his stocking feet along the living room floor, watching blue, yellow, white, and green sparks fly. He walked tardily around his dining room table from where he ate his Stouffer’s chicken pot pie to the table’s other side, where his company laptop sat open, the dreary, blinking cursor awaiting his password. He entered StupidJob, knowing nobody else knew his password but hoping somebody would find it out anyway.
Peter glanced at his watch: 7:22 p.m. He had timed the microwave so his dinner would be ready at seven o’clock, giving him fifteen minutes to eat and a few minutes to digest before resuming work. There were reports to write. Reports to write. Reports to write.
If I'm lucky, I'll see my pillow by midnight.
“You work too much,” Loretta had said a year before divorcing him. “You work all day at the office and then all night long at home,” she complained nine months before filing the papers. “We never spend time together,” Loretta told Peter three months before Christmas day when she sued for divorce, adding, “If you can’t find time for me I’m leaving you.”
“You don’t understand. If I don’t get all my work done, I’m fired,” Peter had replied.
“Then be fired. Choose.”
Peter shook his head. “I can’t.”
Peter glanced at his watch again: 7:23 p.m., December 30.
A minute wasted. If I get the reports done, I can celebrate New Year’s.
Peter envisioned the start of 2025 on his thirty-six-inch Sony, maybe munching on popcorn, perhaps Doritos.
If I complete everything.
Peter’s hands hovered over the keyboard momentarily before reaching into the large bag of leftover Halloween candy that doubled as his dining room table’s centerpiece. He had bought his childhood favorites: Lickimaid, chocolate cigarettes, Jolly Rancher, Tootsie Rolls, Pez, Sweet Tarts, rock candy, Bit-O-Honey, Milk Duds, Red Vines Licorice, Charleston Chews, and more. Peter had searched from the southern to northern tips of Manhattan and to Brooklyn to find these childhood memories.
Peter wrote. He unwrapped a candy. He wrote, then ate another candy. As he filled himself with the sweet past, he hallucinated. No, not hallucinate because the images were vivid and detailed—like reels of his childhood. He was playing with Emma, George, and Chris, his friends from when he was ten, at Carl Schurz Park, running in circles around the seesaws, shouting joyfully, “Tag, you’re it,” “Duck, duck, duck, duck goose,” having the time of his life.
A better time than writing reports or bringing in the New Year alone in front of the television.
Peter tilted a box of Junior Mints into his mouth, chewed, coated his tongue and teeth with mint and chocolate, and saw his parents smiling as he sped down the block on his new red scooter. He felt the wind on his face as Penny—now decades gone—barked in sympathetic enthusiasm.
The apartment shook. An earthquake? New York City doesn’t get earthquakes. But if it was a quake, where was the rumbling sound? For that matter, where was any sound? In New York, there were nonstop honking cars, wailing sirens, and pavement diggers. But now, nothing.
A balloon popped, and then a dozen, a hundred, a thousand kernels of exploding popcorn echoed off the apartment walls. The air reddened as if the sun were rising in the middle of Peter’s living room. A red orb hovered above the table.
Peter screamed, but after he released his fear, he understood: The candy had opened a portal to 1980.
This is my ticket, the way out of a dead-end life. I can start anew.
With the wanton abandon of a child unwrapping presents on Christmas morning, Peter ripped open the remaining candy.
Peter ate it all as fast as he could; the flavors of his childhood filled him.
The red orb turned black, and the black sphere encircled Peter.
A train whistle—my Lionel train!—and Peter was ten again.
I did it!
He blinked at the blinding light above. He was lying down, though not perfectly flat, and not on a bed or his parents’ living room couch or the grass in the park. The air was metallic—and his tooth hurt. A lot. The white-haired man hovering over him slowly came into focus. He wore a stern face, waved a pointy tool, and clicked his tongue. He extended his hand to the tray in front of Peter on which a dozen scythe and saber-looking implements lay side-by-side and said, “Peter, if you didn’t eat so much candy, you wouldn’t be spending so much time in this chair.”
If you enjoyed Halloween Candy, I think you’ll like my story, The Liberation Gang.
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