If my memory serves (and it’s notoriously faulty), that Halloween night when I was seven (or eight) fell dark and stormy. I hope that’s accurate, because it lends the right spooky atmosphere to the scene:
Me, sitting at our Formica dining table, wearing my Sleeping Beauty costume (sans hard plastic mask); my two older siblings dressed and ready to go collect candy, standing by the front door; lightning flashes illuminating my alien nemesis.
Those three fleshy, slimy, cold, brownish-grey canned green beans on my plate.
To this day, my mother insists this scene never happened, that she never forced me to eat any nasty vegetable matter before trick or treating. I am now gracious enough to give her the benefit of the doubt. It’s quite possible an alien simply took over her body with the purpose of tormenting a human child.
Well, finally, some spirit moved me, or at least moved my fork. It might have been a wellspring of courage and fortitude I didn’t know I possessed, or it might have been the stink eye my brother was giving me from the doorway. It was all or nothing: either we all went trick or treating or none of us did, either I ate all of the canned green beans or I failed myself and my siblings, and wouldn’t taste a weird wax chewy candy for another whole year.
In my memory, I ate those three slimy green beans heroically, one after the other, chewing only enough to swallow, gagging only a little, and if it looked like I cried, those tears were only the result of a profound allergic reaction to the alien vegetables I’d just choked down.
Sadly, I recall the taste of the canned green beans more vividly than any of the candy I collected that Halloween night. I might have scored a sparkly red candy apple or even a psychedelic popcorn ball, but by then, my alien-possessed mother would likely have taken them away as possible threats filled with poison or razor blades.
I would have been left with a few Pixie Stix, a smattering of baby Butterfingers, some weird waxy chews, and a newfound sense of how to get along with aliens: appease them when you can, and find where they hide the confiscated popcorn balls while they’re away at bowling night.