Fall brings a special time of year, when all the strange and scary, the creepy and the ugly, the weird and the wacky gather for a night of begging and bellowing. I’m talking, of course, about political leadership conventions, but let’s not forget, it’s also the time for Halloween.
So ’round about this time of year, when my main pastime is stealing candy from the big bowl of goodies my thoughtful wife has prepared days in advance for the trick or treaters, I’m inevitably drawn back in time to the old days when I used to collect candy myself, in a pillowcase, door to door, and I didn’t have to steal it from the family bowl, but did anyway.
One year, I found the perfect costume at Woolworths. As soon as I put it on, I didn’t want to take it off. I was Zorro!
For the sadly uninformed, or the unfortunate youngsters (people under 30) who may not have heard of one of the world’s greatest TV heroes, Zorro was a Robin Hood figure for Spanish colonial California — a black-clad masked outlaw who defended the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Sort of like a candidate for the Green Party only more successful.
But the neat thing was, his trademark move was to draw his sword, which looked like a sword used for dueling and fencing, as opposed to a pirate sword which was used for swashing and buckling, and he’d go WHIP! WHIP! WHIP! … and carve the letter Z on doors, trees, people etc. — sort of like leaving a business card only not as convenient, and a little more destructive.
And the most excellent thing about my Halloween costume that year was that not only did it include a black hat and eye-mask that you could actually see out of, and a cool cape, but — get this — Zorro’s sword had a little tube on the end where you could slide in a fresh piece of ordinary teacher’s chalk (easily obtained without permission from any South School classroom) and then you could go around and “carve” zeds of your very own onto everything in sight.
Halloween night I dashed like a masked avenger from house to house, cape flowing, sword in the “lunge” position, hampered only slightly by having to hang onto my white pillow case which I knew would soon be full of about 10 million pieces of candy and three apples.
And that incredibly amazingly awesome chalk-loaded sword worked perfectly! Soon, every door of every house in Parkvale had the famous “mark of Zorro.” Every telephone pole, most of the sidewalks and car tires, and many slower-moving younger kids all became targets. I found that it was very difficult to control your zeds once you started.
Thing is I just about drove my buddies crazy. And by the time we trick-or-treated our sugar quest all the way to Central School, they were all ready to strangle Zorro.
You see, I was so into the Zorro Zone that instead of yelling: “Trick or Treat, trick or treat, give us something good to eat!” I had begun to sing — or at least attempt to sing — an inspired, stirring version of the Zorro theme song!
“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright,
Comes a horseman by the name of Zorro!
This bold renegade, carves a Z with his blade,
A Z that stands for Zorro.”
I would warble away at the top of my lungs outside of each house, completely without inhibition on account having a secret identity, and then after the last line, with a mighty flourish, as the homeowner opened the door, I would carve a completely impressive Zed on the inside of the door, or anywhere else I could find that was particularly chalk-friendly.
However, my buddies soon put a kibosh on my embarrassing enthusiasm, and so for the rest of the night I stifled the urge to break into the catchy Zorro theme song, and yelled “Trick of Treat!” like everybody else.
And I still managed to cop about 15 pounds of candy in my overflowing pillowcase.
But ultimately that Halloween, a grand time was had by all, and when I headed for home alone across the footbridge to Parkvale confident that this particular masked avenger had done his duty to spread the zed far and wide for the good of all mankind, I had about 15 pounds of candy in my pillow case.
And when I came upon a big white house at the end of 45th street, with its flickering, smiling jack-o-lantern on the step, I couldn’t resist going for it one more time. I belted it out with bellowing off-key glee and gusto for the last time:
“OUT OF THE NIGHT, WHEN THE FULL MOON IS BRIGHT,
COMES A HORSEMAN BY THE NAME OF ZORRO!”
I had never sung it so powerfully, so passionately before.
And when Mom opened our big wooden front door, I carved a perfect Zed.
Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer. His column appears on Saturdays.