I sit on the roof with my legs crossed, admiring all the mistakes I made weaving shingles and glooping plastic cement over everything. The gloop is dripping over the edge of the roof and is all over my pants and my arms and hands. My black hands look frostbitten and I know if I stand up I’ll look like those bent and leathery old men who wander the roofing aisle at Home Depot, grandpas in orange robes who escaped the infirmary. Anyway, if I try to stand up, I’ll just be pulled back into the gloop. I will be some monstrous spider’s meal tonight. The wolf spiders I find under the five huge oak trees that lord over my lot are large enough to carry pocket change, and have personalities. Once, one moved into a crack in the window sill and I had to lure it out with a frozen mouse I got at the pet store. A quick spray with one of those giant cans with a picture of a roach on it – flower-scented! – and the fucker was a shriveled-up dot of organic matter.

I’ve spent every weekend for two months up on this roof: ripping thirty-year-old shingles, tarring, “bitchathaning,” then nailing down shingles, cutting up shingles, ripping out mistakes, re-shingling, re-tarring, swearing, hyperventilating, and talking to myself, a habit I got from my dad. For some reason, I’ve inherited his Massachusetts accent when I talk to myself, as well. “Alright, just tack it heahh, and heahh, and heahhh, oh fuck, I missed, ok let’s tahh the shit out of it, why am I sayin’ all this out loud? I can smell the things comin’ from someone’s bathroom fan somewheah neahhby. Gross!”

The wind blew my rickety aluminum ladder over and I sat on the edge of the porch ceiling telling myself to “Jump!” for over an hour before a neighbor walked by on a cigarette break and helped me out. I even went up there in the rain to lay a tarp when I found a puddle in my living room: turns out I laid the “bitchathane” (people who use pronouns call this stuff Grace Ice & Water Shield) wrong and water drizzled under it and into a valley, where it pooled under some sheathing and found its way through the trim in my ceiling, turning my puppy’s playpen into a wishing well.

But you learn by doing, yea? My roof’s covered now, imperfections and all, and I sit and enjoy the view from up here, the sun setting over the highway, the October foliage just past its prime. The purple and crimson oak leaves still cling for life, but the maples and understory softwoods are all bare now. The wind is picking up, and I see rain clouds far away, so I decide to clean up and get down before the ladder falls again.

It’s been fun – although frustrating at times – fixing up an old mobile home at the end of Lilac Drive in this nice trailer park. The park encourages people to take care of their homes and lots, and they put in nice homes into the empty lots and lay down nice lawns and bushes and trees and seemingly nice people seem to move in. I’ve slowly gotten to know my neighbors and the ebbs and flows of the community. Oddly enough, I meet more people while working on my roof than walking the dog or sitting on my porch or raking my lawn. Man-nods up close, roof jokes and shop talk from below while the wind blows my replies down the street. So back to man-nods for now. My old neighbor across the street yells up to me, “It’s snowing in East Rochester!” When I reply that I checked the weather, he just shakes his head at me and walks away. I keep weaving the valley. The weather, like the events in the community, don’t matter to me. No yard sales or seats at the annual barbecue for me, no thanks. But I will always provide friendly helloes and pick up litter when I am able to.

The roof also provides an excellent perch for people-watching. There are always doors slamming and cars revving and distant laughs or smells like woodstove and cigarette that get my attention. Now and then I hear a gun explode in the distance, though I suspect that isn’t in the park, but over the highway and through the woods. The people here are pretty tame, these trailer park folks. I see some girls and kids a few lots down from me. They’re posing for pictures in the fallen leaves with a baby, dressed like a puppy. The kiddo’s costume is brown and has floppy ears and a tail. He’s giggling while Mommy rubs his red cheeks and mumbles incoherently at him. Snap, snap. All the other girls around the baby are dressed in costumes, too.

Oh shit, that’s today isn’t it? What time is it? I pry myself out of the black gloop – good thing all my clothes are black, as they stretch off the roof, clinging for dear life – and scurry down the ladder. The trick-or-treaters will be out tonight, and I need to be tucked in my house with the Edison lights down low, cooking beets and sausages, and listening to the new John K. Samson album. Poppy, folksy songs like “Postdoc Blues” that remind me of melty, burning candles, dead oak leaves swirling around empty yards, and spilled beer bottles on old apartment floors. I can taste the leaves and smell the beer, but none of it to go around. I’ve got beets to slice and a little coffee left, though.

No, the tin foil hat isn’t part of any costume. I must hide from all these odd little humans walking around dressed like Marios and princesses and pirates and Santa Clauses and – gasp! – is that child dressed like a slice of pizza? Oh look, there’s the jerk wearing a football jersey. I did that once, the last time I ever trick-or-treated. My heart just wasn’t in it anymore. My friend wore the same jersey, but he added a werewolf mask. We were a strange two-person costume. An old lady gave us apples and he smashed his in the street. I ate mine. It was the 90’s. I was the good kid. He was clearly the werewolf kid.

There’s a crowd of kids and parents in the yard across the street, the adults smoking, the kids bantering and bouncing around, clutching plastic pumpkin buckets and canvas bags with grocery store logos on them. I can hear in the distance a Halloween-themed soundtrack CD playing – gasps and moans and a scream that repeats every two minutes. “Ahhhh!” …… “Ahhhh!” I keep turning my head thinking someone is getting run down by Mr. Mercedes.

I get into my house, finally safe from the candy proletariat, but someone is looking up at me, tongue and butt wagging in opposite directions. “What’s wrong with you puppy, can’t you hold it?” He’s already shaking his head, so I bring the puppy out and we stroll the yard, hiding behind the oak trees and spidery forsythia bushes when hordes of kids skip by. One ten-year-old girl wears what I first think is the powdered wig of a Puritan magistrate, but when she turns, I realize she has a tail of the same white, puffy material poking out of her purple sweatpants. A poodle! Clever costume! The puppy is interested in the girl and pulls on his leash toward her. “Puppy!” I yell to him. “She isn’t a real puppette, she’s just a girl! Gosh, pup, you have so much to learn.” Then I realize that someday I have to either give my puppy “The Talk” – or we can just chop his red rocket right off at the launch pad. I veer him toward his other favorite hobby, the leaf piles. The pup likes leaves. He’ll chew them and kick them up and chase them around. And to think people spend big money in pet stores. Perhaps next year when he’s a little less rowdy, I will plaster leaves all over him like some sort of Andy Goldsworthy sculpture and he will be a leaf monster for Halloween. I’d like to dress him up as Godzilla – with one of those obnoxious floppy dinosaur heads on top of his puppy head – and we could be tourists with cameras. Whenever someone says, “Oh, what a cute puppy costume!” we could grab our cameras, yell “Domo arigatooooo!” and run around screaming. When the Social Justice Warrior police arrive and say we are being racist, I’ll say, “Hey man, he’s just a dinosaur, and we aren’t Asians, you thought it, not me.” And the SJW will self-destruct. And that is how we will solve that little problem.

While someone screams “Ahhhh!” in the distance yet again, right on time, the puppy tinkles daintily into the very leaves he just had in his mouth, as if he aims on purpose. I get the pup to sit and I glance around, then a sly look into the puppy’s eyes. This is my favorite game to play with the pup: “Puppy, what time is it?” He looks up with the stupid love of a five-month-old Aussie Shepherd. I tell him: “Dinner time!” Before I can blink, we’re racing up the porch stairs and he’s pawing at the front door, he’s jumping and spinning, tripping on the leash. “Dinner” is his favorite word. I drop a frozen wad – CLINK! – of ground chicken and fish – with a few whole chicken necks in there for some crunch – into the pup’s bowl and turn the oven on for the beets and sausages to roast. Then I put on “Vampire Alberta Blues” and crouch behind the couch, my tar black fingers nervously tapping on the upholstery. It is getting dark out, and sprinkling a bit. The shadows of costumed children haunt Lilac Drive. I see a Bahama Mama, cardboard box robots, spidermen, Spongebobmen, and the old man across the street is sitting very still on his front bench dressed as the Grim Reaper, a bowl of candy in his lap. He’s not trying to scare kids, but I can imagine the idea behind his sitting very still. Maybe he’s just old. Maybe his visibility is just bad behind the screened-in eyes of his Death mask. Maybe the bowl of candy is just very heavy. His tiny granddaughter skips around in a fairy costume, waving her wand, perhaps making more candy appear in her bag, so he can’t be too scary.

The song ends. Good times are comin’, sang with a sneer. The only sound in my house for a moment is the gnawing of puppy teeth on frozen raw meat. The crunch of a chicken neck. I think about what I would do if my greatest fear came true: what if someone rang the doorbell? It wasn’t quite dark out yet, so even though my porch light was off, some sly teenybopper dressed like a cowboy might think he could impress his mermaid girlfriend by kowtowwing up to the door, taking a deep breath in the darkness of my covered porch, and pressing his index finger to the tiny white button. Ding-dong! I’d answer the door, of course, dressed like Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Revenant. My beard would be long and scraggly, I’d look like a leper, bleeding from bear scratches and covered in torn clothes and horse guts. I’d just breathe at him. He’d hear my heart beating. He’d stutter, “Trick…or…trick…..uh…trea…..” and I’d drop an onion in his bag. “A red onion,” I’d whisper as it plunked in with his candy bars and M&Ms. My tar black hand would still be lingering above his bag, my nails long and yellow, the two of us making intense eye contact, then I’d close the door with my foot. It would spook him forever and he’d never sleep again. Or knock on my door again.

Then, I think, it would be nice to just leave the little smoker’s trash can we fill up with loaded doggy bags on the top step with a sign that reads HELP YOURSELF! If I had planned it properly, I could have went to the arts & crafts section of the store and bought Halloween gift baggies with little ghosts or candy corns on them, and used those for doggy bags all week. My girlfriend didn’t like this idea, and told me not to do it.

Suddenly the doorbell rings and I lower myself behind the couch, “Virtute At Rest” is playing now and I try to hide under the purple monstrosity, but it is too low to the ground. The puppy can always get under here to find his lost toys and treats, but I can’t hide like a Bosch creature, with legs coming out of my mouth and arms coming out of my butt, with toes in my ears and bird claws for toes. Eyes bulging in fear, I hide. I wait. I hear silence on the porch, it’s just sitting there, quiet as can be, and when I look there is no one. No cowboys or mermaids, no need for me to dig out my Revenant costume and bag of red onions, thank God.

Let it rest, all you can’t change.

Let it rest and be done.

I peek out the window now and then to look at the costumes, to make pouty faces and act uninterested, to act like a prisoner in my own home. It is a little ridiculous, I think, how many children suddenly appear in my trailer park when there’s free candy at every door. Cul-de-sacs, wealthy neighborhoods, and trailer parks are goldmines for trick-or-treaters, and there’s gold in these here hills. Rape the land and run. At least the pirate was an honest costume.

The truth is, I really like this one day of the year that anyone can be anything they want to be. I saw a little boy jump out of the school bus the other day with his Pikachu costume still on, the pointy-eared hood barely clinging to his head as he ran. I felt like laying my head against my horn and going limp, rolling into the damned school bus, but then through his yellow and black rodent armor, I saw the absolute joy in the kid’s eyes to be bolting across the road in character. Pikaaaaa! I could hear him yelling. And you know what, if the cowboy thinks that mermaids dig cowboys, then I say go for it. Most of the fun of Halloween is the game that is Halloween. The tricks and the treats.

Ah, the tricks. I am driving home from the store with a car full of shingles that get easier and easier to lift, which means I’ve been spending too much time roofing my house. I see a Gary Johnson sign in a front yard. In the same yard is a sign that reads THIS HOUSE RUNS ON THE SUN. I can’t find the house, which is hidden from the road by a row of big trees, and I wonder if that’s the joke. But here comes someone now, his Jack Russell pup in tow, the little rascal looking for a good spot to take a leak. The guy is pretty tall, and slouches a bit, his hands in his pockets. He sort of bounds about, as if he is about to shrug at the first person he approaches. He’s wearing boots, baggy work jeans, a heavy flannel shirt, and over his face he dons an elaborate pull-over Unicorn mask. The fabric is white, the eyes are black and the stuffed horn is a beautiful, sparkling purple, standing proudly a good foot over his head. Yup, just out to walk the dog. Shrug.

That is what Halloween is all about. And if it stays that way, I can get behind it. But I’ll stay inside, domo arigato. With my beets and my indie music and my dog and my wolf spiders and my shingles and my red onions and buckets of dog poop.

The sun’s down and the rain’s washed the last of the candy vultures back to their nests. My corner of the park seems darker than usual, and I realize most of the Halloween decorations my neighbors have hung up are turned off for the night. The red strobe lights and strings of pumpkin lights, the lit-up ghosts hanging from trees, the porch lights – a few of which are a festive green. It still seems so dark. Ah, I’ve got it. Every lot in the park features a lamp post with a white dome light on top. It’s a pretty sight to look up the hill at night and see all the domes lit up. But from inside the house, they are bright and annoying, as if a cop has a spotlight on his car and is aiming it in my bedroom. I see now, however, that everyone on my block has done what I do – hi-jack the lights by removing the bulbs. My lamp post has been off for months and is wrapped in a dying clematis vine that just won’t quit. I hope it eats the lamp post. The only light still on is the old Grim Reaper’s. Someone drew a Jack-o-Lantern face on it and put an orange light bulb inside. It grins into the blackness all night long, grinning right into the soul of whomever gazes its way, turning it black as my tarred hands.

The lamp posts all in a row up the hill suddenly emit a creepy aura, as they lead the driver to the end of the dark road, to their grinning king, the Jack-o-Lantern at the Grim Reeper’s house. It’s a mighty trick. And now that all the kids are tucked in bed and having bizarre sugar-fueled nightmares, I think I’d like to go take a walk in the darkness and get spooked a little bit, myself.

I think it’s safe to go outside now, is it?