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Smell the Coffee: Lifting your spirits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was late last Halloween when, through the curtains, I saw a group coming down our front walk. We don't get many trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood, so I reward those who make it to our house with full-size candy bars. In spite of the late hour, I reached into my plastic cauldron and counted out six.

This group was larger than most -- not quantity-wise, but in physical size. These clearly weren't children. Their costumes were elaborate, impressive. Authentic.

Curious, I didn't wait until I heard the bell to open the door. I wasn't greeted by a rowdy "Trick or treat!" but rather a handsome, pale Dracula looking at me with the same confused expression our dog gets when we pretend to throw the ball. The Count tilted his head first to the left, then to the right, then looked back at his friends and shrugged.

"I'm not sure we're in the right place," he said. "We were referred by a man up the street. He said you're the only real witch he knows."

"I have my moments," I said.

He smiled, revealing fangs that blended flawlessly with his teeth. I appreciated his attention to detail, though suspected he might be hitting the tooth whitener a little too hard. His choppers were almost luminescent.

Behind him stood two witches, a ghost, a skeleton and a mummy who was carrying -- by its hair -- what looked like a head. Their costumes were the most traditional I'd seen all evening. I was charmed.

I held out a candy bar, but the Count shook his head.

"We were wondering if you might want to ..."

"Join us," said the ghost.

"But I'm not in costume," I said.

I wasn't trying to be funny, but for some reason, they laughed.

Though not normally an adventurous sort, I was intrigued enough to grab my coat and go along. The two witches appeared to be having the most fun, so I walked first with them.

"So how do you know each other?" I asked the many-moled pair.

"We were broommates in college."

The ladies were interesting, staying completely in character. When we passed a little girl dressed as Dorothy, they made the sign of the cross and ran. It took ages to calm them back down.

The mummy didn't seem to have much to say, and what he did say was muffled, so tightly wrapped was his face. He talked about needing a place to relax and unwind, maybe listen to some of his favorite music. I think he said it was rap.

"So what's up with the head?" I asked.

"Don't mind him," he said. "He's sulking. He wanted to go dancing tonight, but that never goes well. He doesn't have any body to dance with."

The vampire was my next walking mate, except when I tried to joke with him and asked if he vahnted to suck my blood, he got sort of offended. Said he wasn't that kind of vampire. He said he was more the Krispy Kreme type, explaining that he prefers to suck the jelly out of doughnuts than blood out of necks.

"I don't sparkle either," he said.

At the first major intersection, the skeleton stopped. In spite of our increasingly aggressive nudging, we couldn't get him to move.

Dracula leaned close to me and whispered, "Know why the skeleton won't cross the road?"

I shook my head.

"He doesn't have the guts."

This was a game I knew how to play.

"Know why the ghost will cross the road?" I asked. "Because he wants to get to The Other Side."

We'd been walking for a while, heading toward town, but I still had no idea what our destination would be. I was surprised when I realized it was just an ordinary, hole-in-the-wall bar.

"Why here?" I asked, and then, thinking I'd be clever, said, "Are you needing some spirits?"

"Don't be silly," said the ghost. "I'm here for the boos."

The bar wasn't crowded -- just a morose-looking Frankenstein sitting alone, plus a few zombies bumping into the walls.

The skeleton asked the bartender for a drink and a mop, and I knew I was in for a long night.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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