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'Devil's Night'

Some slightly more modern history and a slight indulgence: witches always end up in the news around this time of year. Suddenly every news paper or local news station wants to do a 'did you know there are real witches?!' story.

It all gets a bit tiresome.

I originally wrote this poem for my annual Halloween cards (a habit that has been lost to my gypsy ways and busyness). My father reminded me that he associated 'Devil's Night' with much more unpleasant memories: 1960s Michigan it was often a time of angry destruction. If you've seen the original Crow movie, they use it in a similar way -- an excuse for serious mayhem.

I am part of the last generation of what I think was a wild and free childhood; kids who ran around the neighbourhood all day unsupervised, who shouted 'just going for a bike ride!' over their shoulders as they pedaled away and didn't return home until the supper shout came at twilight -- and often went back out in the dark. We were mostly good kids; our mayhem was seldom more than high-spirited hijinks.

In memory of the time that's gone -- before cell phones and Amber alerts and 'stranger danger' -- I offer a little ditty.

 

Devil’s Night

It was called Devil’s Night in the town where I lived
That veiled night before Halloween,
When goblins came out and devils ran wild
And some said that witches were seen.
We kids stayed inside, safe in our beds
And whispered of what there might be—
But one year we intended to see for ourselves,
My sister, my black cat and me.

The sun had long set and the darkness had come
To wrap all the houses in black,
When we crawled out the window and crept ‘cross the lawn
And none of us even looked back.
Though the wind tapped our shoulders and played with our hair
And ran through the leaves with mad glee,
We were stalwart and true like the heroes we knew,
My sister, my black cat and me.

We had never quite said, but each knew in our heads
The goal of our late night foray;
There was only one house whose black shutters and spires
Cast long inky shadows by day.
The house of nightmares was the subject of dares
For children much older than we,
But we knew we must try to sneak in and spy,
My sister, my black cat and me.

As we walked on our own down the mist-shrouded lane
The goblin cries rang through the night.
My sister told me, with an air of disdain,
That I should not take any fright.
‘It’s only some kids wrapped in sheets that they hid,
That they took from their mothers laundry.’
And we continued along with much knocking of knees
By my sister, my black cat and me.

The house loomed ahead with its turrets like spikes
Aimed at a portentous sky
The old shutters rattled and the chimney howled doom
But the wind smelled like pumpkin pie.
‘An old witch lives here and she eats little kids,’
My sister heard from Katie Lee
And we were likely to die if we drew too near by
My sister, my black cat and me.

‘I’ll go up on the porch and ring her doorbell
then run—like the wind—quick away.
You go ‘round the back and give a sharp rat-a-tat,
Before she can come out this way.’
Her plans carefully laid, my sister then stayed
As I walked toward the back door slowly,
I’ll admit I was scared and I felt ill- prepared,
No sister, just black cat and me.

As I prowled through the gloom I saw a bright room
And an old woman dressed all in black.
‘It must be the witch,’ I said to my cat
And shivered and shook in my tracks.
I wanted to run but I heard the doorbell
And I knew that my sister’s safety
Was all in my hands, so we gathered our breaths,
Poor little black cat and me.

I made a small fist and raised up my arm
To deliver the thunderous tap
But I froze to the spot when I saw a dark shape
That opened the door with a snap.
‘I know what you want!’ I heard the witch say
But my feet would not move to flee
And she swept us inside the warm kitchen’s light,
Poor little black cat and me.

My tears trickled down and I begged for my life
And the life of my little kitty.
The old witch just smiled and patted my head
And said to me, ‘Don’t be silly.
I’ve got oodles of pie and candy and fudge
And a gingerbread house so pretty,
And I wish you would share all the food I’ve prepared—
It’s too much for my big cat and me!’

I looked all around and my fear dissipated
The kitchen was cheerful and clean
And the huge oaken table was filled ‘til it groaned
With more treats than I’d ever seen—
Pies of all kinds and cookies with chips
And a big steaming pot of green tea,
And in front of the fire a great big cat yawned
At my ravenous black cat and me.

I said, ‘Thank you ma’am!’ and plopped down in a chair
And she set a blue plate before me
And I piled it up high with some warm pumpkin pie
And a big taste of each sweet dainty.
I was feeding my face and telling the witch of our chase
When my sister’s gaze fell upon me.
But it took little time before we brought her inside
To eat with my black cat and me.

So when you see a witch and your knees start to shake
And you’re tempted to run to the hills,
Just remember the night that we wandered quite late
Seeking out Devil’s Night thrills.
Some witches are good, and some witches are bad
But they all make amazing candy!
If you’re sweet and not rude, they might share their food
With your sister, your black cat and thee.

 

Happy Halloween! Samhain maith! Wear iron and don’t talk to pookahs. Let us remember those who have gone and whom we miss and share the bright memories with those near us now. Be well.

Best hopes for a quick recovery to all in the path of Sandy; we were lucky in upstate NY.

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K. A. Laity is an all-purpose writer, medievalist, journalist, Fulbrighter, social media maven for Broad Universe, and author of ROOK CHANT: COLLECTED WRITINGS ON WITCHCRAFT & PAGANISM, UNQUIET DREAMS, OWL STRETCHING, CHASTITY FLAME, PELZMANTEL, UNIKIRJA, and many more stories, essays, plays and short humour. Find out more at www.kalaity.com and find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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