Mr. Carruthers was in his garage finishing up his new invention. It was almost dark, and he needed his invention complete before sunset, before the trick-or-treaters were out. Mr. Carruthers was a retired aerospace engineer and a Korean War veteran. He spent most of his afternoons in his garage tinkering with his inventions. His wife Cordelia spent her days in the kitchen. Sometimes she brought him lemonade when he got hot in the garage. Today’s invention was a water gun—the ultimate water gun. It featured a three hundred PSI reservoir that could hold up to two liters of water and had a rubber-fitted handle molded to Mr. Carruthers’ precise grip. The water gun could shoot water two hundred feet, at one hundred feet per second, with a stream duration of thirty seconds. It could literally soak a child in under a second. It was better than any water gun on the market.
Mr. Carruthers used a file to smooth out some of the water gun’s rough edges. He put the file down. The water gun was complete. Mr. Carruthers filled the tank with water to its capacity. He pumped it with nitrous oxide. He lifted the gun. Filled with water and gas, it was close to twenty pounds, more than his gun in Korea.
It was getting dark. Mr. Carruthers needed to light the jack-o-lantern and get the candy ready. Last year he had Cordelia bake chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts for the trick-or-treaters. He and Cordelia thought it was a cute trick, but it did not go over well with the children. Some of them got mad. One kid even stuffed a few chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts into the tailpipe of Mr. Carruthers’ truck. The truck stalled out on the freeway the next day, and a multi-vehicle collision ensued. After Mr. Carruthers awoke from his coma, the police told him that they did not know who perpetrated the evil deed. Mr. Carruthers knew exactly who did it. It was Johnny, that mischievous little kid down the street who was perpetually kicking things, punching things, or setting things on fire.
Johnny was the type of kid who captured beetles and burned them to death with magnifying glasses. He was the type of kid who snapped wet towels at people while they were sunbathing by the community pool. And he always had that rambunctious rottweiler of his accompany him during these excursions. Two summers ago, Cordelia had asked Johnny to water her flowers while she and Mr. Carruthers spent a week on a cruise. Johnny watered those flowers all right—he watered them with battery acid. Of course, the flowers were dead when they returned from the cruise. Also, there were piles of dog crap all over the lawn. What did he feed that animal anyway? The next day Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers were ticketed by the city for having a biologically hazardous front lawn.
Mr. Carruthers used to have Johnny help him out in his garage sometimes with his inventions. Often the kid would sabotage these inventions. Sometimes there were fires. The garage had to be rebuilt twice in the last three years. Mr. Carruthers had even considered banning Johnny from his home. Mr. Carruthers had heard that the kid’s dad was in a military prison. Back in Korea, Mr. Carruthers had been in combat with a few mischievous pranksters who ended up doing time in Leavenworth.
Mr. Carruthers locked up the garage and went inside with his new invention. Cordelia was in the kitchen baking Halloween cookies. They were cooling on the counter. Mr. Carruthers kissed his wife and grabbed a cookie. It was shaped like a spider. He and Cordelia felt bad about the chocolate-covered Brussels sprouts trick last year. This year, they would be giving out fresh baked cookies and full-size chocolate bars to every trick-or-treater—every trick-or-treater except for Johnny. Mr. Carruthers had something special for Johnny. It came in the form of a water gun that stored two liters of water packed with three hundred pounds per square inch of nitrous oxide that shot water up to two hundred feet at one hundred feet per second. If the boy enjoyed tricks, then he was going to enjoy the hell out of this one. And if there was any water leftover, that dog of his was going to get a taste too.
Mr. Carruthers turned on his porch light. He stepped outside and lit the jack-o-lantern. It was dusk, and the trick-or-treaters were starting to trickle. Mr. Carruthers breathed the crisp autumn air. He had loved Halloween as a child. He liked it just as much as an adult. Passing out treats and occasional tricks to the youngsters made him happy. Soaking mischievous boys with water made him very happy. Mr. Carruthers went back inside and closed the door. He set up his station. He filled the candy bowl with full-sized chocolate bars. He placed a tray of cookies next to the bowl. Cordelia had wrapped the cookies in oiled paper. Mr. Carruthers leaned the water gun right next to the door for easy access.
Mr. Carruthers sat in a chair near the front door. The chair was strategically positioned by the curtains so he could peek outside. Mr. Carruthers’ trick had just a few steps. It started with having to spend the entire evening peeking through the curtains. It wouldn’t be fun, but it was unavoidable. First, Mr. Carruthers would have to spot the boy. It would be dark, and he didn’t know how Johnny would be dressed, so that might be difficult. But once Mr. Carruthers knew Johnny was approaching the doorstep, he would wait for him to yell “Trick-or-treat,” then Mr. Carruthers would swing open the door and soak him with water. The trick would be simple, but hilarious.
An hour had passed, and no Johnny. Mr. Carruthers’ candy bowl was almost empty. The cookie tray was empty. Mr. Carruthers had eaten many of the cookies himself. It was boring waiting by the window. His eyes were starting to strain. Also, his neck ached. Mr. Carruthers was about to go to the kitchen to check if there were more cookies when he saw the silhouette of a small soldier and a dog dash behind a bush on his front lawn. Mr. Carruthers peered hard into the night, obscuring himself as much as possible behind the curtain. The figure and the animal both emerged from the bush and began to creep up to the front porch. It was Johnny. No doubt about it. Mr. Carruthers would recognize that sneaky gait anywhere. The boy was dressed as a soldier with what looked like an actual U.S. Army uniform. Mr. Carruthers figured it was probably his father’s old uniform. The costume was comically big on him, and it looked like he was having trouble walking. There even appeared to be hand-grenades hanging from Johnny’s belt. The grenades were clearly weighing the boy down. Mr. Carruthers shook his head. He didn’t approve of boys walking around with grenades. It could be dangerous. Johnny and the dog continued their approach. Mr. Carruthers could see that Johnny was holding a paper bag.
Mr. Carruthers grabbed the water gun and stood by the door. He waited.
“Trick-or-treat!” he heard Johnny shout.
Mr. Carruthers paused a moment. He gripped the water gun and inhaled deeply. His knees shook. He realized he was actually nervous. Not since Korea had he felt the thrill of combat.
Mr. Carruthers exhaled. He threw open the door, swinging the water gun outwards into the night. There was nothing. No Johnny. No dog. Nobody at all. Mr. Carruthers looked down and saw a burning bag. He almost laughed outright. Back in Korea, he and the boys would often let out some steam with the burning bag trick. It was an old favorite in his unit. Mr. Carruthers knew that the burning bag was filled with dog crap. He knew that Johnny was hiding behind that bush watching. He knew that he was expected to stomp on the burning bag and get dog crap all over himself. Well, little Johnny was in for a hell of a disappointment. Mr. Carruthers gripped his water gun and smiled. He casually stepped over to the burning bag. He stood over it. Mr. Carruthers sprayed the bag with water. The flames were extinguished in under a second. He held the water gun over his head in triumph.
“Better luck next time, you little punk!”
Johnny and Rascal were hiding behind the bush watching. Mr. Carruthers had stepped out of his house with a water gun. The water gun looked homemade. Mr. Carruthers had the fire extinguished in an instant. At that moment Johnny was glad that he hadn’t filled the burning bag with camel crap, or any kind of crap. His own modification was so much better. Mr. Carruthers was now standing over the soaked bag, waving the water gun around and yelling crazy things at the sky.
Johnny held the grenade pin tight in his hand, his belt no longer weighing him down so much. He covered his ears and smiled. This was going to be great!
About The Author
Daniel Royer is a writer of short fiction. He is a California State University, Bakersfield graduate with an English Degree he’s not using. Royer works as a full-time welder to support his true passion, which is axe-throwing. His stories have been printed by Ponahakeola Press, SFReader.com, Leg Iron Books, and The Sirens Call. He used to have a cat.