Red and yellow leaves scurried across the sidewalk in front of the young boy’s boots, which were concealed by red and yellow ironman pant-legs. Further up, the boy’s face was covered in an iron man mask, which made it difficult to peek into his pillow case at his ever-growing bounty of candy.
The boy grinned beneath his mask.
He turned off the sidewalk and scurried up to the next house with clear purpose.
“Trick or treat,” the boy said after knocking three times.
A small old woman answered the door. “Well hello there, Mr. Stark. Are you all alone?”
“Well, does your family know where you are?”
The boy shuffled his feet. “My mom isn’t home. And my dad - it’s fine. I’m fine.”
“How old are you?”
“And you’re out by yourself? You do know it’s not Halloween, right?”
The boy peered through his mask at the woman and screwed up his face. He looked again into his pillow case, and where he thought candy had been dropped earlier was occupied by a banana, a couple granola bars and a few other assorted snacks.
Seeing his frustration, the woman rolled her eyes and retrieved a small mint from a bowl next to the door.
It was dark out as the rain started to fall. The girl didn’t mind the darkness, but the wet pitter patter on her forehead further agitated her and she pulled her hood over her head and crossed her arms over her knees.
Twin lights came around the bend and she winced, hoping it wasn’t her turn to get picked up. Fortunately, one of the other girls recognized the car, gathered her gear up and hopped in with her parents. The girl heard laughing and chatter as the car pulled away.
I could stay right here forever, thought the girl. She knew what was coming. She knew she didn’t play well. The coach had been harsh enough, but now she was about to hear it again, and hear it from people she had to live with.
Maybe he just won’t come this time, she thought. She hoped.
A set of headlights coming around the corner dashed the rest of her hope.
The halls were particularly loud as the teenager tried to make it to English without being seen.
Why are they like this? Bouncing off the walls, shouting, making rude comments and gestures - don’t they know how old they look?
Not for me. Just keep your head down and get to class.
Something wet smacked against the wall just overhead and the teenager yelped with surprise. A round of laughter and taunts accompanied the chocolate milk dripping over both ears. Off like a shot, the teenager ran down the hallway, followed by more laughing.
Enough of this, I can’t take it!
Flying past the normally intended classroom, the teenager fought back tears before crashing through the school’s backdoor exit. More shouts were heard, this time from an adult or two.
They don’t care, none of them do.
Past the parking lot, through the trees and straight down a path, the teenager didn’t stop until the front doors of home were in sight. The doors swung open, and the teenager’s mom stood tall in the doorway, hands on her hips. Both cars are in the driveway.
Mother and child locked eyes. Dad was inside and on his way.
When Dad arrived, both parents fell to their knees and embraced their child. The trio fought back tears, but knew that no matter what monsters lurked out there in the woods, they’d face them together.
A book written by former Edmonton Oiler Patrick O’Sullivan is shedding light on a horrific childhood plagued by emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his father. The thought that normally comes to mind is to ignore these extreme cases. Too bad for him, people say, but I’m nothing like that.
And you’re probably not, but for the three children listed in the stories above, well - their parents parents might have said the same thing.
The scariest monster a kid can face is a world without parents. And plenty of kids all over the world don’t have any choice in the matter. Mental health awareness is a big job, and we’ll get nowhere if we don’t talk about it or write about it. Frustration, angst, depression - these emotions are all related, and they start in important places; home, school and the hockey rink.
Halloween is a fun, normal time for plenty of kids. But sometimes there's more going on behind the mask than we'd care to admit. Being a kid can be scary even when the kid doesn’t know it. But at least we were all kids once, and we were never as afraid when we weren’t alone.
Because together, we can fight monsters.