My Halloween-themed YA/horror/comedy/sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure novel, Trick or Zombie Treat is now available on Amazon. It’s about five boys who go trick or treating on Halloween and magically turn into actual versions of their costumes. Read below for a sample of the first four chapters.
It was October 31, 1998, and Tommy had one thing on his mind when his mother dropped him off at his cousins’ house that afternoon: CANDY.
Halloween was Tommy’s third favorite day of the year, behind only his birthday and Christmas. He didn’t enjoy dressing up in costumes all that much, and he wasn’t a fan of spooky ghost stories either. But Tommy loved candy—all types—and he brought an extra-large plastic trash bag to his cousins’ house that day to go trick or treating. It was Tommy’s twelfth Halloween, and he had plans on setting a new personal record for most trick or treat candy ever. Last year’s candy lasted until Easter. Tommy hoped this year’s haul would last all the way until next Halloween, when he could do it all again and re-break his own record.
Tommy walked up the front lawn in his costume, a space bounty hunter, like Boba Fett from Star Wars. Tommy made the costume himself. For armor, he wore his soccer shinguards, his skateboard knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards, his baseball batting gloves, his football shoulder pads, and his dad’s old motorcycle helmet with a visor. Tommy built his jetpack out of cardboard boxes and empty plastic soda bottles. For the laser gun, he brought his Super-Soaker, fully loaded with water. Tommy used spray paint to color the costume, but his dad didn’t have spray cans of Boba Fett’s signature dark green and red, so he used silver and blue paint to create his own space bounty hunter: Tommy Fett.
Ding! Dong! Tommy rang the doorbell to his cousins’ house, his first doorbell ring of the night, and his Aunt Julie answered.
“Trick or treat!” Tommy shouted as he pulled open the drawstrings on his plastic trash bag. He brought the extra-large sized bag from home so he’d have plenty of space to fit all of the candy he planned on collecting that night.
“Oh, a robot,” said Aunt Julie. “Very nice costume.”
Tommy didn’t bother correcting his aunt. Most grown-ups wouldn’t know who Boba Fett was, let alone Tommy Fett, but he didn’t care who she thought he was, as long as she gave him candy.
Aunt Julie held out a bowl, and Tommy sifted through the candy inside. There were mini bags of Skittles, which Tommy liked just fine, but he preferred chocolate candy. He ignored the classic Hershey’s bar, finding it too plain, and he bypassed the Almond Joy because he didn’t like coconut. Tommy narrowed down his choice to his two favorites: Milky Way and Reese’s. But he couldn’t decide which to choose. Why can’t they just make a chocolate bar with caramel AND peanut butter, he thought.
Tommy finally decided to go with the Milky Way, hoping he’d get plenty of Reese’s cups later that night. He dropped the fun-sized Milky Way bar into his bag then pulled the drawstrings closed tight to make sure the candy wouldn’t fall out.
TOMMY’S CANDY COUNT: 1
“Happy Halloween,” said Aunt Julie, and she closed the door, leaving Tommy out on the porch.
Ding! Dong! Tommy rang the doorbell again, and his aunt opened the door.
“You again?” She looked surprised. “You just—”
Tommy realized that the dark tinted visor on his helmet was hiding his face and shielding his identity, so he flipped the visor up.
“Oh, Tommy…” Aunt Julie finally recognized her nephew. “…I didn’t know it was you.” She laughed as she stepped aside to let Tommy into the house. “Come on in. The boys are inside.”
The “boys” were Tommy’s three cousins: Aaron (thirteen years old), Brandon (eleven), and Donny (nine). They weren’t just Tommy’s cousins, they were also his best friends, and he felt like he was their fourth brother. Tommy walked into the TV room, where Aaron was playing GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 with his friend, Rich, also thirteen years old.
Aaron was wearing a Shaquille O’Neal Lakers home jersey, matching gold Lakers basketball shorts, and Shaq Reebok sneakers.
Rich was wearing a Desert Storm army uniform with a green canvas backpack. The jacket and pants were a bit too big, but he wore them proudly because it was his dad’s authentic uniform from when he served in the Marines. Rich topped his costume off with a plastic machine gun. His father didn’t let Rich bring his real rifle, but Rich spray-painted the orange tip black to make the toy gun look more realistic.
“Hasta la vista…” BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG! Rich shot Aaron’s Goldeneye character with an AK-47. “…Baby.”
“Whatever,” said Aaron. “I’ll kill you later.”
“Sup, Tommy,” said Rich. “You want to play?”
“Sure.” Tommy was surprised to see Rich, and, to be honest, a little disappointed. He didn’t dislike Aaron’s friend. He was just shy and preferred it when it was only the four cousins together, without outsiders.
Tommy grabbed an N-64 controller and stood in front of the TV. He didn’t want to sit down and risk breaking the cardboard and plastic jetpack duct-taped to his shoulder pads.
“Who are you supposed to be?” asked Rich. “Troy Aikman?”
Tommy shook his head, confused by the guess.
“Emmit Smith?” Rich guessed again. “Michael Irvin? Or Deion Sanders?”
Tommy realized Rich saw the silver and blue football shoulder pads and assumed he was dressed as a Dallas Cowboys player. Tommy hated that idea. He was a Giants fan.
“No,” said Tommy. “I’m Tommy Fett: Space bounty hunter.” He posed, aiming his spray-painted Super-Soaker-turned-laser gun.
“Oh,” said Rich, not much impressed.
“You know,” said Tommy, “…like Boba Fett.” He turned around to display the spray-painted cardboard and plastic jetpack on his back. Tommy thought for sure that would impress them, but Aaron and Rich didn’t even turn to look. They were too focused on the next round of Goldeneye.
“Who?” asked Rich.
“Boba Fett,” said Tommy, “…from Star Wars.”
“Star Wars is wack,” said Aaron.
“I never saw that movie,” said Rich.
“It’s three movies, actually,” said Tommy. “And they’re making a fourth next year—Episode One. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.”
PHT! PHT! Two shots from a silenced PP7 killed Tommy’s character.
“Peace out, Tommy!” Aaron snickered. “You’re next, Rich.”
“We’ll see,” said the Marine.
Tommy was never as good as his cousins at video games. Especially shooting games like Goldeneye. He didn’t have an N-64 at home, so the only time he got to practice was at his cousins’ house on weekends.
As Tommy watched Aaron and Rich hunt each other in the game, he started to doubt his costume choice, thinking perhaps it was too childish. He wished he had gone with something simple and cool like Aaron and Rich. They were teenagers now, after all—they knew what was cool. Tommy thought he should have dressed as one of his favorite sports stars, like Michael Jordan or Ken Griffey Jr. Those costumes would be comfortable and less cumbersome. As Tommy Fett, the skin under the pads was starting to itch, his shoulders were getting sore from the jetpack, and his legs were tired from standing. And he hadn’t even started trick or treating yet. How am I ever going to make it through the night? he thought.
Tommy reached into his extra-large trash bag and pulled out the lone Milky Way inside. He didn’t want to dig into his candy stash so soon, but he couldn’t wait any longer. He needed a treat. Tommy unwrapped the brown plastic with green print and popped the mini-bar into his mouth—Chomp! As the chocolate, caramel, and nougat melted in his mouth, his legs no longer felt tired, and all doubts about his costume melted from his mind.
TOMMY’S CANDY COUNT: 0
Thump-thump-thump…Footsteps ran down the stairs, then a ghost entered the TV room.
“Booooooo,” said the ghost. “I’ve come to haunt you, Tommy.”
“Oh, yeah?” Tommy aimed his Super-Soaker at the ghost. “Well, I have a laser gun!”
“You can’t shoot me—I’m a ghost. It will go right through me!”
“Zap!” Tommy fired his Super-Soaker—Squirt! He sprayed the ghost in its white gut.
“No!” The ghost cried as it fell to the floor in front of the TV. “…I’m melting!”
“Get out of the way, Fatty,” said Aaron, who was trying to focus on the TV.
“You’re fatter than me,” said the ghost.
“What?” Aaron paused the game, dropped his controller, and jumped from his seat.
The ghost repeated, “I said, you’re—” Aaron made a fist, wound it back, then swung a punch straight toward the ghost’s face.
“Ah!” The ghost flinched in fear. “No, I didn’t mean it!”
Swoosh! Aaron paused his fist right before hitting the ghost between its eyes. “Psych!” Aaron laughed.
The ghost pulled a white ski-mask off his head. It was Brandon, Aaron’s little brother and Tommy’s cousin.
“That’s what I thought, Butt-Face,” said Aaron. The psych-out punch was his signature trick, and it fooled Brandon every time.
Aaron returned to his seat and resumed playing Goldeneye with Rich. Brandon stepped behind Tommy, using his armored costume as a buffer between him and his big brother.
“Cool costume, Tommy,” said Brandon. “You have a gun…and a jetpack?!” Brandon sounded impressed. “Like Boba Fett, but a different color.”
“Yeah,” said Tommy, “I’m Tommy Fett.”
“This costume is off the hook!” Brandon felt the suit. “Did you make it yourself?”
“Yep.” Tommy smiled, regaining confidence in his costume choice. He liked all three of his cousins, but he was the closest with Brandon, who was less than a year younger than him. They had the same interests, hobbies, and senses of humor. They always got along and never lied to each other. So Tommy knew that if Brandon said his costume was cool, he wasn’t saying it just to be nice—he meant it.
“I made my costume, too,” said Brandon, “but it’s not as cool as yours.”
Brandon’s ghost costume was made of white bed sheets and a white full-face ski-mask with three holes—two for the eyes, and one for the mouth.
“At least your costume is more comfortable than mine,” said Tommy.
BANG! Aaron shot Rich with the golden gun.”Booyah!” he shouted. “I win!”
Brandon grabbed the fourth N-64 controller. “I’m in this round.”
Aaron, Rich, Tommy, and Brandon selected their 007 characters for the next round. Thump—thump—thump…More footsteps came running down the stairs.
“Donny, wait,” said Aunt Julie. “Your tail is falling off.”
Tommy’s youngest cousin, Donny, entered the TV room wearing a green dinosaur costume that his mother had made. It included a green sweat suit, a rubber green mask with fake sharp teeth, and a long green tail made of felt hanging from his butt.
Donny looked jealous at the other four boys playing Goldeneye. “I want to play.”
“Too bad, Donna,” said Aaron. “There are only four controllers.”
“Mom…” Donny whined.
“Aaron, let your brother take a turn,” said their mom.
Aaron sighed. “Fine—” BANG! BANG! Aaron shot Brandon with the Cougar Magnum. “Booyah, Butt-Face! You’re dead!”
“Aaron…” His mother scorned him. “…Be nice.”
Tommy picked up the Moonraker laser, his favorite gun in Goldeneye because it had unlimited ammo. He spotted Rich’s character on the screen, and—ZAP! Tommy shot Rich in the face with a laser beam.
“Son of a gun!” Rich sighed as his character died. “Nice shot, Tommy.”
“Thanks.” Tommy couldn’t believe he killed Rich. It was just him and Aaron left alive. He actually had a chance to win a match for the first time.
Out of the game, Rich looked over at Donny. “Sweet lizard costume, dude.”
“I’m not a lizard,” said Donny.
“Donny’s a dinosaur,” said Aunt Julie, clipping safety pins to reattach the green tail to his sweat pants.
SNIPE! Tommy got shot from behind with a sniper rifle.
“Yes!” Aaron jumped up, raised his arms over his head, then shouted in a Russian accent. “I am invincible!”
Tommy could never beat Aaron in Goldeneye. If only he had more practice shooting the guns.
“What are you, a T-Rex?” asked Rich.
“No,” said Donny, annoyed that Rich didn’t know his dinosaur species. “I’m a velociraptor.”
The second Jurassic Park movie had come out the year before, and the raptors were Donny’s favorite. Brandon liked the triceratops, while Tommy preferred the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Aaron, on the other hand, thought all dinosaurs were for little kids.
“No, Donna,” said Aaron. “You’re a lizard.” He and Rich started laughing.
“Don’t call me that,” snapped Donny.
“What?” asked Aaron. “Donna or a lizard?”
“Both!” Donny ripped off his rubber green mask.
“I told you, mom,” complained Donny. “Raptors are supposed to be brown.”
“I thought all dinosaurs were green,” said his mother.
“No, mom,” said Donny. “Didn’t you see Jurassic Park?”
“Oh, wait…I see it now,” said Aaron. “You do look like a raptor. That costume is mad cool…”
Donny began to smile. He looked up to his older brother Aaron and always sought his approval.
“…Not!” Aaron shouted.
Donny’s smile disappeared. “Mom!”
“Aaron, be nice,” warned their mother.
“My bad…” Aaron looked apologetic as he waited for his mom to leave the room. As soon as she was out of ear shot, he shouted, “Donna the lizard!”
Aaron and Rich laughed, and, though they felt bad for Donny, Tommy and Brandon couldn’t help but laugh as well. Brandon was happy to not be the one bullied by his older brother for a change.
Aaron always pronounced Donny’s name “Donna” to tease him, and it always angered Donny. Not only was Donny the youngest and shortest of the boys, he also had the shortest temper of the bunch.
“Shut up!” Donny grabbed a glass vase from the table and threatened to throw it at Aaron.
“I dare you,” said Aaron. “…Donna.”
Donny hissed through gritted teeth. “Don’t…call…me…that.”
“Take a chill pill, Donny.” Brandon took the vase from his brother. “Just ignore him.”
Donny took a deep breath then stood beside Tommy. Because of his velociraptor tail, he was also unable to sit down.
“I told mom to buy me the official raptor costume from the store,” said Donny, still fuming under his breath. “This costume is wack.”
“No, it looks legit,” said Tommy, trying to chill Donny down and cheer him up.
“Yeah, Donny.” Brandon agreed. “You don’t look like a lizard at all.”
“Boys!” Aunt Julie shouted from the kitchen. “The pizza is here!”
The five boys ran to the kitchen, where two boxes of fresh pizza sat on the table. Tommy couldn’t decide which food he loved more: pizza or candy. Luckily, he didn’t have to choose. He could have plenty of both that night. The boys scarfed down two slices each, and Tommy was hungry enough to eat a third, but he decided he’d rather save the extra space in his stomach for candy.
After dinner, the boys returned to the TV room to play another round of Goldeneye. This time, they played loser sits out the next round, so each of the five boys would get a chance to play the four-player game.
“When are we leaving?” asked Donny, anxiously waiting for someone to die in the game, so he could play.
“I want to leave early,” said Brandon, “so we can go to every single house in the neighborhood.”
“Yeah,” said Tommy. “Let’s try to get the most candy ever.”
“The last thing you need, Fatty,” said Aaron, “…is more candy.”
Brandon frowned under his ghost-white ski mask. He hated being called fat by Aaron. Brandon wasn’t even that overweight. He was just an easy target for his older brother because he was younger and smaller.
BANG! BANG! Aaron shot Brandon in the game. “Booyah!” he gloated. “Killed you again, loser!”
“You want to just leave, now?” asked Rich.
“After this game,” said Aaron.
Donny turned to Tommy. “Can I see your Super-Soaker?”
“You mean my laser gun?” Tommy handed the blue and silver spray-painted Super-Soaker to his velociraptor cousin.
While Tommy was distracted—BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG! Rich shot him with an AR33 assault rifle. “That’s what I call payback!” shouted Rich.
Just the two best friends, Aaron and Rich, remained alive to fight it out for the win. Aaron was laser-focused on his 007 character on the screen. Off screen, Donny aimed the Super-Soaker at his big brother.
“Do it,” whispered Brandon. “I dare you.”
“I double dare you,” added Tommy.
Squirt! Donny pulled the trigger and sprayed the “34” on the back of Aaron’s Shaq jersey.
BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG-BANG! Rich used the distraction to shoot Aaron’s character with his AR33.
“Whoomp…” Rich raised his hands in celebration. “…There it is!”
Aaron dropped his controller and shot up from his chair. He wasn’t mad at Rich for shooting him in the game. He was mad at Donny for shooting him in real life. Aaron stared his little brother down, with fumes practically rising from his head. “You’re dead lizard meat!”
“Mom!” Donny dropped the water gun and sprinted out the screen door into the back yard.
Aaron picked up the Super-Soaker.
“Hey, Aaron!” Aunt Julie shouted as she entered the TV room. “No shooting water guns in the house.”
“But Donny shot me first,” protested Aaron.
Donny ran back to the door and smiled through the screen, daring Aaron to shoot him. “What now, Ron?”
“What’d you call me?!” Aaron hated being called Ron as much as Donny hated being called Donna. If any of his brothers called him Ron, it meant they were in for a beating. Aaron made a fist and charged toward the screen. “You little—”
“Aaron!” Aunt Julie intervened, and Aaron froze. “If you can’t behave and watch your little brothers, I’m not going to let you go trick or treating by yourselves tonight.”
This was the first year the boys were allowed to go out on Halloween by themselves, without adult supervision, and they were all looking forward to it.
“Nah, mom, it’s all good.” Aaron handed the water gun back to Tommy. “Let’s go, losers.”
Aaron turned off the N-64 and TV, then grabbed his basketball and candy bag—a paper shopping bag from Footlocker that he got when he bought his Shaq Reeboks. The bag was white with black stripes, just like a referee’s shirt, and it had two looped handles for easy carrying. The bag was currently empty, but it was big enough to carry hundreds of pieces of candy.
“You’re the oldest, Aaron,” said his mother. “Stay together and make sure nobody gets lost.”
“A’ight, mom.” Aaron was annoyed to be playing the role of babysitter for the night. He would have preferred to go trick or treating with Rich and their other teenage friends.
“And don’t eat any candy that’s not sealed in a wrapper,” warned Aunt Julie.
“Yeah, mom,” said Aaron, anxious to leave. “We know.”
Rich, Tommy, Brandon, and Donny grabbed their candy bags. Rich was using his dad’s army backpack to store his candy. Tommy had his extra-large plastic trash bag. Brandon used a white pillow case that matched the bed sheets from his ghost costume. And Donny had a black and white striped Footlocker bag, identical to Aaron’s.
“What the fudge, Donna?” Aaron got annoyed. “Why you gotta copy me with your bag?”
“I didn’t know you were using that bag,” lied Donny. He always copied his older brother—the same clothes, movies, and music. They even had the same mushroom haircuts. Then again, Tommy and Brandon also had mushroom cuts—along with every other boy in the neighborhood.
“I’m using this Footlocker bag because I’m a basketball player,” said Aaron.”It doesn’t match your costume, though.”
“So what,” said Donny.
“And lizards don’t wear sneakers, either,” said Aaron, looking down at Donny’s Kobe Bryant Adidas shoes. Kobe was Donny’s favorite player, and though he was Shaq’s teammate the two players didn’t get along very well—kind of like Aaron and Donny.
“I’m not a lizard!” shouted Donny.
“Aaron…” Aunt Julie gave him a stern look.
“Whatever,” said Aaron.
“Be back by ten o’clock,” said Aunt Julie. “…And be safe.”
The five boys headed out the front door then ran down the lawn to the sidewalk, eager to hit their first house of the night.