The suburbs were terrified of October 30th
right outside of the city of Detroit
the city of automotive industry
and a deified hockey team
amongst other more negative things
but they were never outright mentioned
The night before Halloween
Devil’s Night

where my friends prejudiced parents warned us
of the dangers of the inner city
dropping subtle racist implications
in a candy coated way
even then I sensed it was bullshit
I knew who was behind it all
who was burning the kids alive on Woodward Ave
and their violence would erupt in the night
and overflow into the neighboring suburbs
and we’d be helpless
we were only children
a friend on the playground told my sister
if you die on that night
your soul would never get into heaven

She passed this knowledge down to me
At age 6
An age where I didn’t really understand death
or religion
or violence
or teenage delinquency
or socioeconomics
or arson
or racial divides
I had my saturday morning cartoons and that was good enough for me

We’d nest up in blankets on our parents bedroom floor
Our parents assured us we’d be safe
there were no unknown monsters who had yet to reveal themselves
but we knew better
If we are gonna die, we will all die as a family
If we had desks
we’d duck and cover
waiting for the bomb to fall

the violence in our minds
wasn’t ever kids who wanted to teepee houses
and egg passing cars
it was a pseudo reversal Santa Claus
celebrating the Anti-Christmas
it was the Devil and his cronies were coming our way
They’d goose step down our street
to the soundtrack of Bing Crosby
being played at 20 RPM

so we couldn’t sleep
we couldn’t drift off
clutching our childhood blankets like crosses
whispering hail marys
Every tick I heard on my fathers watch
warned us
“They are coming soon,
They’ll be here any minute now….”

and they’d break down our front door
after setting our minivan aflame
we’d be brought out into our burning suburb street
prodded by pitchforks into a single file fashion
hands above our heads
we’d see the neighbors blindfolded and smoking
shot along their perfectly trimmed hedges
and there’d be a baby crying off somewhere amongst the howls
I wasn’t sure whose baby
but it would be there
Our treehouse would be decorated with limbs
and the streets would be filled with Deviled versions of Jim Henson Characters
climbing over the bones of my classmates
My mother would be shoved into the smoldering kitchen oven
my father would be the dart board to hurled power tools
my sister would be forced to tap-dance on broken glass
They’d ring around the rosie
circling our barbecued golden retriever

The grim reaper would lift a martini to us
as I’d be dragged in front of an audience
and as I’d reach up begging for god to save me
he’d shrug and say
“sorry, no can do, it’s Devils Night”

But it never happened
hundreds of fires on the front page
none ever reaching us
The Devil wasn’t blamed
they blamed other culprits that parents spoke of under their breath
“it was drunk teenagers”
“it was gang members”
“it was the racist police department”
But the next day I got to dress up like Batman
and I’d receive my plastic pumpkin full of junk food
so I’d be content
but left with the lingering thought they’d return next year
whoever they were
but it was over for now
I had my Butterfinger bar and that was good enough for me


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