Halloween, sixth grade, two classmates, both guys more than a teaspoon short of a full bowl are talking about their plans for the night.

They figure they’re too old to go trick or treating so they’re just going to go tricking. They’re going to tie garbage cans together. They’ll find neighbors whose cans are close together and tie the handles together with some kite string. They’ve got lots of kite string.

They figure it’ll be hilarious when one neighbor moves his trash cans and tips over somebody else’s trash can. They picture all the garbage scattered and the neighbors cursing each other as they pick the stuff up.

“So, when was the last time you saw anybody around here moving their garbage cans around?” I ask. In our neighborhood, all the trash cans are out in the alley and the only people who move them are the garbage collectors. I point out to my two imaginative classmates how they’ll have to walk or ride their bikes more than a mile away to a neighborhood without alleys, then they’ll have to stumble around backyards till they find two where the trash cans aren’t so far away that the string is easily noticeable.

Of course, that didn’t occur to them, but they still think it’s a good idea because the garbage man will be the one knocking over somebody’s garbage. Which they think is pretty ironic.

“So, you’re telling me you think the garbage man is so stupid he’s going to go from house to house tipping over trash cans and isn’t going to notice they’re all tied up?”

“Well maybe one or two, but there’s gonna be garbage all over the alley’s and that’s gonna look funny, right?”

“So you’ll be sitting here tomorrow trying to keep from laughing while you picture the garbage man tipping over trash cans?” I asked.

They both nodded.

“Maybe you should take a camera so you can take some pictures of all the trash tomorrow,” another classmate suggested.

“Yeah, that’s a great idea.”

I left it at that, thinking it was actually a good idea because it would keep them from getting into real trouble, at least that’s what I thought.

That night they headed out with their ball of kite string, tied up a few trash cans. Then one of them noticed a ladder leaning against the roof of a two-story building. The house was dark. The owners weren’t home. They didn’t want to see any trick or treaters. For some reason, that upset him and one part of his brain somehow clicked against another part as he concocted a plan to seek revenge.

Two minutes later those two kids were dragging a trash can up the ladder. It was hard work, one pulling up on a handle, the other underneath, pushing up on the trash can. Eventually, they got it to the top and just as they were working it onto the roof, the owner came home. The kid on the bottom scurried down the ladder, jumping the last five or six steps, leaving his friend balanced precariously on the roof with his arms wrapped around the trash can.

The owner hadn’t seen them on the ladder, but he did see the kid running out of the yard, so he looked around. He didn’t see the kid on the roof, but he did see the ladder and decided to take it down.

“No, no, no,” the kid on the roof screamed.

It was dark so all the homeowner could see was the shadow on the roof.

“What the hell are you doing up there,” the man shouted.

“Nothing,” the kid answered.

“Well, get down here right now,”

“I can’t,” the kid said.

“You can’t? Afraid you’ll fall?”

“No, I’ve got your garbage can up here.”

“What?” the homeowner said as he turned and went into his garage.

As if the kid wasn’t terrified enough, now he thought the man was going to get a gun. Instead, the man came out with a flashlight.

With his feet propped against the gutter, he was sitting there hugging a trash can.

“I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” the homeowner mumbled over and over as he climbed the ladder.

The next morning the two kids who always showed up at school together, arrived separately. They didn’t talk to each other and they wouldn’t talk to anybody else. It was months before they got over whatever it was, but by that time we knew.

Both of them had been severely punished. Nobody knew exactly what that meant, maybe some beatings or spankings, the loss of privileges, groundings, and maybe even no more Halloween’s.

The one who was left on the roof was mad at the other because he ran away, and the one who ran away was mad because the other had ratted on him, even blaming him for the whole thing.

A couple of my classmates thought tying the trash cans to the chimney was a great idea, but most of us thought it was pretty stupid, but we wondered if anyone would try it next year.

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