Egads, my least favorite American holiday approaches, Halloween. Actually I have no real beef with Halloween, it's the holiday's grimy companion, Beggars Night, that gets my guff. I shudder to think of what ghastly outcomes will befall us this year. The neighborhood ruffians take particular aim at the Peaves household and it has grown steadily worse with each passing season. Years ago, wishing to fit in at our new home, we showered the local brats with all manner of sweets. I objected to the cost but Mrs. Peaves insisted on (what she called) “doing the right thing.” So for years Beggars Night cost me a pretty penny and the local riff raff filled their bellies with sweets from the likes of Mars, Nestles, Hershey and their bedevilled brethren in the candy business. No thought was ever given to how the Peaves family was contributing the the obesity of our neighbors' children, or what bills they may have incurred from their family dentist. That is until Mrs. Peaves read a magazine article which chastised the tradition of going door to door shouting “Trick or Treat,” and receiving a sugary bounty as a ransom payment to insure the safety of your home against pranks. Mrs Peaves employed a new tactic. Rather than fill the little ankle biters' bags with peanut butter cups, chocolate bars and the like, she passed out apples. Now, that doesn't sound like such a bad idea, in theory. Certainly an apple is a more healthful snack than, say, a Snickers. But in practice it's another matter, as your average make believe Spiderman, ghoul, ghost or goblin will turn up its filthy little nose at an apple when the Snickers is what is expected. There's another reason apples aren't appreciated by your average trick or treater, they're heavy. The very first year Mrs. Peaves launched her Healthy Halloween Snack Plan she found out the hard way. It was nearing the end of the evening and the village jackanapes had thinned out considerably. We had just discussed the fact that only one or two more might bang on our door when one of the little blighters rang the bell just to confuse us. It had been a misty night and the effects showed on the late-arriving urchin. His make up was running, making it difficult to determine the true nature of his disguise. Mrs. Peaves insists he was a zombie, but I contend that he started out the evening as a member of Kiss. Either way, Mrs Peaves hurled an apple in the direction of the whippersnapper's goodie bag. The Red Delicious hit the bottom of his damp bag and promptly punched a hole through it, sending the ersatz Space Ace's candy tumbling to our Welcome mat. The little bugger begrudgingly collected his booty and promptly walked away, shooting Mrs. Peaves a series of dirty looks as he glanced over his shoulder. Once he reached the street, he threw the apple through the screen of our front door and took off running. It would be another year before we would learn about the repayment the neighborhood brats had planned for us. Mrs Peaves, of course, had reverted to her old method and stocked up on the usual array of candy bars. But her lack of largesse the previous year was not forgotten. Early on that Beggars Night, she was shocked when she opened the door after hearing the bell only to find a small fire ablaze on our front porch. She summoned yours truly to deal with it. I stomped the fire out and discovered it had been a paper bag which contained a substance I shall not describe. I will say only that I threw away that pair of shoes. Since that time, the little devils who prowl our neighborhood on Beggars Night play tricks on us. They have ceased trying to barter the traditional deal of a treat delivered to fend off a trick, they just move straight to the tricks. The little bastards.