Greta smiled a cheery 'hello' at Annie McGillicuddy as she passed her on the way to work. 'So what are you so happy about?' growled Annie. She was about the same age as Greta, around sixty, and about the same situation in life. Annie worked as a housekeeper and governess for Vanessa Hastings, a wealthy widow and her young son Barry. Greta worked in the Elwood P. Dowd Elementary School cafeteria. They both often walked to work and their paths frequently crossed. They'd been friends for years.
'Well SOME people are certainly grouchy today'. Laughed Greta. 'Why are you so sour on a Friday and the day before Halloween to boot?' 'You'd be sour too if you had to put up with that brat of a boy. The way Ms. Hastings spoils and indulges him is a crime. I know she tries to make up for him losing his Father when he was a baby, but she gives in to his every whim and as far as she's concerned he can do no wrong.' Annie sighed with frustration. 'Yesterday he dumped a basket of fresh laundry in the dirt, put gravel ..can you believe it, GRAVEL... in the casserole I was making and when I wasn't looking he tore out the last three pages of my romance novel and wrote 'SURPRISE' on the inside cover. Now I'll never know how it ends. 'High-spirited' she calls him. I'd like to give him 'high-spirited. If I hadn't known his Mom since she was a little girl I'd quit.'
'Remember Annie, tomorrow is Halloween. There's always a bit of magic about at this time of year. Things just might change for the better.' said Greta, trying to perk up her friend. 'Well, something really needs to change in that house.' replied Annie as she trudged toward the adjacent wealthy neighborhood where Vanessa Hastings lived. 'Hmm' thought Greta.'Maybe another situation where I can help.' Though they seemed similar, there was one huge difference between Greta and Annie. Greta was one of the last remnants of an ancient race that could control the powers of nature, suspend natural laws and shape energy and matter. They were at the apex of their power on Halloween. Greta was not nearly so powerful as all that. Her senses of sight and hearing were far stronger than an ordinary human's and became even more so at this time of year. She could also shrink or enlarge inanimate objects within limitations. But her one great power could only be used between 12:00 noon and 12:00 midnight on October 31. At that time she had the power of Age Regression. She could make anyone seven years old. No older and no less. And they wouldn't even realize what had happened..at least not at first. Greta was basically a kindly soul who tried to use her gift to help out in 'situations' as she called them.
Late Saturday afternoon Greta was returning from the grocery with a large bag full of Halloween treats. Suddenly, a young man who looked to be in his early twenties and wearing an almost stereotypical black leather jacket and baggy jeans, darted alongside her and grabbed her purse nearly causing her to lose her balance. She held on for dear life. 'Let go grandma or I'll knock the hell out of ya.' Bellowed the young attacker. Greta recovered herself and stared hard at the young man as they struggled. Instantly he began to shrink. His already baggy jeans dropped to his ankles and as Greta pulled loose he lost his balance and fell. 'Umpph...damn jeans.' Suddenly Greta didn't look so vulnerable anymore. The little mugger got up, slung his jeans over his arm and, with his jacket and t-shirt hanging to his knees, beat a hasty retreat. 'Hmm' thought Greta. 'A very confused young man. Well, now he's much younger and later he'll be much more confused.'
Later that evening Greta was answering the door as cute little trick of treaters came in a steady stream. She really liked Halloween and thanks to her now incredibly sharp hearing and eyesight she could watch and listen to them from blocks away. Everyone seemed to be having a good time until she heard the sound of conflict and tears. 'NO...DON'T TAKE MY CANDY' sobbed a young child three houses away. 'Shut up stupid' replied the older boy, appropriately dressed in a devil costume as he emptied the smaller lads bag into his own huge sack. Greta was furious. The older boy was about 11 or 12 and twice the size of the smaller one, and it certainly wasn't as if he didn't have enough candy of his own. Although generally slow to anger Greta hated to see a small child mistreated. Of course, being an intended mugging victim that very afternoon probably helped her empathy.
When the large, somewhat chubby bully knocked on her door Greta faced him sternly. 'Somebody has been very bad tonight and he won't be getting any candy here until he apologizes and gives back what he stole. I saw what you did to that little boy. Shame on you. I want you to give him back his candy and apologize or I'll have a word with your mother.' The boy was unintimidated. 'Sure, you can talk to my mother, she's right up the block. She'll believe me over a dumb old lady like you.' Greta was shocked almost speechless. She'd never seen such brazen rudeness in one so young. 'And you better give me some candy, or I'm gonna stomp your stupid jack-o-lantern.' 'Oh, I wouldn't mess with THAT pumpkin if I were you. He might get mad.' 'Haw, right' replied the boy as he advanced on the pumpkin. Suddenly, the Jack-o-lantern ballooned up until it was as big as the boy. He let out a scream and dropped his candy bag as he ran off screaming for his mother. 'I'll just hang on to this and see who comes for it.' thought Greta.
A few moments later the doorbell rang again. Greta opened the door to find an attractive, petite blond woman in her mid thirties dressed in a blue jogging suit. She was furious, 'What do you mean terrifying my poor little boy like that. He said you accused him of stealing and frightened him so much with your cheap pumpkin balloon that he dropped his candy.' 'And you are........?.' replied Greta. 'I'm Vanessa Hastings and this is my boy Barry.' Ah, so now it all made sense. Greta had listened many times to Annie complain about this boy. So this was him. She had never seen Barry before because he didn't attend Elwood P. Dowd Elementary School. His mother had him home schooled by a tutor because he was 'too sensitive to fit in at public or private school'
Vanessa Hastings was still flashing anger as Barry stood beside her smiling smugly. 'I ought to sue you for treating my poor little Barry this way. Give him his candy back right now.' ' Not until he apologizes for roughing up and stealing a much smaller boy's candy.' Replied Greta. 'So now you're going to lie about my poor baby too. What kind of person are you?' That was the last straw. Here was clearly a situation that badly needed remedying. Greta concentrated and instantly Vanessa Hastings began to shrink. Barry's eyes grew round as saucers as watched his mother grow smaller, . 'M-mommy' whimpered Barry, 'Don't worry honey, mommy will take care of everything.' squeaked Vanessa in her newly high pitched voiced. She was now seven years old. As an after thought Greta shrank her jogging suit to perfectly fit her. 'Well, I believe Barry wants to apologize now...DON'T YOU BARRY??' Greta looked sternly at him. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry' sobbed a truly terrified Barry as he looked at his tiny mother. She had been petite as an adult. As a seven year old she was truly tiny. An adorable little girl. 'You don't have to apologize to her' squeaked his mother. Spying his candy she went over a grabbed the candy sack which was now almost as big as she was and said 'Okay Barry-bomb' her pet name for him, 'lets go back to trick-or-treating. Greta had to smile at the funny sight as Barry's little mommy led him out the door by his hand. Vanessa still had her adult mind and the nature of the magic prevented from realizing anything had changed. At least for now.
Well, I've done two good deeds this year thought Greta. She knew her friend Annie would be pleased. She just wished she could be there for the second part of the spell. For right at midnight, the second part of the spell would kick in. Then two things would happen. 1) While retaining most of their memory, the new seven year olds would regress emotionally to age seven and 2) they would realize that they had changed. It was interesting the way different people reacted to the change. Greta knew she had to think carefully about her 'situations' for there was no way she could change them back. They would have to grow up all over again.
Out on the sidewalk Barry was still sobbing. 'B-but mommy, look what she did too you.' Vanessa reached up and cupped Barry's face in her hands, 'Mommy's poor baby. That horrid old woman really upset you didn't she. Don't worry. You're okay and so is mommy' She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. 'Lets get back to trick or treating' That did seem like an important priority, so Barry returned to ringing doorbells, much more subdued than before.
Eventually they returned to their large home. Annie McGillicuddy had left and would return tomorrow morning to make breakfast. Barry turned on the Sci-Fi channel and began watching a horror movie. He spread his candy out began to tear into it. He was still shaken by his experience, but he felt safe now and if his mommy didn't seem upset by her change then he wasn't going to worry about it. She curled up in a chair with a historical novel. Barry gorged himself with candy and fell asleep on the sofa.
Barry awakened at 12:25 to the sound of high pitched giggling. His tummy ached. He called 'MOMMY' and his little mommy ran giggling into the room. 'Look Barry, look at mommy. I've gotten younger . Its like I'm a little girl again. I bet I'm almost as young as my Barry-bomb.' As she came up beside him she noticed for the first time just how much smaller than him she was. 'Oh...goodness..I..I..I'm smaller and younger than my baby.' She momentarily looked surprised then giggled again. 'How funny. Barry-bomb is bigger and older than mommy now. I bet you could give mommy a piggy back ride.' She lit up at this idea, 'Barry, give mommy a piggy back ride pleeeeease!' Barry just looked at her with a mixture of horror and disgust. 'Oh, don't worry baby. I still 'member everything. I can still take care of you and be your mommy, but now we can have more fun. It doesn't matter if those other mean old kids won't play with you, you can play with mommy.' Barry began to realize that his mommy had changed again. Maybe even more than earlier. She now acted like a little kid as well as looked like one.
Then she noticed the Halloween candy spread over the coffee table. 'Barry can mommy have some candy?' 'NO, its mine.' 'But Barry, mommy took you trick-or-treating to get it and got it back from the mean old lady. Can't I have some Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease?' 'NO ITS MINE DON'T YOU TOUCH IT'
Vanessa suddenly giggled and grabbed two handfuls of candy. 'Bet you can't catch me' she giggled as she took off. Barry was on her in an instant. He slapped her so hard she dropped the candy and then gave her a hard shove that flattened her. 'NOOOOOOOO.......Barry I'm your mommy, WAAAAAAAAAHHH' Barry stood over his tiny sobbing mother. 'NO, YOU'RE NOT MY MOMMY ANYMORE, YOU'RE JUST A STUPID LITTLE KID AND IF YOU EVER TOUCH MY STUFF OR DON'T DO WHAT I SAY I'M GONNA WHOP YOU GOOD.' He laughed, 'mommy is a baby, mommy is a baby.'
As she lay sobbing on the floor little Vanessa remembered all the times people had told her Barry was a bully, that he was cruel and spoiled and she didn't want to hear it then. Now she knew just how true it was.
A curious post Halloween story appeared in the local paper the next day. Shortly after midnight a frightened little boy was picked up by police wandering the streets dressed in only a jacket and t-shirt with no pants. When he was questioned by police he gave a fantastic story. He said he used to be 23 years old but an old lady had turned him into a little boy. Well, it was Halloween after all.
The Sunday morning after Halloween Annie McGillicuddy reported to work at the Hastings mansion. She was quite amazed at what she found. Little Nessie told her the whole story. Since she had worked for her parents and knew Vanessa as a child she recognized her and knew she was telling the truth. Not wanting to subject the little girl or her friend Greta to the trouble that would come if this became public she worked out a plan. Vanessa signed legal documents giving her power of attorney and naming her Barry's guardian. She would live with them and raise both of them. She only agreed with the understanding that, as the adult, she was boss and both the children would mind her.
She was from the old school and believed 'spare the rod and spoil the child' as Barry soon learned to his great dismay. He blamed his situation on his mother for turning into a little kid and tormented her every chance he got. Little Nessie had also always gotten her way, as a child and later as an adult. She came in for her share of paddling as well. Old habits die hard but after a few failed attempts to mother her 'Barry-bomb' she gave up an began to behave more as a bratty little sister.
Greta continued to work in the Elwood P. Dowd Elementary School cafeteria. Her friend Annie seemed in much better spirits now that her circumstances had changed so radically.
And she looked forward to next year's Halloween. She did so love the holiday.