“Ah, come on,” called Mike impatiently. “It’s going to be time to go home before we get started.”
“All right! Don’t rush me,” Jerry called back. Jerry, who never liked to be hurried, came out of the house dressed in a pirate costume.
“Hey, you look super,” Mike said.
“So do you, Mike. Where shall we start?”
“Let’s start with the Andersons next door,” Mike answered.
When the door opened, Jerry said, “Give us a treat or we’ll give you a trick.”
“Goodness,” said Mrs. Anderson in mock surprise, “I certainly don’t want a trick. Wait here and I’ll get you a treat.”
The door closed and Jerry started to giggle. “Wouldn’t it be fun if she refused to give us a treat and we could play a trick on her?”
“What would you do?” asked Mike.
“Something that would really make her cross.” He laughed again. “She really looks funny when she’s excited.”
“Sh-h. Here she comes,” cautioned Mike.
Mrs. Anderson returned with a bowl of apples. “Will these do?” she asked, offering each boy an apple.
“Thanks,” they called as they ran down the driveway.
An hour later Mike peered into his bag.
“Look at all this stuff!” he exclaimed. “Let’s go home. It’s getting kind of cold.”
“Why the big rush?” asked Jerry. “There’s still a lot of houses we can go to.”
“I guess I should have worn a heavier jacket,” complained Mike.
“Let’s go to just one more house, then we’ll go home,” Jerry promised, turning into the next driveway.
“All right, but not this house,” said Mike walking on.
“Why not?” asked Jerry, hurrying to catch up with him.
“Mr. Johnson lives there and he’s an old grouch.”
“I know he is,” said Jerry, “but Dad says it’s probably because his wife and little boy were killed in a car accident a few years ago.”
“But why should he take it out on us? We didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“I know,” said Jerry. “But Dad says that when some people are unhappy, they take it out on everyone around them.”
“He sure gets after us,” Mike complained. “The other day we walked across his lawn and you should have heard him. You’d have thought we were digging it up instead of just walking on it.”
“Dad says he used to be a real neat guy. He spent lots of time teaching the neighborhood kids how to play football.”
“Boy, has he changed! You wouldn’t catch him doing anything like that now,” Mike groused. “Say, I have a great idea. Since Mr. Johnson has been so crabby with us, let’s give him a little surprise.”
“What kind of surprise?”
“Let’s pile leaves against his front door so that when he opens it, a mountain of leaves will pour in on him.”
“That would be fun,” agreed Jerry, “but we’d better not. If my Dad found out, I’d be a goner.”
“Then what can we do?” Mike questioned.
The boys walked on in silence. “I know something we can do,” said Jerry finally.
“What?” asked Mike.
“The neighbors have given us lots of stuff, haven’t they?”
“We could fill a basket with some of our treats and leave it on Mr. Johnson’s porch. That would be a real surprise!”
“What kind of an idea is that?” Mike grumbled.
“Come on, Mike,” Jerry coaxed. “Let’s do it and see what happens.”
“Well, OK,” agreed Mike reluctantly, “but I think it’s a dumb idea.”
At Jerry’s house the boys found an old Easter basket and filled it with treats.
“Should we put a note on it or something?” Mike asked.
“Let’s write ‘Happy Halloween’ on a piece of paper and sign it ‘your friends,’” suggested Jerry.
At Mr. Johnson’s house the boys put the basket on the porch, rang the bell, and quickly hid behind some bushes. Mr. Johnson opened the door and peered out. When he realized no one was there, he scowled. “A prankster again. I should have known,” he muttered. Mr. Johnson started to close the door when he spied the basket. “What’s this?” he asked, picking it up. He read the card. “My! My!” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “What a surprise! Who would do such a nice thing?”
“He surely seems pleased,” whispered Mike.
“He does, doesn’t he,” answered Jerry.
The next morning Mr. Johnson was sitting on his porch when Mike and Jerry passed on their way to school. The basket was beside him. “Good morning,” he called, “would you boys come up here for a minute?”
Mike and Jerry exchanged glances. They started to walk across the lawn, then they changed their minds and walked on the sidewalk.
“Thank you for walking on the sidewalk and not across my lawn,” said Mr. Johnson. “I have a terrible time making it look decent with all these shade trees. Did you get lots of treats last night?” he asked.
“Yes sir, we did,” said Jerry.
“So did I,” said Mr. Johnson. “My treats were delivered in this basket,” and he lifted the basket up onto his lap. “It brought back a lot of memories. It reminds me of a basket my little boy once had. He used to fill it with treats for his grandmother then secretly leave it on her porch. Could you help me eat some of these goodies?”
The boys looked at each other and then helped themselves to a cookie. As they ate, Mr. Johnson went on talking. “Thinking about my little boy made me remember how I used to kick a football around with him. Maybe you boys would like to go to the park Saturday with me. I used to play a lot of football.”
“That would be neat,” said Mike.
“Yeah,” said Jerry, “we’d like that. Can we stop by on our way home from school and make plans?”
“You bet,” Mr. Johnson answered. “I’ll be expecting you.”
The boys started toward school but stopped to wave good-bye to their new friend before they turned the corner.
“Jerry,” said Mike just before they entered the school building, “I’m glad we didn’t do that dumb thing I suggested about piling leaves on Mr. Johnson’s porch. It was a lot more fun surprising him with the basket. I can hardly wait until Saturday!”