Steven was so happy. It didn’t take much to make him happy, just like it didn’t take much to make him sad. And often, he would be either very, very happy or very, very sad. That was how things were with him. And just now he was very, very happy, even more happy than most. That was because tonight he’d be a clown, wearing a great, great costume his mom had made him with a wig having lots of curly red hair and a jacket with all sorts of colorful patchwork pieces sewn on, and she’d put makeup on his cheeks and nose redder than bright red apples.
His mom told him he’d be cute as a bug in a rug. Ugh! He didn’t want to look like a bug! But maybe that was an idea for a costume for next year.
Besides being a clown and going trick-or-treating, he was happy because he was going with two boys from his Down Syndrome group. Mark and Todd. He liked them both, but Todd especially. Todd was cool. Mark was, too, but not as cool as Todd. When Todd had cookies for snack time, he always shared them with Steven. Mark always ate all of his by himself. Mark was still nice, but Steven liked Todd more.
Steven’s mom was going to drive him to the meeting place, then she’d go home and the other boys’ mom’s would walk around with them as they visited many of the houses in the neighborhood that had their lights on. It had been planned for weeks. Then, tonight, the plan had had to be changed. Steven’s mom had thought she’d go with the boys and two other moms, but her younger son had come down with the sniffles and she now didn’t want him out in the cooler night air. Todd’s mom had offered to drive Steven home when they were done, and so that was what they were going to do.
Steven was thinking about how much candy he’d get while putting on his costume. He had special shoes, too, and when putting them on, was thankful they came with Velcro straps instead of laces. Laces were one of the things that made him very, very sad. Well, yes, the laces, but more it was the kids at regular school who made fun of him because he had so much trouble tying them. His teacher, after shushing them, kept telling him that he needed to toughen up just a little and not let the teasing bother him so much. He was trying, but didn’t really know how to do that.
His mom had the makeup all ready when he went to her room, completely dressed in his costume. She chuckled as she straightened the wig and told him how cute he was. He sort of wished she’d stop saying that. He was nine now. He wanted to be handsome, not cute. Cute was for little kids. He was nine.
She spread the red goop on the end of his nose and each of his cheeks, then used one of her makeup tool thingys to scrape around the edges so the smears were as round as they could be. Then she held him away from her with her hands on his shoulders and her arms straight out in front of her and said, “You’ll be the best looking clown in the town. We need a clown name for you. What should it be?”
“I know, I know.” Steven was almost jumping up and down with excitement. “I’ll be Steveio!”
“How about the Great Steveio! I like that better.”
“No, Mom. That sounds like a magician. I don’t do magic tricks; I make people laugh!”
“It is sort of like magic, the way you can make people laugh. But okay, you’re Steveio the Clown. I hope your dad is home in time to see you. I’ll get a picture so if not, he’ll still get to see Steveio the Clown in costume.”
She took out her phone and took several pictures of him. In some he looked serious. In most of them, he was clowning around, and she was laughing so much, some of them were blurry.
“Are you all ready? Been to the bathroom? I’ll just put Carter in his car seat and then we can go.”
She was clicking the latches on Carter’s car seat straps when her phone rang. It was Todd’s mother. She said Todd had found the candy she was planning to have her husband hand out to the trick or treaters who came to their house, and he’d eaten about a pound of it and had a tummy ache and just wasn’t going to be able to go out that night. She also said, “Mark—well, you know Mark. He can be as stubborn as an overworked mule, and he said if Todd isn’t going, he isn’t either, and Shirley—” that was Mark’s mother “—had finally stopped arguing with him.” The result of all this was that neither boy would be going out.
Steven’s mother knew how disappointed Steven would be. He’d been looking forward to this night as only a small boy can, and she so hated to have to disappoint him. Steve had had enough disappointments in his life already; he didn’t need one on what was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of his life.
She just couldn’t take him herself. It would mean having Carter out in his stroller, breathing the chilly air for much too long. Her husband had a late night dinner meeting with clients. They were having dinner at a nice restaurant. She was stuck with this dilemma on her own!
None of her close neighbors had small children. None of the nearby kids were of Steven’s age, and he was easily intimidated by older kids. It appeared she’d have to tell him he wouldn’t be able to go out tonight. Then she’d have to deal with a heartbroken boy.
She was bracing up to that unhappy task when an idea struck. Could she? No, not ordinarily, but tonight? Yes, she could tonight. For Steven.
She looked through her phone and found a number she’d never called before. But she had it, and now she used it.
“Ryan? This is Mrs. Reynolds. Steven’s mom. I wonder if I could ask a huge, huge favor of you.”
Steve saw his mom bring Carter back into the house, and immediately started worrying. Something had changed. Steven didn’t like change. He liked things to be like they were supposed to be. There were lots of things he didn’t understand, and often changes fell into that category. He didn’t know why, but so often, when something changed, it changed in a way that left him feeling sad. He didn’t want to feel sad today. Not today. He’d been so excited. Please, he thought, not today.
His mom got Carter settled, then came to talk to him. “Steven, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, Mark and Todd aren’t going to be trick-or-treating, so you won’t be going out with them.”
She saw Steven’s face fall and rushed on. “But you’re still going out. I called someone and he’ll be here in fifteen minutes. You’re going out with him instead.”
Hearing that made Steven anxious. He wasn’t a great fan of surprises. Often, they weren’t happy ones. But his mother was smiling, and she wouldn’t do that if she knew the surprise would make him unhappy.
So he was a bit worried but still excited to be trick-or-treating. He sat on a chair by the door. His mother had turned the porch light on, and already a few kids were coming around. He opened the door for them and gave each of them some of the candy that was ready and waiting in a large bowl.
When the doorbell rang next, he was expecting more trick-or-treaters, so wasn’t surprised to see a very realistic Darth Vader. Except this one was all in black and had the mask, the cape, the clothing that looked like leather, and a lit up light sabre.
“Candy, we want candy,” said a boy’s voice, deepened as low as possible.
When Steven didn’t move, stunned by the figure, the figure removed his mask.
“Ryan,” Steven yelled, and rushed to him for a hug.
“I’ve come to go trick-or-treating with you, Steven. Are you ready?”
“Yeah! Let me tell mom.”
He didn’t run back into the house. He simply turned and yelled in his loudest voice, “Hey Mom, Ryan’s here. We’re leaving.”
Then he grabbed his bag, took Ryan’s hand, and they left for a night of tricking and treating without the tricking.
“You look great, Steven. I’ve never seen a better clown.”
Steven giggled. “I’m Steveio the Clown. I like your costume, too. Weren’t you going to go out with your friends?”
“Steven, I am going out with my friend, right now. We’ll have a blast. You can get them laughing at your clown, that’ll be their treat, and while they’re laughing, I’ll steal all there candy. That’ll be our trick.”
Steven frowned. “It isn’t good to steal,” he said.
“Well, we won’t do that then. I was just making a joke.”
“Oh, yeah. Okay. But I can still make them laugh?”
“Sure. Make them laugh and they’ll be in such a good mood, we’ll get lots of candy and won’t need to steal it. How’s that sound?”
Steven didn’t even answer. He just squeezed Ryan’s hand tighter and continued smiling.