Smashed Pumpkin

Columns | Vienna Review | November 2010

Trick-or-treating has never been my thing.

Coming from Bulgaria, I wasn’t raised with Halloween. Not even once have I put myself in the shoes of an evil witch, a wayward ghost or – why not? – a headless knight. I have never run around in the hope of scaring the bejeezus out of my lovely (or not so lovely) neighbors, and I have never buzzed their doorbells in return for sweets.

For me, Oct. 31 has been nothing more special than Oct. 30 – just a regular day.

Not this year, though. Now that I live in Austria, I feel I need to park my skepticism at the door… and  (try to!) tolerate the many eccentric outfits roaming the streets. But learning takes time.

So there I was on the U-Bahn on Oct. 31 and I was literally ready to tap a girl on her shoulder and let her know that there was a spider tangled up in her hair (spiders give me the creeps.) It took me several seconds to realize that it was plastic – all part of the act – together with her nose, three times its normal size. Creative, I thought, and also very weird. This set the mood. From that moment on, nothing could possibly surprise me. Or at least almost nothing.

On my way home (I live outside of the city, so it takes a while), I saw a pair of witches, a zombie with very bloody eyes – too bloody for my standards, and a gang of teenage Harry Potters. So far, so good. A drunken vagrant appeared from around a corner and screamed at me in garbled German. Was he putting on an act?  I decided not, and quickly moved away.

A real scare, however, was still in store for me. Right before I made a turn for my place, I heard a loud scream from the neighbor’s house, the sound of an object stumbling over the stairs and from above, a pumpkin came crashing down and smashed on the ground at my feet.

I froze; and waited. But all was calm. As my pounding heart calmed back down to normal, I suddenly hoped that it hadn’t been somebody’s outfit.

But either way, it did give me some ideas for next year.

Mina Nacheva

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