Year Two, A very random day in October
Our Hero, the Coward
The crisp air carried a scent of apples and sugar as it typically did on this night. Sugar-rushed kids running up to spooky houses with their porch lights on while dressed up as all kinds of characters. We were the gang of heroic Norse characters. It is not every day you see Thor, Loki, and Valkyrie ask their neighbors for candy, but today was the exception.
Jack ran in front of us, but I held Michelle’s hand firmly. One of the older siblings had to be mature, so of course it would be me. We approached the final house on the street and my other arm started to shake a bit from holding Michelle’s full purple pumpkin-shaped candy pale. She had gotten a good variety of popping candy, sour gummy worms, all kinds of mini chocolate bars, and even some dried fruit from our friendly, neighborhood vegan dentist. Suddenly, I felt Michelle’s arms hug around my leg.
“Marina, I am scared,” Michelle whined.
We both stared at the yard tombstones whose house had a rickety wood porch. When it came to Halloween, the Richards had gone all out. Despite being the sweetest and oldest couple on the street, they never held back on this day. Their house was decorated in cobwebs and monsters at the corners of their porch. The Richards’ house certainly looked less frightening in broad daylight, but the full moon night of Halloween had us feeling otherwise. They had a nearly overflowing bucket of king-size candy bars with one catch: an intimidating man was holding it. He wore a Michael Myers mask, or he was a stuffed doll with a Michael Myers mask on. The sign we stood next read “Trick-or-Treat…if you dare” in blood-like paint. It would be so scary that Mrs. Richards would bring the candy bars and her famous homemade caramel apples to her students the next day because all of the kids were too afraid to even approach the house. The chilly October wind pushed us forward.
“It’s okay, Michelle. They won’t hurt us.” I reassured her and adjusted my green cape and turned on my light-up Tesseract before following them to the steps of the porch.
“Thank goodness you made it, brother. I was worried your footwear would fail you.” Jack pointed his foam Mjölnir at my shoes: black crocs with a pair of Loki’s iconic golden horns on each shoe. I gently punched his shoulder as he chuckled at his own joke. At least he was having fun.
“Hey! I like her shoes.” Michelle shouted with a stomp.
“Thank you, Michelle.” I smiled back.
Jack and Michelle started screaming “For Asgard!”, so I pulled out my camera and took a video of it. I sent it to mom, who was swarmed with work and sent Jack and me to take Michelle trick-or-treating. I saw movement in my peripherals and flinched since I thought I saw Michael Myers man move. Jack started laughing in his Thor impression.
“Oh brother, fear not. The powerful Valkyrie shall bring us candy from the hands of this…mysterious man. Go on, Valkyrie!” Jack shouted.
“Jack, I don’t think that’s a goo—“
“We are right here, and that is clearly a giant doll. What’s gonna happen?” He whispered as he lightly elbowed my arm. Michelle tugged her own blue cape as she turned back to look at us. Jack nodded and Michelle smiled and turned around, marching towards the bowl guarded by the man. She slowly reached her arm out, looking back and forth at the bowl and the man holding it. He stood still and Michelle’s palm was hovering the bowl, shaking above the colorfully wrapped candy. Suddenly, Jack shrieked and both Michelle and I jumped and screamed. She ran back to me and hugged one of my legs. Jack fell to the floor in laughter.
“You should have seen your faces.” Jack hollered in between laughs. Michelle looked up at me with her eyes welled with tears, breathing heavily.
“Aww, Michelle.” I whispered as she hugged my leg closer.
“I wanna go home, Marina.” She sniffled as she tugged on my cape.
“Let’s go home.” I muttered under my breath as I glared at Jack.
“Aww c’mon! It was a mere jest.” Jack marched up to the bowl.
“I don’t understand your fear, ladies!” We turned around to see him throwing candy from the bowl at us. We gasped at the sight behind as a shadow cast onto Jack from behind him. Michael Myers man stood up, towering behind Jack. The man shouted, “No candy for you, boy!”
Jack jumped over the ledge of the porch. He ran past us screaming at the top of his lungs and dropped his foam hammer. Michelle and I hugged each other as we watched him run away from the house.
“Our hero, the coward.” I smirked as I picked up Jack’s dropped prop.
Michelle started giggling and Michael Myers man started laughing at my comment. My eyes widened at the realization. I knew I recognized that voice.
“Mr. Richards?” I asked.
“Guilty as charged, kids.” He shouted as he removed his mask. Mrs. Richards walked out of the house with a tray of caramel apples. Michelle and I joined them on the porch.
“Finally, someone who wasn’t too scared to stay for my apples. Please take one, dears. For the way home. Only for the two of you. Cowards don’t get my caramel apples.” Michelle giggled with glee and hugged Mrs. Richards for the sweet treat. I approached Mr. Richards.
“Thank you for that by the way.” I whispered.
“He deserved it, kiddo. I also like your shoes.” He smiled before putting the mask back on.
“Thank you, Mr. Richards. Alrighty, Michelle. Let’s go home!” We walked back to the road with plenty of sweets to take home with us.
“Happy Halloween!” The Richards shouted from their porch before going to back their positions, ready to scare the next ones who passed by.
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Spice Cake
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cake Baking Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray before setting aside.
In a large bowl, add the eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and whisk to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, chocolate chips, and stir until just combined, but don’t overmix.
Turn batter out into the baking pan prepared earlier, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the center is set. You can use a toothpick by inserting it into the center of the cake and it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, no batter.
Set the cake aside on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting it so the frosting doesn’t melt.
In a large bowl (or to the bowl of a stand mixer) add the cream cheese, butter, confection sugar, vanilla, and salt, and whisk until smooth and fluffy or beat with an electric mixer.
Turn frosting out onto cooled cake and spread in a smooth, even, flat layer.
Feel free to decorate your cake with more chocolate chips, sprinkles, or maybe something spookier before enjoying.
Ice Queen Interviews S. Kavi
Ice Queen: What made you submit to this Trick-or-treat issue?
S. Kavi: I love Ice Queen and wanted to be involved as much as I can be. I also had a Halloween story that I wanted to find a home for and I am glad it has one now.
Ice Queen: Tell me about, "Our Hero, the Coward". What made you want to showcase that?
S. Kavi: The piece is called "Our Hero, the Coward" and I mostly wrote it as a fun story about Halloween and the tradition of trick-or-treating. I feel like each neighborhood has their own traditions and icons that come out every year. From that one house everyone is afraid to go near to that one neighbor who gives out raisins or toothbrushes. It also shows the playful nature between siblings but also how caring they are.
Ice Queen: Tell me about the recipe you chose. What made you want to showcase that?
S. Kavi: This recipe is a chocolate chip pumpkin spice cake. I love pumpkin spice season and I also love chocolate, so I wanted to combine the two into something comforting for the fall season. Fall is special in the sense that we balance more spooky elements with more soothing and warm elements to make it a unique time of the year, so it felt appropriate to try something new yet ultimately delicious.
Ice Queen: What is your relationship to food in your writing?
S. Kavi: It is never intentional, but food comes into my work often and somewhat automatically. I often use food in my writing as a measure of comfort and remind a character of home or at least something close to home when they are far from it.
Ice Queen: What do you love about food in writing?
S. Kavi: I love how food is used in a variety of ways in writing. Sometimes to show pain, struggle, and hunger but other times to show comfort, warmth, and togetherness. We all have to eat and it is one thing all of us have in common, and I love how writing brings that out when food is involved.
Ice Queen: Do you bake or cook a lot, and how/when did you get into it?
S. Kavi: I love to bake and cook, though I lean more towards baking. I loved baking cakes from a young age. When I was in college, one thing I would do to get away from the stress of classes was go down to my dorm's basement kitchen and bake something. I ended up making friends by sharing a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies at midnight, so it brought me joy in many ways.
Ice Queen: What are some of your favorite literary magazines?
S. Kavi is a South Indian American poet, writer, and artist from Texas. Her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net anthology and appears in antonym, Culinary Origami, Metachrosis Literary, and elsewhere.