I grew up across the street from Jerry. Jerry taught middle and high school music and choir. His family used to babysit for us until we moved away, but we stayed in touch. Eventually, Jerry was my 6th grade music teacher.
As Halloween approached, he continually told everyone that he gave out pizzas to all the students who Trick-or-Treated his house. Jerry would then give everyone a fake location on the other side of town and tell the class he would have the pizza ready. As I left the class he pulled me aside and would say, “If you tell a single kid where I live, you will sing solos in front of the class every day for the rest of the semester. Got it?” Got it, Jerry.
Being a smart-ass 6th grade kid, I of course showed up at his house, rang the door bell and said, “Trick or Treat! Where’s my pizza?” Jerry smiled and said, “I knew you’d show up. Happy Halloween” and dropped a gift certificate for two large pizzas with my name on it into my bag. He reminded me of his promise and I went on my way.
Being dumb-ass 6th grade kids, we decided to chance cutting across a dark corner. I recognized a local high-school kid about a second before a punch to the head, egg-smashed in my face, and a hard jerk on my bag separated me from my loot. I had to slink back across the neighborhood with egg on my face (literally), trying not to cry as I passed tons of kids I knew, and explain what happened to my parents. My dad made me give up the name of the kid I recognized and I called Jerry and asked him to cancel the gift certificate. I decided that I hated Halloween. I also swore I would never go down so quickly and easily again.
The next day my dad disappeared for a couple hours and returned with my bag of candy (along with several other bags). I was not allowed to eat the candy but I knew he got it back. How he got it back and what he did will not be recorded in this blog. Just do not mess with my dad.
Jerry waited until Monday when he taught at the high school. A police officer was assigned to the building for some presentation. Jerry talked to the officer and waited by the kids locker. As the kid was putting his stuff away, Jerry gave the officer an exaggerated version of the story and carefully described the student.. right down to what the kid was wearing that day in school. The officer acted like he took notes and talked a big game. For the rest of the day, Jerry and the officer would happen by the student and the officer would keep glancing back and forth from his notebook to the kid. Jerry told me later that the student switched clothes with someone else and was clearly freaked out the entire day. Jerry laughed hysterically when he told the story, gave me another gift certificate and went on his way. Every year, Jerry would remind me of that day and every year he would high-five me and say, “We got him, didn’t he?”
Jerry died a few years ago. He was failing and in a local home. I had planned on seeing him and saying goodbye the next day. As I was driving to golf with a couple co-workers, I went by the home and felt like I should stop. I texted my friends that I would be a couple minutes late. I am pretty sure that Jerry never really knew I was there but I got to sit with him a couple minutes, retell that story and thank him for giving me my favorite Halloween memory. Jerry left shortly after. Maybe, I’m wrong on the math, but I figured I was probably on the 7th tee or so. Regardless, I am glad I made my friends wait a little and stopped by.
Every Halloween I think of Jerry and smile. Absolutely my favorite Halloween. Oh, and in case you were wondering… Jerry always picked the first person for solos by dropping his pencil on the class roster and seeing whose name it stopped on. Every time, often before the pencil stopped rolling, he would look up, smile, stare right at me and say, “Well,look whose name it landed on!”