(A version of this story first ran in The Signpost in October of 2010.)

This year for Halloween, I’m going as Shmooey the Wonder Boy.

“Who is this Shmooey the Wonder Boy? Where might I purchase his costume? Is it in any way an ethnic slur?” These are questions I’m sure you’re asking, and I’d be delighted to answer.

Shmooey the Wonder Boy is the superhero for children who can’t afford the pricier Marvel types. If Superman is the Man of Steel, Shmooey is the Man of Western Family Aluminum Foil.

He was invented by my childhood neighbors, the Tuckers (name changed). The Tuckers were a motley troop. Each one was skinnier than an Ethiopian pigeon and paler than a librarian with the flu. There were at least seven of them, all boys, though experts believe there might be as many as five more lurking in the basement.

The Tuckers loved Halloween, because they each truly and deeply loved candy. Their mom only allowed things like canned pears and (heaven forbid) raisins for dessert, so Halloween for the Tuckers bore a more carnal, hedonistic lust for sugar than it did for other children.

They trick-or-treated like Green Berets. No prisoners were taken. Any house which did not strictly adhere to the Halloweenic Code of Ogden (composed by Mike Tucker on the back of his math homework in 1991) was in for, at the least, toilet paper and eggs and perhaps a pumpkin filled with urine. It was rumored throughout our neighborhood that one year, a gang of Tuckers convened on Miss Edna Cragun’s lawn at 3 in the morning and, using Bic lighters and hairspray, burned into her lawn the words “JUST TRY AND GIVE US DENTAL FLOSS NEXT YEAR.”

Despite their ghoulish zeal, the Tuckers were faced with two recurring problems every Halloween: (1) money was too tight for them to afford real costumes, and (2) Halloween was the one night of the year their mother could sit quietly by herself in a dark room with a mug of cider and rethink her life. This meant that neither K-Mart nor Mrs. Tucker would be providing their attire for the evening.

So, each little Tucker was on his own to scrounge and rummage through storage bins, garage cabinets, church Dumpsters, the neighbor’s yard and their father’s closet to put together a suitable trick-or-treating costume. The result for all seven (12?) of them was Shmooey the Wonder Boy. It was a hodgepodgey stew of a superhero.

Every Halloween, several little Shmooeys would flit about the streets of Ogden, their sticky pillow sacks swinging with caloric glee. I remember Dillon Tucker, the youngest brother, bouncing in sugary merriment down Grant Boulevard, sporting size-12 cowboy boots, a cape made from a doormat (it said, “WIPE YOUR PAWS HERE”), a mask fashioned from bike-helmet padding, and lavender corduroys. His older, more impish brother, Steve, modeled what fashion moguls would call the “Army fatigues and underwear over your pants” look, topped by a sombrero and gigantic football pads. Andy, one of the middle Tuckers, wore the always-hilarious pink floral dress (made from his mother’s curtains), carried a giant plastic snake, and on his head was part of his brain costume from that year’s school play, The Parts of the Body.

Being, of course, a little bit jealous of how cool these guys could be without even knowing they were, I tried once to mimic their attempts, but it came off like a Hollywood remake: more flair, less creativity. I would scour the house for moon boots, eye patches, old sports jackets and ugly ties, compiling what I thought must be quintessentially haphazard, and I would use all of it. Alas, it always felt forced and insufficiently shoddy. In the moving words of Ryan Tucker, who appraised my costume on the street that night, “It looks like you went to a thrift store and bought a bunch of stupid things.”

I was so unsystematic, I had become systematic. My Shmooey was a pristine, store-bought birthday cake, devoid of flavor and draped in multi-hue icing, and the Tucker Shmooey was a gooey, misshapen, delectable dish of brownies. I shrugged my strained and slapdash garb in exchange for a pirate costume. Predictable and disappointing.

But not this year. No! This year, I will make the Tuckers proud. My Shmooey will reign supreme! I will not force spontaneity, but embrace it. I will not sell out. I will wear my unfashionable Shmooey costume with pride. I want to be the best Shmooey I can possibly be!

Or I might go as a cowboy.

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