My brother cooked up a scheme. We had seen kids going around with cans to trick-or-treat for UNICEF. They were always given money instead of candy. He wanted to see if we could get some quick cash, too. I didn't often agree with his nefarious plans but this time I did. I knew my dad didn't like UNICEF, the organization, and I figured he wouldn't be too upset over this ruse if we were caught. Plus, in our little town, UNICEF cans were rare. What could go wrong?
We tried it one time and never again. Our very first house, we knocked on the door, smiled our innocent best, and - in unison - said the magic money phrase, "Trick-or-treat for UNICEF!"
The elderly man we had just accosted with our cuteness immediately noticed our lack of a papered collection can. Bro, the cannier of us, replied that we had forgotten it at home. Our neighbor peered at us with suspicion but dropped two nickels into each of our bags. We were ecstatic. Twenty cents on our first gig!
But then, the man continued. I guess he felt guilty about accusing us of fraud. He told us he hadn't had time to go out and buy any candy but we should wait a moment. He went back into his house and brought out an unopened package of cookies, put them into my bag and asked me to be sure to share with my little brother. We said we'd share and thanked him several times for his kindness.
At the car, Mom wanted to know what had taken so long. We told her everything except our deception. But, when she said the man had probably given us the only treat he owned for the next month, we both started crying. The guilt was too much to bear.
We had a short journey that night. My brother and I never told our parents and never spoke to each other about what we'd done. We held the shame silently. I don't know if he even remembers now. All I know is that I keep four nickels and a package of cookies on hand every year at Halloween, just in case.