When I was young, I had the worst luck making friends.
Not for the regular reasons—I wasn’t much different than the other kids in my neighborhood, and I wasn’t too weird, or at least I wasn’t back then.
No, I was actually pretty normal, until that one Halloween night when my luck changed.
For my costume that year, I wore a box wrapped in tinfoil.
There were blinking lights and buttons glued on the front, and I’d cut two holes for my arms, which were covered in those flexible dryer vent hoses.
With a metal colander strapped on my head and a plastic laser gun, I was a serious robot death machine. Humans beware.
My mother took pictures, then followed me out onto the streets as I began making my rounds. Everything went fine until we reached Mr. O’Connell’s house.
Like us, Mr. O’Connell was new in town. I still picture him as old, but he was probably only middle-aged.
He must have been rich, too, because he was handing out fistfuls of full-sized candy bars, and news spread quickly that his house was the place to go.
When I got there and spoke the magic words, he handed over the goods. But he didn’t look very cheerful about it.
For someone giving away full-sized candy bars, he seemed grumpy, as if Halloween was a big hassle. But once I tilted my colander back to thank him, his eyes went wide.
I remember his mouth hung open for a moment, then he shook himself and his face lit up with a big smile.
“You’re very welcome,” he said.
He must have turned off his porch light immediately after we left, because Mom soon noticed him stalking us.
He kept his distance, but it was pretty obvious he was skulking along behind trees and bushes and fences.
Mom finally got fed up. She told me to stay put while she walked back to confront him. I couldn’t make out her words, but her low, angry voice made Mr. O’Connell wilt.
He kept shaking his head and apologizing, until I saw him pull out his wallet and flip it open to show her a photograph.
Mom’s hand flew to her mouth. Then she touched his arm and nodded, and Mr. O’Connell came over to kneel down beside me. Now his smile was a sad one.
“You look just like my son,” he said.
He pressed another chocolate bar into my hand, whispered something, and made me promise not to tell my mother.
I was a good boy. I did what he told me. He said I’d be a lucky robot if I kept quiet and ate that one special chocolate bar before any of the other candy he'd given me.
And aside from a minor stomach ache, I guess I was.
But after that night, my luck wasn’t so great at making friends.
Because after that night, there weren’t many other kids left in my neighborhood.