Running for Congress is a momentous responsibility. People don’t realize all of the tough decisions that a candidate in the midst of a tough-fought political campaign has to face. Of course, you have a competent staff to help you, and a cadre of loyal supporters of volunteers, and of course it’s nice to know that the news media is always going to be firmly on your side. But in the final analysis, you are the one who is truly responsible for the success and failure of your campaign. You are the one who has to make the tough choices. You are the one who has to be the one to break the bad news to people. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always pleasant, but sometimes you just have to break the bad news to people.
"I’ve made my decision," I told Polly. "The answer is no."
"I think that’s a mistake," she said. "Everyone has worked hard all month. They deserve a chance to relax and blow off a little steam."
"It’s a week before the election," I said. "We need to be focused on the campaign. Anything else is a waste of time."
"It’s just a harmless little bit of fun," Polly said.
"And I said no."
"You can’t just cancel the office Halloween party," she said. "It won’t go over well. And it’s just one night."
"No, it isn’t," I said. "Do you have any idea what your staff–my staff–has been doing the last two weeks?" I handed her the paper I had confiscated from the Bernie Bros.
Polly picked it up. "Costume Guidelines for Samhain/Harvest/All Hallows Eve/Day of the Dead Event," she read. "Oh, hell no."
"They have been apparently going back and forth for the last two weeks, telling people what kind of costumes they can and can’t wear. I got forwarded an e-mail thread that went on for twenty pages on whether these were guidelines or requirements."
"Yeah, should have seen that one coming," she said. "I need to remind them that there aren’t any safe spaces in real life."
"The last thing I need is our volunteers at each other’s throats because someone is wearing a costume that someone else thinks might be insensitive," I said. "The easiest thing to do is just cancel the party altogether."
"I hate to do it," Polly said. "Okay, they waste time on useless and counterproductive crap like this, but they are overall pretty good workers. They deserve the occasional night off."
"I wouldn’t call their concerns useless and counterproductive," I said. "It’s important to question the validity of Western cultural responses, and to celebrate cultural diversity by including alternative harvest-time observances. It’s just that it’s not as important as winning this election, that’s all."
"I’ll talk to them," Polly said. "We can still have the party, but we can just ask everybody to not wear offensive costumes."
"No," I said. "It’s my decision, and I’m sticking to it."
"You’re sticking to what decision?" Emma said.
I hadn’t seen my wife come in. She was pushing the baby stroller and carrying two diaper bags. Richie was awake, sitting up in the stroller, and clutching his stuffed elephant.
"Justin is cancelling the Halloween party," Polly said.
"You’re doing what?" Emma said. "Why?"
"Our volunteers are spending more time critiquing each other’s costume choices than they are actually working to get me elected," I said.
"Justin Trudeau-Fairchild is complaining because someone else is being more politically correct than he is?" Emma said. "That’s irony on stilts."
"It’s like rain on your wedding day," Polly said.
"I’m just trying to get everyone focused on the real goal," I said.
"By making them resent you?" Emma asked. "Justin, you can’t cancel the party. Anyway, I have Richie’s costume already picked out anyway, so we’re going to the party, too."
"Oh, what is it?" Polly said. "I bet it’s just adorable."
"He’s going as a Hershey’s Kiss."
"Oh, that’s so sweet! Justin, you have to let him come to the party."
"Oh, all right, then," Like I said, you have to be able to make the hard choices.
*
"I am just saying, you would look adorable as a Mountie."
"No," I said. "I am not going as a Mountie, or as Justin Trudeau, or Pierre Trudeau, or that other famous Canadian guy, whoever he is."
"Wayne Gretzky?" Emma asked.
"Who’s Wayne Gretzky?"
"Brian Boitano?"
"Never heard of him."
"William Shatner? Dan Aykroyd? Justin Bieber?"
"They’re not Canadians. Are they?"
"They’re Canadians," Emma said.
"Not them. What’s his name. Stephen Harper."
"I think you might have to spend a little time explaining a Stephen Harper costume to people, Justin."
"I don’t want to be him, anyway. Can’t I just do something simple?"
"If you’re not going to be a Mountie," Emma said, "maybe you should try something that matches with what Richie’s going to be wearing."
"Like what?"
"I was thinking you could be Willy Wonka. All you’d really need to do would be the hat."
"I don’t think so. People would think I was being condescending."
"Well, fine then. One of the Three Musketeers."
"Maybe we should model more healthy eating options for Richie," I said.
"You’re going as a giant carrot, then?" she asked.
"I could go as a dentist," I said.
"That’s… actually kind of inspired," Emma said. "I could go as your sexy hygienist. You could spend the whole evening lecturing people about flossing."
"Why do you need to lecture people about flossing?" I asked. "Doesn’t everyone just automatically floss?"
"Well, maybe not always," Emma said.
*
Halloween dawned bright and clear, and I went out early and walked precincts all morning. I had about a hundred people tell me I was too early for trick-or-treating, but I didn’t care. It was eight days until Election Day, and the more people who I could talk to between now and then, the better.
I drove home to pick up Emma and Richie, and we all drove over to the campaign headquarters for the party. Emma took Richie into my office to change his diaper and to put his costume on. My costume, as it happened, was a white lab coat and a little plastic headband thingy with an LED lamp attached, so I put it on.
"Dr. Fairchild, I presume?" Polly said. "Raising awareness about health care?"
"I’m supposed to be a dentist," I said.
"Ah, then you’re taking candy away from the little children. Perfect."
Well, it beat being a Canadian Mountie, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. "And you are?"
"I haven’t changed yet," she said. "Florence and I are going as Velma and Daphne, and we convinced a couple of the Bernie Bros to be Fred and Shaggy, and Florence is bringing her dog, you know, for Scooby Doo."
"Are they Canadian?" I asked, because I hadn’t ever heard of any of those people.
"I don’t think so." Her phone rang. "I gotta take this. Hey, Florence, come explain to Justin what Scooby Doo is."
Florence Lawrence lifted her head from her computer monitor, looked at me, and screamed. It was a clear, pure note of ultimate terror.
"Are you okay, Florence?" I took a couple of steps towards her, but that only made her scream louder. She ducked down and hid under her desk.
Polly and Emma started running towards her. Florence’s screams became ragged and gasping.
"Are you okay?" Emma asked her. "What happened?"
"He… he… he…" Florence said, pointing vaguely in my general direction.
"Justin, what did you do?" Emma said.
"Me? Nothing. I didn’t even say a word!"
Florence started screaming again, and Richie started crying, so I used the opportunity to scoop him up. It only took him a second to calm down, so I put him in his stroller and went across the street to the WaWa to get a coffee. When I came out, Polly had her arm around Florence, and was leading her to the parking lot.
"So what happened?" I asked Emma.
"I don’t know," she said. "We couldn’t get her to talk. Are you sure you didn’t say anything to her?"
"Not a word," I said.
Polly came back about a half-hour later, and she explained that Florence had a bad experience in her youth with a dentist.
"Oh, no," I said. "Was she sexually assaulted?"
"No," Polly said. "She just had a lousy dentist who gave her a very painful root canal. Your costume was a trigger for her. Don’t blame yourself, though. No way you could have known."
"I feel terrible," I said.
"I told her that you did, and she’s sorry she overreacted. She’ll be back to work tomorrow. I told her we’d save her a couple of Butterfinger bars."
The rest of the party was kind of a subdued affair, and of course we left early to put Richie to bed. It was a week to go until the election, and I had no idea what other surprises awaited us in the next few days.
*****
Check out the previous installments:
Last year:
Week Forty-Nine:The True North
Week Fifty:The Garden State
This year:
Week Four:The Brain Trust
Week Six:The Snow Day

Week Seven:The Coin Flip

Week Eight:The Wicked Witch
Week Eleven:The State Dinner
Week Twelve:The Maple Leaf Rag
Week Thirteen:The Large Endowment
Week Fourteen:The Transit Authority
Week Fifteen:The Ten Forty
Week Sixteen:The Bachelor Party
Week Seventeen:The Refugee Crisis
Week Eighteen:The Taco Bowl
Week Nineteen:The Trending Topic
Week Twenty-One:The Blessed Event
Week Twenty-Two:The 3AM Feeding
Week Twenty-Three:The Stuffed Elephant
Week Twenty-Five:The Turkey Jive
Week Twenty-Six:The Wiki Leak
Week Twenty-Seven:The Baby Bjorn
Week Twenty-Eight:The Passport Agency
Week Twenty-Nine:The Media Buy
Week Thirty-One:The Torricelli Option

Week Thirty-Two:The Trotsky Walkback