It was the principal's idea, but it was the Herdmans' fault, according to my mother.
"Don't blame Mr. Crabtree," she said. "It wasn't Mr. Crabtree who piled eight kids into the revolving door at the bank. It wasn't Mr. Crabtree who put the guppies on the pizza. It was one of the Herdmans, or some of the Herdmans, or all of the Herdmans . . . so if there's no Halloween this year, it's their fault!"
Of course the Herdmans couldn't cancel Halloween everywhere. That's what I told my little brother, Charlie. Charlie kept saying, "I can't believe this!"as if it was unusual for the Herdmans to mess things up for everybody else.
It wasn't unusual. There were six Herdmans -- Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys -- plus their crazy cat, which was missing one eye and half its tail and most of its fur and any good nature it ever had. It bit the mailman and it bit the Avon lady, and after that it had to be kept on a chain, which is what most people wanted to do with the Herdmans.
I used to wonder why their mother didn't do that with them, but, after all, there weresix of them and only one of her. She didn't hang around the house much anyway, and you couldn't really blame her -- even my mother said you couldn't really blame her.
They lived over a garage at the bottom of Sproul Hill and their yard was full of what-ever used to be in the garage -- old tires and rusty tools and broken-down bicycles and the trunk of a car (no car, just the trunk) -- and I guess the neighbors would have complained about the mess except that all the neighbors had moved somewhere else.
"Lucky for them!" Charlie grumbled. "They don't have to go to school with Leroy like I do." Like we all do, actually. The Herdmans were spread out through Woodrow Wilson School, one to each grade, and I guess if there had been any more of them they would have wiped out the school and everybody in it.
As it was they'd wiped out Flag Day when they stole the flag, and Arbor Day when they stole the tree. They had ruined fire drills and school assemblies and PTA bake sales, and they let all the kindergarten mice out of their cage and then filled up the cage with guinea pigs.
The whole kindergarten got hysterical about this. Some kids thought the guinea pigs ate their mice. Some kids thought the guinea pigs were their mice, grown gigantic overnight. They were all scared and sobbing and hiccuping, and the janitor had to come and remove the guinea pigs.
All the mice got away, so I guess if you were a mouse you would be crazy about the Herdmans. I don't know whether mice get together and one of them says, "How was your day?" -- but if that happens, these mice would say, "Terrific!"
"So was that it, Beth?" Charlie asked me. "The mice and the guinea pigs? Was that, like, the last straw, and then everybody said, All right, that's it, the last straw . . . no Halloween'? Was that it?"
"I don't think so," I said. "I think it was everything else."
There had been a lot of everything else because Labor Day was late, so school started late. Parents had an extra week to buy their kids school shoes and get their hair cut; kids had an extra week to finish the fort or tree house or bike trail or whatever else they'd been building since June; and teachers had an extra week to pray they wouldn't have any Herdmans, I guess.... And of course the Herdmans had an extra week, too, to tear up whatever they'd missed during the summer.
That turned out to be a lot and, as usual with the Herdmans, it wasn't always things you would expect them to do.
The police guard at the bank said that he had seen them come in. "Can't miss them!" he said. "So I went right over and stood by the big fish tank. I figure, if I see a bank robber coming I'll defend the money, but if I see those kids coming I'll defend the fish." He shook his head and sighed.
"Didn't occur to me to hang around the revolving door."
Nobody got hurt and everybody got out all right, but they had to call the fire department to take the door apart, and they had to close the bank till they got the door back up.
The fire chief said he never saw anything like it. "Two kids," he said, "maybe even three kids might go in that door at the same time to see what would happen, but this was eight kids! What you had was one section of a revolving door full of kids. Couldn't move the door forward, couldn't move it back, had to take it down... unless, well, you couldn't just leave them in there."
This was supposed to be a joke, but most people thought it would have been a great opportunity to shut the Herdmans up somewhere, even in a revolving door.
It would have been a great opportunity, except that by then it wasn't Herdmans in the door. It was eight different kids, including Charlie.
"Why?" my father asked him. "Why would you follow the Herdmans anywhere, let alone into a revolving door?"
Charlie shrugged and looked up at the ceiling and down at the floor and finally said he didn't know. "It was just that they were all around," he went on. "There were Herdmans in front of us and Herdmans in back of us, and then Ralph said, Let's see how many kids will fit in the door,' and so . . . " He shrugged again.
The bank manager was mad because of his door, and the bank guard was mad because he picked the wrong thing to guard, but nobody blamed him. How could he know what the Herdmans were going to do? Most of the time, I don't think even the Herdmans knew what they were going to do.