When the Druids were still in charge, Halloween was the night when real, honest-to-badness witches and goblins were summoned forth so as to be expelled from the earth. Christianity, wishing to appear enlightened, watered such practices down to the bloodless, corn-candied holiday we know today. Yet I keep the old ways. Every Halloween, like the Druids, I summon the sights and sounds of the world of darkness for purposes of expulsion. I summon them in clusters, as they appear at my mind's door:

1) Carter hugging Brezhnev. Carter hugging Begin. Begin hugging Vance. Vance hugging Brezhnev. Brzezinski hugging Brezhnev. Brezhnev hugging Arafat. Arafat hugging Jesse Jackson. Carter hugging Jesse Jackson. Nixon bugging Jesse Jackson. Brzezinski hugging Brzezinski hugging Carter.

2) I Brake for Animals. Save the Whales. I Brake for Whales. I Climbed Mt. Washington. I Cried for You. No Nukes. Noh Plays. I'd Rather Be Sailing. I'd Rather Be Whaling. I'd Rather Be President. Kennedy in '80. Shiek Yamani in '80. Shake Your Bootie in '80. I Brake for Sheik. Split Bananas Not Atoms. Split Hares Not Whales. Go Redskins. Goh Plays. Be a Fonz. Be a Clown. Dale Bumpers in '80. I Brake for Bumpers.

3) One Barracuda. One Hornet. One Cougar. One Pinto Pony. One Pinto Pony Liftback. One Bronco Hatchback. One Bobcat Brougham. One Heywood Brougham, with power seats. One Rabbit, loaded, with tilt wheel. One Sunbird Tiltback. One Firebird Hunchback. One T-Bird Flashback. One T-Burt Bacharach. One Colt Tailback, with AM/FM radio, four on the floor. One Roadrunner Maverick Impala Clutchback, with five on the floor. One Pinto Pony Beatle Fox Abercrombie and Fitchback, with six on the floor, power leather, rack and pinion air, tilt radio, AM/FM brakes, three more on the floor, clean, loaded.

4) Carter, Kennedy, Reagan, Baker, Connally, Ford, Brown and Bush -- hugging.

5) Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Barry Manilow.

6) Wonderfully zany. Hilariously zany. Brilliantly zany. A gripping, incredibly forceful movie. Hopelessly zany. A screen gem. One of the year's best. Angry, compassionate. Dangerously zany. You'll laugh till you cry. You'll laugh your head off. You'll split your sides. A masterpiece. A classic. A classical masterpiece. Zanily classical. Master-piecedly zany. Unequivocally the most terrifying movie I've ever seen. Zany.

7) My forecast for today shows pleasant morning temperatures in the high 80s, with a moderate-to-heavy cloud cover gusting up to 50 mph. A warming trend due to a low from Canada -- as you can see on the satellite map -- should bring us some snow flurries and broken clouds no later than noon, with the solar index at an unseasonable 92 percent, and the likelihood of a tidal wave by mid-afternoon, with the barometer holding steady at 1.7 inches of rain, Celsius. The AQI is perilous/fatal. The chance of drought, 30 percent today, 33 percent tonight. And a good day to you.

8) Oh, sure, I can hear the bellyaching crybabies every time we or Gulf or Exxon make one thin dime, groaning and whining "windfall profits tax" and all that bushwa, just because our profits were up 175 percent last quarter, as if that means anything anyhow, for Pete's sake, not that the congressmen bawl Holy Hannah when their own businesses make a buck or two, not on your Aunt Tillie's fanny; as if we kept all the cash in a cookie jar or something, as if it didn't go right back into the ground for research and bigger drills; as if we didn't know our duty as citizens in a time of real national hardship, for the love of Mike, as if we were out of touch with our own country.

There. Done, I say, and head for bed -- when suddenly the floor trembles and the air is loud with howling and rattling and a rapping at the door so panicky it seems the knock of Fear itself. Shaking, I turn the knob. There, in the darkness, a neat, soft-voiced Southerner with a jack-o'-latern smile addresses me, his arms wide open:

"Hug?"