"What treat would you like?" I asked the two costumed children at my door.
"Thirty-eight thousand, seven hundred fifty-two dollars and sixty-five cents," said the girl.
My hand froze inside the candy jar.
"...Apiece," added the little witch -- literally, she was dressed as a witch, fake mole on her nose and all.
The boy, dressed as a pirate, fiddled with his black eye patch. "Plus interest."
"I...don't understand," I said.
"It's what our parents say we owe on the national debt," the girl -- I'd guess she was about ten -- said. "And that doesn't include ObamaCare."
Her little brother tugged on her cape. "Don't forget Cap-and-Trade, Rachel."
The girl, Rachel, nodded. "Mommy and Daddy say our future is being crippled by an insane national debt."
"Your parents sound like smart people," I said. "But I don't have -- what? Seventy-seven thousand --" I pulled my hand from the candy jar. "How about Reese's Pieces instead?"
Both kids just stared at me.
Rachel crossed her arms and looked at me petulantly.
"Look," I said, "I don't have that kind of money."
"Then why are you letting the government spend it?"
She had me on that one. "How about some candy corn?"
"Come on, Kevin." She took her brother's hand. "Now he's just being insulting."
"But, remember, Mister," she said to me, a dark look crossing her face before they turned and walked away, "they call it trick-or-treat for a reason."
"You're a little old to be trick-or-treating, aren't you?" I said to the young woman in the frayed, white doctor's smock. She was accompanied by a man in faded nurse's scrubs, wearing a black eye patch.
"You don't remember us, then?" she said.
"My memory isn't what it once was," I admitted.
I peered at her through my cheap eyeglasses. Her face...the wart on her nose hadn't been fake, after all.
"Rachel?" I turned to the young man and chuckled. "Kevin, you didn't have to wear the eye patch just to remind me...."
"Actually," he said, his voice low now, "I do have to wear it. A botched Lasik surgery."
"I didn't know they still allowed those," I said. "Too expensive."
"They don't," he said, his one visible eye winking rapidly. "At least for the general public. I know somebody who's a Party member."
"Look at you two!" I said after a moment's awkward silence. "See, you turned out pretty well after all: Rachel a doctor, Kevin a nurse."
They looked at each other and laughed.
"I'm not a doctor," she said. "Who can afford college these days? And Kevin isn't a nurse."
"So you are in costume, then?"
"Sort of," she said. "The Leader showed us at the very start how important it is that people think we're doctors. We're with ObamaCare Neighborhood Watch."
I got an uneasy feeling. "What division?"
I looked over her shoulder and a chill ran through me. A white van parked in my driveway bore the ubiquitous ObamaCare logo, a stylized staff of Asclepius with the curled green snake and its familiar black death's-head.
"But I'm in good health," I protested.
"You are, huh?" She pulled a medical chart from under her smock. "You had your left hip replaced ten years ago?"
"Yeah," I said, the ache in my right hip making me wish that replacement surgery was still an option.
"You take medications for thyroid replacement and to prevent gout?"
"Yes, but they're relatively inexpensive."
"That's for us to decide." She peered up at me from the medical chart. "And you were diagnosed with hypertension five years ago."
"Borderline," I pointed out. "I don't even take medication for that."
"But at your age," she said. "Well, the tables say it's time."
I looked back and forth between them, pleading. "But I should have a lot of good years left."
An insincere smile appeared on Rachel's lips. "The charts don't lie. And your birthday is next week."
Kevin grabbed my arm with two strong hands. "Come on, old man, don't make this any more difficult than it has to be."
"Wait!" A thought flashed into my mind. "Your parents. I remember; they're smart folks. Let's talk to them."
Rachel closed the chart slowly, with a small smile, like she was closing a good book she had just finished reading.
"Our parents? We came for them last week."
William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author.