The ground is littered with a blizzard fall of leaves. Some of the houses have cleaned them up which is a crime in my book. Surely one of the beauties of this time of year is the burnt orange and golden confetti that crunches beneath our feet. A mist settles all around us, blanketing the town in miniature droplets, making straight hair curly and grey things black under a layer of damp.
The children look like little eskimos when they’re wrapped up in new winter coats, the only things exposed are faces and hands. Ringlets frame their faces as their hair coils in the heavy, dewy air. Today, they get to dress up in costume at school. The usual morning chatter weaves around us, however this time, it’s not coming from uniformed students, but a bat, three witches, two black cats, a superhero and a small, zombie bride. Fake blood, fake teeth, fake witches nails and fake severed limbs adorn their innocent little selves. They become absorbed into the school building and all is quiet again: monsters, ghosts and ghouls disappeared.
The heat of the house embraces me like a hug as I open the front door and remove my armour from the cold. With a meaty stew bubbling on the hob, my attention strays out the window to the forgotten back garden.
It settles into the season ahead, all desolation and bare, brown branches. Dotted around is the evidence of a summer of plenty. The barbeque, once full of red coals under sizzling steak, is now rusty and broken. A dilapidated greenhouse, not so long ago, the incubator of the vegetable patch, protecting the baby shoots, lies on its side, cracked and dismantled. Bamboo sticks left lying around, formerly the scaffolding for the tomato plants, not needed now as the tomatoes have long since been consumed by greedy mouthes. The children’s toys left idle, no longer jumped upon, rode around or decorated with sand pit sand, and are now sitting sad and neglected, covered in silvery webs and muck.
All produce has been removed and either eaten or promoted to indoor dwelling, like the pumpkins who had to be torn from their mother plant in a flurry of panic after an early forecast of frost. They reside in their superior setting now, growing ripe and orange, awaiting their fate – to be carved into horrifying features. The only life residing in this garden now is the occasional bird looking for worms, the stunted lawn and the cool October breeze rustling through the undressed plants.
I stir the pot and think of the pink cheeked children who will bundle back through the door in a few hours, disrobing and leaving hats, scarves and gloves in their wake on the floor. They’ll tuck hungrily into the hot stew, spilling it all over their costumes. I’ll complain but feel satisfied that they’ve something warm in their little bellies before they go back out again as little monsters, hounding the neighbours for sweets and treats, warning of tricks for non-compliance.