|Three ones and one two|
VR and I live like hermits. We don’t get out; new acquaintances are rare to non-existent; significant conversations are via Skype rather than face to face. Blame illness and the inertia of old age.
Yesterday this routine was shattered – charmingly.
I was considering a problem in the upper-floor lighting circuit and the door-bell rang. Outside were two ten-ish children, boy and girl, friendly, animated, even well-dressed. I said haltingly, “This is to do with… er…um… Halloween?”
They pointed to a sign I’d put over my bell-push. “We are deaf. Please use the bell.” Most neighbours were showing Halloween non-participation statements and I’ve usually done it myself. This year I forgot; my sign had seemed encouraging.
I said, “Trouble is I’ve got no cash.” Smiling they shook their heads. No cash. I reminisced. In my UK youth Halloween (Guy Fawkes Night then) was preceded by Mischief Night. Tricks on neighbours. Writing on car windscreens with candles. Unhooking a garden gate and hanging it on a lamppost. My two visitors listened attentively.
Then I recalled Halloween in the US. “I don’t even have any sweets.” But they weren’t fazed. “That’s all right,” they said cheerfully. I rambled on; they were so agreeable, those kids. Then a thought. I returned with a bag of VR’s fruit pastilles. The kids seemed overwhelmed, reluctant to take the bag. Finally it was over.
Again the door-bell. Same two kids, same smiles, each holding something small. Money! Thrusting six pounds ($7.11) at me. “What for?” I asked, flabbergasted. “It was a whole bag,” they said. “It’s all the wrong way round,” I said.
I tried to refuse, how I tried. Laughing they insisted. Eventually the girl reached past me and put the coins on the hall table. Bid me goodbye
And there the cash still lies.