A fancy dress parade was to follow the carnival. The Carnival comprised of floats and majorettes, brass bands, boy scouts, tumble tots and brownies not forgetting the women’s institute and the natty knitters. The music blared from speakers followed by dancing dwarves; who were following snow white on her bed. The shop doorways lined with stalls, mulled wine, hot soup, cards, gifts and all manner of cakes and crafts for sale.
They paraded through the town twice, full of fun and revelry. The floats were to be judged and prizes awarded. Collections for the hospice and the homeless had been going on several weeks before, and at the event. The parade culminated in the turning on of the Christmas lights by some vacant reality television star; that no one remembered.
As a watcher, I stood out, not dressed fancy or otherwise.Because of the cold all the clothes I owned I wore. As one of the recipients of the collections, I thought a few scraps of food would be given me, a few bits … to ease my bones in the late Autumnal weather. Especially knowing it was only going to get colder and harder, sleeping rough.
I thought of the cost of the lights, music and costumes. I weighed up the fuel spent and calculated how much the prizes would be. In a previous time, I was a numbers man, a number cruncher and balancer of books. I wandered through the park to where finally the tractors rested their wheels and the children were reunited with parents and teachers. Backs were slapped, kisses freely given and received. Many prizes were happily accepted and some tears were shed in tiredness. Pride shone from the faces of people in fluorescent tabards who were clutching stuffed buckets of dosh.
I bent down, picked up a leaf, I twirled it in between frozen fingers, a beautiful Horse Chestnut leaf as big as a tea plate. The leaf was golden and rust, as if kissed by the turn of autumn its last disguise, before withering away. From my spot, I watched as a photographer took snaps of all he could see, a journalist took notes, then they spied me. I lifted the leaf to my face to hide, a voice asked: “Excuse me can I take a shot … what have you come as?” I stood still, my identity hidden from all but me. “Me,” I said, “I have come as autumn.” A look of confusion crossed his brow, he took the shot purposefully and slowly walked away. The girl tapped her pad with a chewed pencil she nodded my way. She glanced back once or twice as she disappeared into the crowd, I knew she was there somewhere, lost, like me, anonymous, unseen.
I wasn’t given any soup or mulled wine. The vicar scowled and turned away when I asked for a sleeping bag and a scarf. No eye contact was made, no smile thrown my way. I wondered what people thought their money would do, how much it would help … a man like me. Someone down on his luck, shabby, hungry and cold; wearing a disguise like autumn.
© 2017, Ellen Best. All rights reserved.
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