Chapter 9: The Halloween Party.
On this particular week in Whitefield, the streets were full of the colours of Halloween. That is to say, orange pumpkins both produce and plastic and skies of purple and grey before bonfire night the following week delivers a modern-day fog, plus ghostly whites of various costumes and decorations. Say what you like about the people of Manchester, they know how to enjoy themselves, particularly in Whitefield, where as you know, it’s any excuse to get wasted.
‘I should have let Patchouli have this party, I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for when I said yes to our Ricky’ Edith said, from under a pile of fake cobwebs. (Erm yes you should have Edith, and yes you do know). ‘Edna would not have allowed this. No way. She would not have allowed a party at Curmudgeon Avenue’
(I miss Edna)
‘Edna?’ said Harold, whilst pretending to carve a pumpkin ‘It’s a shame your sister isn’t here, Edith, she could have answered the door to the trick-or-treaters she wouldn’t have had to get dressed up! In fact, she could have gone trick or treating herself!’ Harold laughed at his own joke whilst spraying the kitchen with stringy pumpkin flesh and sticky seeds. Edith tittered, but did not know why, she did not like Harold’s teasing about Edna, but was unable to make it stop. ‘Be careful Harold, I’m going to make pumpkin soup with the insides! Put them in that bowl I put next to you, will you? ‘Yes boss’ said Harold. Oh dear, that is another thing that Harold kept saying to Edith.
Well after another trip to the off licence (with Edith’s purse) and Harold insisting on making his signature dish; Radcliffe Hors d’oeuvres – mini cheddars with a blob of primula cheese spread on the top. Number one Curmudgeon Avenue was ready for its very first Halloween party. But first of all, Harold and Edith had to eat their tea – that’s Manchester speak for evening meal. Edith had made that pumpkin soup she had been talking about. Now Edith was quite capable of preparing food, as you know her husband Reg was very well fed. But pumpkin soup was something she had never tried before you see, Halloween was not popular in Edith’s family up until today. Now I have a kitchen, but I’m no cook (why would I be? I’m a house) however I do know that folk should be careful with fibrous starchy squash fruits. Especially if the person eating it has a delicate digestive system and is sharing a bedroom with you (such as Harold).
‘It was my mother’s birthday on Halloween’ Edith said in between orange slurps.
‘Oh, really? I expect you had lots of fun growing up then?’
‘No Harold, I mean don’t forget, Halloween wasn’t as popular back then as it is now’
‘I blame the Americans’ Said Harold.
‘But when Ricky was little, it got popular but it was still mother’s birthday’
‘Oh, I’m sure you had a grand old time bringing him round to see his grandmother.’
Edith felt a bit guilty thinking what she was thinking about her own mother. The truth is, her mother had been a real narcissist about it. Halloween was banned. She would manipulate the entire situation months in advance so that her birthday was all about her, and nothing about Halloween. Fair enough you might be thinking to yourself, it is probably the same for people whose birthday is on Christmas day, or any other such festival. But the thing is, Edith’s mother never returned the favour. Even her own daughters, Edith and Edna had their own birthdays purposely forgotten by their vain mother. And you thought Edna did not do birthdays anymore for age preservation reasons? No, it was because mother had been a bit of a cow about it. But now she was dead, and Edith was having a Halloween party in her own house.
‘Edith, are you alright?’ Harold said. ‘You haven’t said anything for ages, it’s not like you!’
‘Oh yes, I was just thinking about Mum… and Dad… ‘Edith put her spoon down, she looked into Harold’s goggle eyes she wanted to talk to him about her parent’s tragic end. She had never discussed the shock before. ‘Harold, did I ever tell you …?’ But her voice trailed off, drowned by the sound of singing in Manchester voices, ready to party, ready to get their Halloween on. ‘Halloween’s coming, Halloween’s coming… concrete chips! Concrete chips! But then Wantha turned to Toonan, slapping her on the arm ‘What’s concrete chips got to do with it? You’ve got it mixed up with the school dinner song!’
‘OW! Well, what’s the words then? Know it all!’
But Toonan’s words were lost amongst the sound of Harold prizing the back door open. He had done too much of a good job sticking the fake cobwebs up. ‘Oh! Come in!’
‘What’s up with youse?’ Wantha said, from behind Toonan (part of the costume) ‘It doesn’t look like a party in here, c’mon get some tunes on!’
‘Oh, come in, come in, I haven’t had the chance to get my costume on!’ Edith said, and then she took in the Halloween sight before her ‘Oh! Patchouli! What have you come as? You look very…’
‘Goth. I’ve come as a Goth Ediff.’ Said Patchouli from behind a fishnet vail and lashings of black eye makeup. ‘They do my head in, well they used to before the Banshee got bulldozed up town. Ever go in there Ediff?’
‘Can’t say I did, no’
‘Thinking they were better than everyone, dressing ‘alternative’ but looking like their best mate! Horrific! That’s why it makes a good Halloween costume!’ Patchouli, the ultimate old rock chick obviously had a grudge to bear. But then Edith noticed it. Wantha and Toonan in a combination outfit. ‘Sorry Ediff, we asked for a horse, but they only had this left’ Toonan’s eyes studied the kitchen floor in shame; Edith took in the image of Wantha and Toonan in their elephant costume. It was like a pantomime horse, but it was an elephant. ‘Sorry Ediff’ Said Wantha. Ricky Ricketts pushed past the two straight to the fridge. ‘Did Harold get the beers in Mum?’
‘No, I did’ said Edith. ‘Aren’t you getting dressed up?’
‘No. I don’t get dressed up, out of respect for granny’
‘Good man’ Said Harold, although it had nothing to do with him, at this point though, he let out one of his first pumpkin fuelled farts. Edith reappeared downstairs wearing a sheet with two eyeholes cut into it, she was the token Halloween ghost. ‘Little ghost’ Wantha and Toonan kept calling her. But then it was Harold’s turn to reappear. Dressed in a second hand ‘Beetlejuice’ costume and matching grey wig, his spectacles threw his audience. ‘Harold, why have you come as Doc from Back to the Future?’ Said Toonan. Harold was gutted. ‘I thought you were doing the food for tonight, Toonan?’ Harold said, whilst letting another fart out.
‘I did!’ Toonan narrowly missed the odious smell ‘Look!’ Toonan ripped open a bag of jelly worms ‘See, Halloween food!’
Harold let out another fart, this one reached Toonan’s nostrils. ‘Ew Harold, have you just farted?’ Toonan said. Harold, of course denied it.
Well, the night proceeded with much Manchester merriment and Halloween high jinks that you can imagine. They ran out of beer, and Toonan and Wantha went together to the nearest off licence in their elephant costume. But amongst the tomfoolery and fun, Edith sought prosecco fuelled confidence in Patchouli. She was still dressed as a Goth, and still unlikely to remember what Edith had said. She flopped down on the leatherette settee next to Patchouli, who was minding her own business, and having a disco nap.
‘The thing is’ Edith hiccupped. ‘My mother wouldn’t have liked this. A party on Halloween…’ Edith hiccupped again in Patchouli’s face but luckily for her, this disguised the silent but deadly wind she had just released from her bottom. ‘Why ever not, love?’ Patchouli asked with concern. ‘Oh, because she didn’t like this sort of thing, not on her birthday, anyway… Did you know, did you know how she died? How her and my father died?’ Edith’s eyes were wide, and Patchouli was doing her best to listen. ‘She got squashed by an elephant; they both did, in their static caravan.’
Patchouli already knew, of course, but she had to entertain Edith, in her white sheet ghost costume, partially discarded in favour of her standard floral head to foot ensemble. ‘If Halloween was her birthday, why didn’t she like it? Patchouli said.
‘Well, she just wanted it to be a birthday, it had to be all about her’ Edith revealed the pattern of behaviour she had fallen into. Patchouli touched her forearm ‘Your mum would have wanted you to be happy, like all mums do’ Edith shut up and listened for once. ‘Now your sister isn’t here at the moment, so you have to embrace the people around you, right here right now. You’re happy with Harold aren’t you?’ This mention of Harold to Edith sent her right back to her ruminations. ‘Yes, but he doesn’t know about the elephant incident, or at least I didn’t think he did… And in any case, I’m not altogether sure if Mum would have liked me being with Harold.’
‘Now Edith, come on, time is precious, just enjoy the here and now’ Patchouli said. Oh, what a lovely woman she is, most likely had been concentrating on the here and now when she left the hob on that time. Edith started a lengthy speech about how Patchouli had been right, and gushed over her new found friendship and how she had warmed to Toonan and Wantha. As you can imagine, there was a lot of ‘so anyways’, and not stopping for breath. Edith had nearly exhausted the room of oxygen she was talking so much. But Patchouli had very patiently listened, and then eventually returned to her disco nap in the living room whilst Edith obliviously carried on talking for longer than was reasonably necessary.
‘Oh there you are!’ Harold said, rather too loudly.
‘WHAT! Where’s the fire!’ Patchouli jumped out of her skin, and woke up with her face now more Alice Cooper than Siouxsie and the Banshees.
‘I didn’t know where you were Edith, Toonan and Wantha want to get the apple bobbing going’ Harold looked more like a mad scientist than a rambunctious spirit.
‘Harold!’ Edith said in uncharacteristic assertive tones. ‘I want to speak to you about a huge shock I had when my parents died’
Harold expelled the remaining pumpkin gas from his gastro intestinal tract. His head started wobbling and his eyes bulged so far out of their sockets that they touched the inside glass of his spectacles. Harold and Edith stared at each other for longer than was reasonably necessary. He was saved by the person least likely to save anyone.
‘Harold, get your arse to the shop will you? We’re running out of sweets for the trick or treaters’ Shouted Ricky in a plume of cigarette smoke and stolen aftershave. ‘I thought Toonan brought all those jelly worms?’ Ricky ignored him. Harold did as he was told, but only because he needed to get away from Edith and further mentions of elephants, parents and huge shocks. There would be another huge shock for Edith if she found out the truth. Harold had lived this lie for too long, he had already resigned himself that it would do more harm than good if Edith knew the truth, and it was Deirdre’s fault anyway! Typical Harold! It was the elephant’s fault, not his. It could have been the carpet’s fault, as long as it wasn’t Harold’s. The front door slammed behind him.
‘See’ Said Edith ‘He’s not interested in talking to me’ She sighed in Patchouli’s general direction. ‘Oh, Edith, lighten up love, will you? And help me get this corpse bride hat off, before people start accusing me of being into The Chameleons!’
‘Oh, it’s stuck to your head!’ Edith said ‘What’s it stuck on with?’
‘Superglue I think’ Patchouli said. Well, Edith still wearing her white sheet with two holes cut out for eyes started tugging, fussing and pulling Patchouli’s hat. Yet more trick or treaters came to the door. ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it!’ Toonan and Wantha said. ‘Quick put your head on sis! Ow watch me trunk!’ They opened the door, not to a trick or treater but to a very tall and very handsome, smartly dressed man. ‘Oh Haha, what’ve you come as?’ Toonan said, from behind an elasticated elephant’s trunk.
‘Pardon?’ The man said, with very slight tinges of a faintly French accent. Wantha could not resist stepping away from Toonan to have a proper look at this fine specimen who had rattled the door knocker of Number One Curmudgeon Avenue. She was wearing the back half of the elephant, braces held up the grey trousers, supposed to be baggy, but skin tight around Wantha’s voluptuous physique. She smoothed down her hair. ‘Hello, would you like a gummy worm?’ The smart looking handsome and tall man took in the scene before him. Two parts of an elephant, one with hair like a lion’s mane and a backside like a rhinoceros. The other still wearing the elephant’s head and holding what appeared to be confiscated Halloween treats. Then he heard it; well they all heard it ‘Push, no pull’ From Edith ‘No, stay still Patchouli. You try and sit in the chair, and I’ll pull’
‘PUUUULLLL’ Shouted Patchouli, which was followed by a nauseating ripping sound ‘Ow! Ow you got my scalp, Edith!’
The tall, handsome man looked back at the door number ‘Sorry, I think I have the wrong house’ And with that, he got back into his expensive looking car, and turned back down Curmudgeon Avenue into the Manchester night. ‘Who was that?’ Said Harold on his way back from Mrs Ali’s with sweets and gossip that he had already forgotten. ‘Yeah, Wantha, who was that?’ Said Ricky Ricketts with sudden interest. ‘We thought it was a trick or treater, but it was just some posh bloke who got the wrong address’ said Toonan, with jelly worms hanging from her mouth and underneath her elephant trunk.
‘What’s going on?’ Patchouli and Edith appeared out of the living room, and everyone burst into laughter. Edith was still wearing her ghost costume, but Patchouli, not only had black eye make-up running down her face, but a nice round bald patch where Edith had ripped her Halloween hat off.
‘Oh, mum I’m sorry, you look like Friar Tuck!’
Copyright Samantha Henthorn 2018. Part of the book The Harold and Edith Adventures.
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Happy Halloween everyone! Samantha xx