In chapter nine, we find out why Halloween was once banned at Curmudgeon Avenue, and how Harold and Edith brought it back with their comedy-drama style.
Chapter 9: The Halloween Party
On this particular week in Whitefield, the streets were filled with the colours of Halloween. Orange pumpkins both produce and plastic, the ghostly whites of costumes, and skies of purple and grey before (bonfire night delivers a modern-day fog). Say what you like about the people of Manchester, they know how to enjoy themselves, (particularly in Whitefield, where as you know, it is 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,’ said Edith, from under a pile of fake cobwebs. (Erm, yes, you should have Edith, and yes, you did 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 while 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, Edna could have gone trick or treating herself!’ Harold laughed at his own joke while spraying the kitchen with stringy pumpkin flesh and sticky seeds. Edith 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 those insides… Put them in the bowl, will you?’
‘Yes, boss,’ said Harold. (Oh dear, that is another annoyance).
After another trip to the off licence, (with Edith’s purse), Harold insisted 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, Harold and Edith had to eat their tea – Manchester speak for the evening meal. Edith had made the pumpkin soup she had been talking about. Edith was quite capable of preparing food, as you know, her previous 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 them has a delicate digestive system and shares 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.
‘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 about her own mother in this way. The truth was her mother had been a real narcissist and 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 the folk whose birthday is on Christmas Day or any other such festival. But Edith’s mother never returned the favour. Even her own daughters had their birthdays purposely forgotten by their vain mother.
And you thought Edna did not do birthdays anymore for age preservation reasons? No, it was because Mrs Payne had been a bit of a cow about them. But Mother was dead, and Edith was having a Halloween party in her 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, and looked into Harold’s googly eyes, wanting to confide in him about her parents’ 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, and ready to get their Halloween on.
‘Halloween’s coming. Halloween’s coming… concrete chips! Concrete chips!’ then Wantha turned to Toonan, slapping her on the arm.
‘What’ve concrete chips got to do with it? You’ve got it mixed up with the school dinner song!’
‘OW! Well, what are the words then? Know it all!’ 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 put my costume on!’ Edith said, and then she took in the Halloween vision 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 veil and lashings of black eye makeup. ‘They do my head in, well they used to before the Banshee got bulldozed uptown. 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.
Edith noticed something else, Wantha and Toonan wearing 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 (it had nothing to do with him) then 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.
Then it was Harold’s turn to reveal his costume; a second hand Beetlejuice with matching grey wig. Harold’s spectacles threw his audience. ‘Harold, why have you come as Doc from Back to the Future?’ said Toonan.
‘I thought you were doing the food for tonight, Toonan?’ Harold diverted while letting another fart out.
‘I did!’ Toonan narrowly missed the offensive 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?’
Harold, of course, denied it.
Well, the night proceeded with as 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. Amongst the tomfoolery and fun, Edith sought Prosecco fuelled confidence in Patchouli, who remained dressed as a Goth and was 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, disguising the silent but deadly wind released from Edith’s 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 she 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.’
Of course, Patchouli already knew, but she had to entertain Edith, in her 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 asked.
‘Well, she wanted it to be just 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.’ As Patchouli spoke, 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. And Edith, everyone knew about the elephant incident, it was on Granada Reports.’ (What a lovely woman Patchouli is; though it was probably the here and now that caused the hob incident).
Edith started a lengthy, gushing speech about how Patchouli had been right and their new friendship. As you can imagine, there was a lot of ‘so anyways’, she didn’t stop for breath. Edith nearly exhausted the room of oxygen she was talking so much. Patchouli patiently listened, but eventually returned to her disco nap in the living room. Edith carried on talking for longer than was reasonably necessary.
‘Oh, there you are!’ Harold said, rather too loudly as he barged into the living room.
‘WHAT! Where’s the fire?!’ Patchouli woke and jumped out of her skin with a face 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 gastrointestinal tract. His head wobbled, and his eyes bulged out so far that they touched the inside 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,’ Ricky shouted from inside a plume of cigarette smoke and stolen aftershave.
‘I thought Toonan brought all those jelly worms?’ said Harold, but 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 massive 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. It was the elephant’s fault, not his. The front door slammed behind him.
‘See,’ said Edith. ‘He’s not interested in talking to me,’ Edith sighed in Patchouli’s general direction. (Typical Harold, it could have been the carpet’s fault, as long as it wasn’t his).
‘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,’ Patchouli was back in the land of the living.
‘Oh, it’s stuck to your head!’ Edith said. ‘What’s it stuck on with?’
‘Superglue I think,’ said Patchouli. Well, Edith (still wearing her white sheet) started tugging, fussing and pulling Patchouli’s hat. Then, more trick-or-treaters knocked on the door.
‘Don’t worry, we’ll get it!’ Toonan and Wantha said.
‘Quick put your head on! Ow, watch me trunk!’ they opened the door, not to a trick-or-treater but to a very tall, 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 baggy grey trousers, (skin-tight around Wantha’s voluptuous hips), Wantha smoothed down her hair.
‘Hello, would you like a gummy worm?’ Toonan asked as 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,’ said 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 took a step back to look at the door number. ‘Sorry, I think I have the wrong house.’ And with that, he got back into his expensive-looking car and drove away 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,’ Toonan spoke with jelly worms hanging from her mouth 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 off her Halloween hat.
‘Oh, Mum I’m sorry, you look like a cross between Uncle Fester and Friar Tuck!’
Happy Halloween everyone!
PS last few days for some free trick or treat Halloween reads including The Ghosts of Curmudgeon Avenue click HERE