20 October 2008


The first day of autumn came like an old forgotten jigsaw of brown and orange. It was such a beautiful day that I decided to sit in the park and watch how things turned out. There was a lot of wind so I had taken my hat and placed it securely, or so I thought, on the top of my head.

The park was full of the little brown and orange jigsaw pieces. They drifted against the walls and blew like insects in the air. They made a good noise as they clattered against one another. By the bench where I sat, they were gathered in such number that it was like a carpet of noise under my feet.

There was a sudden change in the wind that surprised my hat and blew it to the ground. As I bent down to retrieve it, I remember there being a light rain in the air like dust. It was being blown in every direction. When I sat back up an old gentleman was beside me on the bench.

“Hello,” I said, “I didn’t notice you there before.”

“Hello,” he said, “I wasn’t until now.”

I liked his reply a great deal. It was exactly the reply I would like to have given in his place. I smiled and looked out over the park. The trees were dancing so vigorously that their tops were now entirely naked.

“It’s a beautiful day,” I remarked. It was a beautiful day.

“I'm glad you like it,” he replied, and leant back on the bench with his hands behind his head. He was breathing softly and a strange whistling sound came from his nose. I liked this reply too.

The man’s outfit was that of a traditional British outdoorsman. He wore leather boots, heavy woollen trousers and a filthy waxed coat. Filthy was perhaps not the right word. I have known people with filthy coats in the past, but this coat had an agricultural significance all of its own. You could have probably grown good potatoes in folds of its fabric. However, the most striking feature of this man was his magnificent hair. It was white and thick and grew in every direction imaginable. Within it, and please bear in mind I could only examine its periphery, was a good assortment of leaves, moss, twigs, and other things I could not name. He was perhaps one of the few men I have met who could truly say, “Hello, I need a hat.”

He caught me staring at him and offered the kind of smile one would give to a precocious child. “What can I do for you?” he said. He made a whistling noise without opening his mouth.

If I didn’t ask I knew that I would regret it later. “I was wondering why you are dressed as you are?” I said. “You seem prepared for the elements.”

“Indeed!” said the man. “I dress like this for my job.”

“And what would that be, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Not at all!” he said. “I do many things throughout the year, but right now I’m in charge of the autumn.”

Having already become somewhat used to unexpected replies, this seemed to go straight in without touching the sides. I found myself saying in all seriousness, “Oh! Well, it must be a very busy time for you.”

“Exceedingly!” said the man. “There is an awful lot of wind to be made. Every year there are more people to blow about and then there are the leaves to be scattered. Of course, there are wind farms now as well. Wind farms are really very awkward.” He seemed set on considering wind farms for a while, so I gave him a moment. Eventually he let out a weary groan and leant back on the bench. He looked suddenly quite glum, and tremendously tired. He rubbed his eyes with large calloused hands and yawned.

I thought perhaps I should try to take his mind off wind farms and how awkward they were. “What’s your favourite part of the job?” I asked.

The man took his hand from his eyes and looked at me with sudden mischievous glee. He let out a small chuckle and leant over to me as if he were telling a secret. “Umbrellas!” he said, like he was at the circus. “Umbrellas are my most favourite things in all the world. That’s the good thing about living in the city. There are lots of umbrellas!”

“Umbrellas?” I asked.

I’ve never seen a man point with his eyebrows before, but this he did in a way that was far superior than using a finger. I followed the line from tangled white hair, over the playing field in front of us, to the path on the opposite side. There, a lady was walking a dog and holding an umbrella out in front of her like a medieval knight. It was one of those happy umbrellas that showed all the colours of the rainbow. Within an instant, the wind and leaves had swirled around behind her and with a pleasing WHOOMF, the umbrella was turned inside out. The dog became very excited and dragged the lady about the path. There was a great deal of yapping.

I chuckled into my hand and the man made a dry laugh as if he was filled with the leaves that sat all around us. “That’s quite a skill.” I said.

“Thank you,” said the man, drying his eyes with his hand. “It gets me though the day.” He looked quite a lot better.

There was a sudden break in the cloud and the wind changed again. I liked how the dried leaves piled up at the side of my feet, like they were trying to explore the lower regions of my trouser leg. I felt a sudden cold and looked to my side. The old man was gone. I stood up and looked around. On the other side of the park, the lady was wrestling with her ruined umbrella. It seemed to like its new look and was putting up a good fight. I looked behind me and saw the magnificent white hair of the man bobbing in the distance. The rest of him was perfectly camouflaged against the autumn that spun like brown and orange jigsaw pieces all around.

1 comment:

della said...

autumn has the win, evidently.

I love the alliteration too...