Between Two Worlds

It’s November and we have yet to have good hard freeze along the shore of Lake Champlain.  The temperature did touch the freezing mark for a hour or so early last week, causing the green leaves of the grapes, wisteria, hydrangea and apricot to be suddenly shot through with yellow.

I raked the yard Sunday; figuring dry leaves are easier to move than wet.  When I was young, we used to rake leaves into the gutter and burn them, which was horrible from a health and environmental perspective, but there was something about neighbors in plaid wool gathering by the curb in the dusk and gray smoke of an early Saturday evening and committing well-tended arson.

We expected Sandy to take down the rest of the leaves – if not the trees themselves – but except for a brief, lashing rain early Tuesday, we were passed by.  A wave of warm air from the gulf did ride in, though, which made a nice evening for the trick-or-treaters.  We expected them to be rained out, so we ate too much candy as we watched the news and fretted for my in-laws on the Jersey shore.  (People are fine, infrastructure not so much.)

Last weekend was cool, cool enough to merit filling the evening kitchen with steamy aromas of boiled dinner.  Corned beef, the World Series and life was good.  One of my neighbors has been spending her evenings dialing into swing states on behalf of the Obama campaign.  “These people gotta get out and vote!” she said.  “They don’t want Obama to win the electoral vote and lose the popular vote, do they?”

“Is that what you tell them?” I asked.

“No.  I have to read some stupid script.”

I can imagine similar things happening in solid red states, Texans calling into North Carolina and Virginia, saying, “Hell yeah, I think Romney’s a jerk too, but we gotta get Obama outta there!”

And then there was Bentley.  Bentley was a boy who lived around the corner; he drowned last summer at age 12, a blow to the whole community.  As the candy ran low and the goblins thinned out last night, Adrienne and I decided to take a stroll and look at the decorations.

We rounded the corner near the park and heard a teen music station – one of the ones the teen here listens to – blaring from Bentley’s house.  The house wasn’t decorated; no one seemed to be around.  We paused for a moment, reminding each other with our eyes whose house that was before slowly moving on.  Other parents, out escorting trick-or-treaters, did the same.

Then two boys in their early teens stepped from the shadows.  One was in costume; he looked vaguely like a clown and carried a large bowl full of candy.  Approaching us in the street, he asked, “Would you like some candy?” The other teen hung back and watched, seemed shy.

We each took candy, thanked the boy and asked, “What’s up?  Why are you doing this?”  (A costumed kid, giving candy to adults in street clothes turned the Halloween ritual on its head.)

He hesitated.  “We’re… just… giving out candy.”  We thanked him again and walked on.  When I got home, I looked up some of the news accounts about Bentley; his 13th birthday is in a few weeks.

All I can imagine is the boys we met were Bentley’s friends who, in a compassionate act remarkable for any age, keep Bentley’s memory alive on a night when Mexicans gather in cemeteries to remember those who have passed and Irish believe the door between worlds is briefly swings open.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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