“Where’re the extra planks of wood?” Ted hollered.
“They’re down in the cellar, just like last year,” Linda hollered back. She turned her attention to the book open to a glossy image of Edvard Munch’s The Scream. She took up her tools again. She just couldn’t get the shape of the head right. The pumpkin’s flesh wouldn’t cooperate.
“I don’t know why you’re trying to get another one finished,” Donovan said, leaning in to inspect Linda’s handiwork. “You’ve already done three more than last year.”
“Would you mind stepping back? You’re blocking the sun.”
“Yes ma’am.” He backed off but Linda still felt him hovering.
“Why don’t you go help Ted?”
“Am I bugging you?” Donovan smiled.
“What do you think?” Linda glared over her shoulder at her annoying neighbor. She hated that he showed up unasked every year, that he thought she was flirting with him. All she wanted from him was silence, to be left in peace.
“Linda,” Ted called from the back door. “Telephone.” He held up the handset.
Linda rushed off with relief.
“It’s that reporter again, from Letter something-or-other. The website,” Ted explained handing over the phone. He watched a shadow lift from her face as she took the phone and disappeared inside.
Ted headed out to the yard where Donovan was examining Linda’s work and waiting for her to return. “I could use some help setting up out front,” Ted offered.
“Yeah, of course.” They headed around the side of the house to finish setting up the makeshift tables before arranging the pumpkins out front. Pausing, Ted glanced up at the moon, already visible in the ripening late afternoon sky. A dark cloud on the horizon might carry rain but looked like it might keep its distance.
“Where do you want these?” Donovan had a few pumpkins that didn’t fit on or around the display tables.
“Switch them out with some of the smaller ones on the ground. These will fall out of the tree but the smaller ones stay up okay.” Ted guided Donovan in the rearrangements, and then showed him a technique for hiding supportive boards in the lower branches of a nearby tree. “Once it gets to be dusk I’ll get out the candles and start lighting them. I guess we’ll be seeing you later tonight when everyone else shows up. Thanks again for your help.” Ted held out a hand for Donovan to shake and did his best to politely dismiss the man.
Donovan headed back across the street where he waited for the sun to descend. A flow of visitors coming along the road grew from a trickle to a river. He fought off sleep at the window as the crowd slipped away, one by one, eventually leaving just Linda in the yard. She went from pumpkin to pumpkin, blowing out the remaining candles that blinked like stars. Trails of smoke created a thin fog as she resisted glancing over her shoulder, somehow aware that he was watching her.