The shelves were full of Halloween items, Herbert noticed as he wondered onto the wrong aisle. He paused and stared at the stacked Halloween treats. Chocolates and gummies called to him in their bright packages. Next to them were savoury snacks also decorated up for the holiday. Shrugging bent shoulders, he selected a few packets of treats and put them into the cart. There was still three weeks to go, but Herbert had always liked to stay ahead of things.
Turning away, he looked at the baby and children’s costumes opposite. He had to move closer to make out the full outfits as even with glasses his eyes were fading. The selection was modest, with pumpkin baby suits, sparkly witch dresses with matching hats, devil jumpsuits, a vampire’s suit and a skeleton bone t-shirt.
It brought back the memory of a few years ago, when he had come shopping with Nancy and the kids. He had helped selected a pumpkin suit for his six month old granddaughter and it had the words Granddad’s Little Pumpkin on the front. For some reason he could clearly remember that, but he couldn’t recall the last time he had seen them. Had it been two years or three?
Shuffling on, he passed the line-up of scary masks and accessories. The adult costumes were next for inspection, though most of them were the grown up versions of the children’s. Herbert looked at an undead bride dress and one for a vampire countess. There was also a pirate captain, a cowboy and a werewolf. Once again masks and accessories followed.
He had a costume already, he recalled: a Count Dracula, with a floor sweeping cape, plastic fangs and a waist coat. He had wore it every year since he could remember and not once he had question the idea of an old man dressing up and celebrating Halloween. If his granddad kids hadn’t been living with him, maybe it would have stopped? He wondered on this and decided there must have been more to it than that.
Glancing over his shoulder he realised that he’d missed the decorations. For some reason, they had always been his favourite part. He went over and looked at the kitchen wares and party supplies. Crudely made skull goblets seemed to laugh at him, whilst a pitcher covered in one eyed pumpkins winked at his balding head. He frowned over the usual assortment of paper cups, plates and napkins, until he spotted a medium sized plastic orange bowl.
Picking it up with shaking hands, he put it into the cart and moved on. His eager eyes searched the shelves for his next item in the home decorations area. He soon found a bag of mixed plastic bugs and a bag of fake spider webs. Dropping these in, he studied the rest of the items. There was a selection of window stickers, wall hangings, fabric ghosts and skeletons. He peered into a large caldron, cheeky pressed the play button on a dancing zombie and fondled a bouncy ball with a floating eye inside.
As he placed the last item down, his hear aids alerted him to running footsteps. He half turned and watch two children- a girl and a boy-run to the costumes. Excitedly, they begin to shout what they wanted to dress up as and tug at things. An anger red faced woman snapped at them to come away and then fell into an argument with them. Herbert turned away, an odd feeling of shame creeping upon him.
He pushed the cart to the end of the aisle and then stopped. The mother had wrestled her children away and he was strangely alone again. Next to him sat a glittering fiberglass pumpkin with a fake candle inside. I’ll probably need that this year, he thought with a glance at his trembling hands. He eased the pumpkin off the shelf, checked it worked, then what batteries it would need. He placed it in his cart and stared into the carved face.
Every year he had painstakingly carved his own pumpkin and his wife had made pie and soup with the insides. Lastly year, he had been halfway through the carving when the shakes had struck. He’d had to get his neighbour to finish the design, whilst his wife had said he was too old to be trying so hard now.
This year had been so different. Herbert dropped his head and took a couple of deep breaths. From somewhere, a little voice came to him and question why he could give making pumpkin soup and pie a go? He pulled his head up and licked his cracked lips. Yes, I should do, he thought, haven’t I recently discovered a love for cooking?
Turning the cart about, he headed back to the front of the shop. There he selected a decent pumpkin, which he could also carry and put it inside the kart with satisfaction. Then smiling to himself, he started out again to complete his shopping list.