by Pamela Ebel
On the last day of June, Roland George stood looking out his kitchen window. He and his wife Izzy had purchased their New Orleans home in October of the previous year. The Fourth of July holiday was rapidly approaching and he thought about the fence in the front yard. Izzy came into the kitchen and gave him a hug.
“You still here big man? You’re going to be late. What are you doing?”
“Not much. I was thinking it’s supposed to be cool, so we could plant some flowers?”
“Let’s do it.”
Roland hesitated as he reached the front door.
“Go on scaredy cat. What are you afraid of?”
She pulled the front door open. The white picket fence with the rose bushes curling up both sides of the trellis was picture perfect.
As he backed out of the driveway Roland looked at the fence again and remembered the Halloween holiday of last year. He had gone out on the porch to measure the windows. Looking toward the street he was shocked to see his fence covered with miniature ghosts, goblins, vampires, arching black cats, and a large witch on her broom sitting atop the trellis. At 9:00 a.m., the first car appeared.
Next came a pickup truck with six kids in the back, all clapping and yelling with delight. More cars arrived and then the walkers came. At noon, Roland called the police. A very polite and somewhat amused officer arrived and surveyed the situation.
“Officer, these decorations just appeared, and the neighbors said that Mr. Ed probably did it. We asked who that was and where we could find him, and they just shook their heads and walked away.”
“That’s understandable. Ed Guidry owned this house. You bought it from his kids after he died. He decorated the fence every holiday for seven years after his wife died.”
“Look, I’m glad it made Mr. ‘what’s his name’ and the neighbors happy. But we don’t intend to keep up the practice, and I want to let whoever did this to know they have to stop.”
“Alright Mr. George. I’ll tell the rest of the precinct. We’ll let you know if we learn anything.”
Roland got a ladder and wire cutters, and within a couple of hours, the decorations were down. The cars and walkers who came later stared at the empty fence in dismay.
Halloween morning Roland and Izzy agreed to be home by four to get ready for the Trick or Treaters. At three thirty, he turned down his street only to run into a line of cars cruising slowly in front of him. Nearing his house, Roland saw the witch sitting majestically on her broomstick on top of the trellis. All of the other decorations were in place. He hopped out of his car getting ready to dial the police when a school bus pulled up.
A group of students from St. Vincent’s Special School got out dressed in their costumes and gleefully ran to the fence to take pictures in front of the bats with eyes that flashed red and the black cats whose backs arched rhythmically.
Izzy appeared from the house in her Wonder Woman costume with the candy bowl in hand. He watched as the kids came up to get treats. Then more kids appeared. Izzy laughed and walked into the middle of the crowd.
Next morning the Halloween decorations were replaced by beautiful Chrysanthemums and a hand-painted sign announced All Saints Day.
And so, it went. Thanksgiving found a papier-mâché Turkey perched on the trellis. Returning from work on Christmas Eve, the Georges found a fully decorated and lighted tree in the front yard. On top of the trellis sat a huge Santa with sleigh and reindeer.
Then came Twelfth Night, Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day and Easter, with four five-foot tall eggs and signs reminding everyone the reason for the holiday.
Now, on this last day of June, Roland moved to the front porch and looked at the fence. Since returning from his service in Desert Storm, he had avoided patriotic holidays. He assumed that the exterior decorator would take care of the Fourth of July remembrances. Looking out he saw only a sign on the gate facing inward. Tears came to Roland’s eyes as he read the message:
“It’s your turn. My service was in WWII, but I celebrated all who served our country. I’m gone so, it’s your turn.”
Izzy joined him and read the poster.
“He’s right. It’s your turn. Come on big man we’ve got some shopping to do. Then you get that duffle bag of yours opened and put things together.”
The Georges finished their decorations just as the sun came up on the Fourth of July. The house was draped in red, white, and blue bunting. The American Flag that Roland’s company had given him was flying on the newly installed flag pole.
Hanging from the trellis was an older flag. Above it sat the Halloween Witch with tears in her eyes. In one hand she held her broom, in the other she held a poster that read:
“This flag flew at Iwo Jima and was given to Sargent Edward Guidry for Valor and Bravery Above the Call of Duty. Remember, if you don’t stand for something while you’re living, you will die for nothing.”
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