This story is the fifth one to my Squish-Squash, Pumpkins and Gourds Prompt Call.
Stranded ‘Verse, after Family Distancing.
“There’s way too much orange around here.”
The woman was probably five years too old to be a Karen.
(Autumn was dreading the first time that someone called HER Karen.)
What she was, other than just past Karen-hood, other than wearing her cheap paper mask poorly (her nose was showing) and wielding her overpriced designer purse like a weapon, was obnoxious.
“It’s Autumn,” Autumn explained, from behind the protection of her very nice tie-dyed (orange and yellow) mask. “It’s a harvest display.”
The little town wasn’t quite still in lockdown, but since every craft fair for the foreseeable future had been cancelled, Autumn had been taking odd jobs around the place. It was better than just spending money, it was better than driving around not being able to do anything… and she couldn’t quite bring herself to just go and hide out at home. Her mother was fine; with the blessings Summer had layered on their mom, she had zero to nil chance of getting sick.
Heck, between the four of them, people within a five-mile ratio of their mother probably couldn’t get sick if they tried to.
Autumn was wishing she had that, with the woman in front of her – platinum blonde was on point, she must’ve had it salon-done recently – trying hard to get in her face.
“‘It’s autumn,'” the woman mocked. “It’s fall, so what? It doesn’t have to be orange. What are you, an idiot?”
Autumn counted to ten silently and wished one of her sisters were here. Since they weren’t, she made do with her own skillsets.
First, the Customer Service Smile. Second, selective deafness.
“I’m thinking the corn sheaves would look nice over here. I’m sorry, were you trying to get in the door?” The display was filling the sides of the former Woolworths’, which was serving this year as a Covid-19 testing site. The door was more than clear enough; Autumn was seven feet away from it. But some people (generally people who knew how to wear their masks) preferred to air on the side of caution, and Autumn couldn’t say she blamed them.
“It needs blue. It needs some green. I don’t know who you are or why you’re making a mess of our street, but seriously, it needs some color.”
(Customer Service Smile two: Nothing you say will actually change anything I can do. Selective deafness ramped up.)
“If I’m not in your way, could you move about three feet that way, please?” Autumn gestured. “I’m just about to work on the window paintings.”
“I’m not in your way.” The woman glared at her. “Are you listening to a word I say?”
“I’d like to keep six feet between us, and it’ll work best if I start on this window here.” Autumn gestured. “The testing site’s open and there shouldn’t be a line right now..”
“I’m not here for a test.” The woman glared at her. “Are you at least going to paint some blue?”
She still hadn’t moved.
“Not if you don’t give me some space.” Autumn managed not to snap, but only by keeping her Artist Salesperson Face firmly on. Painted on, even.
“You should really be open to criticism, you know. There’s far too much orange here. It’s ridiculous. It’s fall, not the middle of a crate of oranges!”
“Oh, hey, Audi.” She’d been in the town for more than three weeks. She’d made her share of friends and then some; right now, one of those friends, Elan, was heading towards her with his arms wrapped around a giant box. “I got the stuff you were looking for. Oh, I like the corn sheaves. Good touch!”
“Thanks, Elan.” She winked at her friend. “Can you put them over there? I’ve got to get this window painted-“
“With some blue,” the woman cut in.
“-and then we can set them up. I’m thinking we can probably borrow the broken table from the Red Apple down the road. It’s weather proof and we can set it up right here.”
“Did you hear me?”
“I think maybe some of them around the tree out there, too?” Elan reached into the box. “Maybe… six of them? Seven?”
He pulled out big foam and resin pumpkins one at a time – orange first, and then yellow, lime green and teal, cyan, purple and magenta, and arranged them in a rainbow around the tree.
“Yeah, I think that’s good. All right.” The woman had backed up sufficiently. “Now we can prep the window. Thanks again, Elan.”
“Blue,” she heard the woman mutter again, but she ignored it.
If anyone knew what colors autumn was supposed to be, it was her.
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