Sunday, October 30, 2005

Trick or Treat

I was sitting at home the other evening reading the newspaper, listening to the wireless, peacefully enjoying a pot of tea and a pipe of a particularly fine Cavendish mixture when there came an unexpected knock upon the front door. Reluctantly leaving the comfort of armchair and hearth, I donned my jacket and went to answer it, and found myself confronted by a solitary young woman of slender build and diminutive stature standing on the step with her hands clasped before her as if in supplication. I raised an interrogative eyebrow.

"Trickertree," she said bewilderingly and apropos of nothing of which I was aware, so I waited for her to continue, hoping against reason and experience that something meaningful or faintly interesting, or even vaguely intelligible, might be about to emanate from between those pink twelve-year-old lips. But she just stared up at me with an expression of amused expectancy, her head tilted slightly to one side, an endearingly cheeky twinkle about the eyes, as though she'd told me an amusing anecdote and was waiting only for the penny to drop to signal my inevitable appreciative laughter. Mingled with perplexity I felt a distinct twinge of disappointment at my inadequacy, having no idea how I should react to please her. So I laughed diffidently and shrugged my shoulders apologetically.

"I'm sorry, I . . ." She smiled at my obvious discomfiture, not maliciously but with the gentle exasperation usually reserved for a very dear but somewhat slow-witted old relative, sighing with a most attractive and apparently artless coquetry.

"Trickertreet!" she repeated, bending forward slightly, her small teeth bared in a charming grimace, the change in emphasis possibly conferring upon the otherwise meaningless sound the status of a question and the added consonant lending me the hope that we were at last beginning to make progress towards some sort of an understanding.

I glanced to left and right along the street. It was dark and damp with the kind of thick swirling fog that muffles the sound of a distant cry and through which the streetlights struggle in vain to illuminate more than a few of the deserted cobbles. There was nothing to see and nothing to be heard.

"Perhaps you'd better come in." I turned sideways, ushered her across the threshold and closed the door against the night, fumbling in my trouser pocket for some coins.