N.T. Ed and Margaret Decide to Have an Autumn Party
Ned Theodore Ed, skull in the palm of his bony hand, looked out the window at the darkening early evening, and sighed.
Margaret noticed N.T. Ed’s shoulders silently heave and slump (for this was the way N.T. “sighed”) and paused her knitting. “What was that for?” Margaret asked, tilting her head and looking at N.T. over the top of her wire-rim reading glasses. They were sitting in Margaret’s living room, N.T. on the couch, and Margaret in her recliner; the lamps on her end tables produced an orangey, cozy hue as the light flickered off her hardwood interior.
N.T. pulled his gaze away from the window where he was watching the overcast sky fall through shades of gray into black, and picked up his notepad which was sitting on the couch beside him. He began writing, and Margaret patiently watched him as he wrote out his response slowly.
If you’ve never met N.T. Ed before, you might at first think he was rather rude because it would seem like he was ignoring you or giving you some sort of a silent treatment. After you said something to him and he didn’t reply right away, you might scoff and say, “Well fine, just keep doodling in your notepad!” But then later, maybe after a moment, or maybe after someone who knew better awkwardly tapped you on the shoulder and whispered to you the “deal” with N.T., you’d realize that N.T. wasn’t really rude at all, but merely a mute.
See, N.T. doesn’t speak——or, I should say, he doesn’t speak out loud, because N.T. speaks all the time with written words and thoughtful drawings. It’s just that he doesn’t have a voice box (which isn’t to say he doesn’t have a voice) and so he communicates with all his friends and non-friends by writing out his ideas on paper. Which might seem a little ridiculous, but think about it: have you ever met a skeleton with a voice box? Anyway, we all make do with what we can.
And on this particular evening, the one where N.T. looked out the window and gave his best sigh, he was visiting his friend Margaret, who lived up the mountain from him, and who was a dear friend of his.
When he had finally finished transcribing his thoughts onto paper, N.T. turned his notepad to Margaret so she could read it.
IT GETS SO DARK SO EARLY IN THE EVENING NOW. IT MAKES ME FEEL SAD; I MISS THE LONG DAYS OF SUMMER. I KNOW I CAN’T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT, BUT I DON’T WANT WINTER TO COME. I’VE HAD SUCH A FUN SUMMER.
Indeed it had been a fun summer for N.T. And a busy one, too! Margaret owned a great deal of land on the mountain they lived, a place most people (including N.T.) referred to as “the Pines,” and together, N.T., Margaret, their friend Reid, and a handful of others, maintained the land as a community nature park. That summer, N.T. and Reid had worked together to plot out another trail throughout the Pines, and it had taken almost the whole season to map out and clear for hikers. N.T. had also started a fairy garden behind his cabin which turned out beautifully! It had a little water fountain, stone pathways, a bench, garden sculptures, and a dozen different plants, ranging from vegetable-bearing plants to decorative ivies and flora. (The fairies from the Pines certainly adored it!) In addition to these large projects, N.T. had also visited the lake a few times, had campfires with Margaret and Reid, and watched the sunset every evening with his butterfly companion Talia from his front steps, as the golden orb would set over the pine-brushed mountains and paint the sky a hundred different hues of peacefulness.
To think that all this would now fade away into the grays and whites of winter depressed N.T.
Margaret read his notepad and nodded sympathetically. She set down her knitting needles and the scarf that was forming from them on her lap and said, “I know, I feel the same way. But then again, I’ve lived through many seasons and you start to realize it’s just the cycle of life…”
N.T. tossed his notepad down beside him and rested his head against the couch cushion, pulling his knees up to his chest as he listened to Margaret.
She thought for a moment, twisting a piece of her silver hair between her forefinger and thumb, gazing at the ceiling of her living room, then turned back to N.T. “Many people I’ve met feel this, too. There’s something so difficult about the winter for us to endure——many animals hibernate, and sometimes I wish humans did, too! But we do kind of hibernate, in our own way, by staying inside more. Skeletons, too,” she added, winking at N.T.
He picked up his notepad and jotted, I’M GOING TO MISS RIDING MY BIKE DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. This was something he had recently began enjoying——he would ride his bike down the mountain, and meet up with Reid in Spinesville, who would drive N.T. and his bike back up the mountain to his cabin. N.T. loved the sensation of soaring down the road, the wind rushing by him, almost as though he were gliding, like a bird…
“Of course,” Margaret said softly. “I’m going to miss the sun rising at six in the morning, and the fresh fruit from the markets, and sitting on my back porch watching the birds in the bird bath. But, if I may offer a little perspective, would we enjoy these things so much if they lasted all year? Would we even have the capacity to be grateful for them if we didn’t know what life was like without such pleasures?”
N.T. shrugged. He felt like he could still appreciate long days of sunshine without having to live without it for five months!
Margaret chuckled a little, and picked up her knitting needles again, working her hands almost mindlessly as she spoke. “There are things we can only enjoy in the winter though, too. Like sledding, or the coziness of being wrapped up in sweaters and fuzzy blankets, or——hey, what about how magical autumn is? We can’t dismiss autumn without giving it proper appreciation.”
I DO LOVE HOT CIDER, N.T. quickly wrote.
“Exactly,” Margaret affirmed, nodding. The room was quiet for a moment, and all they could hear was the rustling of the wind outside, shaking the trees.
“Nothing in nature blooms all year. We need to have these phases so that we can give ourselves time to recuperate. Take advantage of the winter to do things you can’t or don’t do during summer——like, how much drawing did you do this summer? I’m sure you were out and about so much that you haven’t drawn as much as you usually like to.”
N.T. straightened up and shifted so he was sitting cross-legged on the couch. I DREW A LITTLE BIT THIS SUMMER, BUT NOT A LOT. BUT I DON’T FEEL AS INSPIRED DURING THE WINTER.
Margaret smiled warmly. “Then allow your drawing to be the way you cope with your winter blues. N.T., I’m trying to help you here! Work with me!” She laughed with a kindness that filled N.T.
I’M SORRY, YOU’RE RIGHT. I’M JUST FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF! N.T. smiled as he showed her the notepad, and shook his head at himself in amusement.
“That’s okay,” Margaret said, the residue from her laugh still seeping into her voice. “Well hey,” she added, setting her knitting on the end table beside her recliner, “I just had an idea. Let’s throw a little party to celebrate the changing of the season. It’ll be a celebration for autumn and we’ll embrace this new phase! We can have bobbing for apples, and pumpkin-carving maybe, and pies and candy and hot cocoa!”
THAT’S OKAY, I DON’T REALLY LIKE HALLOWEEN PARTIES, N.T. wrote back, a little bashfully. I’VE HAD A LOT OF BAD EXPERIENCES WITH HALLOWEEN.
Margaret threw her hands up and looked at N.T. incredulously. “Ned! Of course I know that! What kind of friend do you think I am? No——this won’t be a Halloween party. It will be an autumnal affair! Absolutely no costumes permitted.”
N.T. perked up. I LIKE THAT! He gave Margaret two thumbs-up.
“Perfect! Then we can start party-planning, and we’ll host it next week! Make a list of whatever you want for it——decorations, food, et cetera.”
N.T. had already started fantasizing about the party before she even said that. As visions swirled around in his mind——hot cider, all the hot cider that a skeleton could desire!——he felt in his heart that maybe, possibly, hopefully, the winter wouldn’t feel quite so heavy this year.
To read more about N.T. Ed and his adventures, visit the Tales of N.T. Ed page on Slanted Spines.
To read more comics by Slanted Spines, view the Comics page.