King Of All I Survey by Jacqueline Saville
I never asked to be the chosen one. Christ knows it's a hard life, under constant scrutiny, no time to call my own. I know what you're thinking – this tiny village has crowned me king of the autumn, how hard can it be? I thought the same at first, it seemed like a bit of a laugh, a quirky rural rite to bring the tourists in. Couple of pictures for the local paper, guest of honour at the halloween disco in the church hall, officially opening the bonfire supper, and all the toffee apples I could eat. I thought it was sweet of them to choose me, seeing as it was my first autumn here. Now I know why none of the locals wanted to do it.
The place is run by the old biddies on the parish council. They're like an eyrie of vultures in knitted hats. Sure as death and taxes, they'll rip you to pieces if you step out of line, I found that out early on. It wasn't even a particularly offensive T-shirt, not by the standards of the rest of my wardrobe, but Mrs Emerson kindly pointed out that autumn kings do not wear such things. Nor do they blaspheme, promote fornication, or espouse questionable politics. I tried to start a jocular discussion on what constituted questionable politics – we all have differing opinions, no hard feelings. But the look she gave me made the words curl up and turn tail, and I just nodded. I've mainly worn jumpers since.
I'm at my front door in a thigh-grazing dressing gown, and even as I'm peering into the dark, confused, I'm thinking I shouldn't be outside like this because I'm showing too much leg. Mrs Emerson's striding up the path, guided by righteousness or it could be she eats more carrots than I do. She screws her face up like she's got a mouthful of vinegar-soaked lemon, and I know she's noticed the outfit. She looks somewhere over my right shoulder where the music's coming from and says,
"Young man, you were warned."
I laugh and say it's only a Judas Priest album for God's sake, but even as the words are coming out I realise that's a double whammy. She stalks back down the path and maybe that's enough of a signal because one of the restless bodies I can hear but not see lobs a brick and I duck. I shake the dust out of my hair with both hands and someone shouts,
"And get your hair cut."
It's over before it really gets going and I'm leaning on the doorframe looking up at the sagging trellis arch hanging on by a couple of nails when a voice comes out of the dark garden.
"You want to get that fixed, mate. I can put you onto a good carpenter."
I shake my head and tell him I like it asymmetric like that, then go inside and start counting the days till winter.