Jason started his community service badly. He turned up ten minutes late, keeping the supervisor waiting.
“This puts my whole schedule out” said his boss, “I should breach you and send you home, then let you explain it to the judge who sent you here. But I won’t. We got work to do, so luck is on your side. Get your ass in the truck and let’s get going.”
They soon arrived at the council operated aged care facility or retirement home as they used to be called. Jason saw was surrounded by parklike grounds filled with many deciduous trees including maples, oak walnut and elm. The place was like a painter’s palette of colour. Yellow, gold auburn, red, brown and green were prominent colours in the fallen leaves, as well as those which clung tightly to the branches, as if scared of injuring themselves in the fall. The canvas was the bright green of the grass which was still covered by morning dew.
Jason was given a fluoro vest, some boots and gloves as well as a leaf blower and rake and told to get to work. He was told to use the leaf blower as little as possible as it sometimes disturbs the residents and they didn’t want complaints. Jason’s job was to create large piles of leaves, ready for the second shift of blokes to come and collect for composting back at the depot.
His boss left him to it. He would return in 4 hours with the next crew and to pick Jason up… Jason grumbled under his breath. “What kind of community service is this?” he asked nobody in particular, as nobody was around to hear.
“You are doing us a great service young man”… the voice called from behind the tree. An elderly gentleman appeared with a walkers stick.
“If the leaves remain scattered, a great number of residents here can’t walk on the paths of the grounds. See,” he said bending to pick up a leaf, “the dew falls heavy here this time of year making the leaves very slippery indeed.”
“Oh, “Jason replied “I guess something good can come out of my stupidity after all.”
“I don’t know what you’ve done to be blessed with this task. As a matter of fact, it’s none of my business. That’s your secret. But do a good job and you will find a hot drink and many cakes waiting for you during your break. We don’t get many visitors here so a new face is welcomed by all and sundry inside.”
Jason looked where the man was pointing to see a sea of faces at the window. Some of the elderly ladies waved and Jason shyly waved back.
“Well, leave you to it youngster, I’m off for a walk.”
“It’s Jason actually.”
“Right you are then Jason.” And with that, the old man took his leave.
Jason began to do his work. By morning tea break he had made quite a few big piles of leaves. An old lady called to him from a window to come inside to warm up and have a cocoa and cakes.
“Ok,” Jason shouted back and he proceeded to walk towards the grand double doors which made up the entrance to this heritage listed complex. The main building looked old, but sturdy much reflecting the personality of the gentleman that he had already met.
Jason looked at the sky and thought it might rain. Not looking where he was going, he tripped and fell headlong into one of the piles of leaves.
“Damn,” he cursed. He got up and brushed the wet leaves from his clothes. “I don’t remember putting this pile here.” He thought, “Wonder what it was I tripped on.
He looked around and saw a patch of blue poking through the autumn tones of the gathered leaves.
“What’s this,” he thought. He prodded around with the handle of the rake and uncovered more blue and black. Definitely man made materials not found naturally in this parkland. “Someone’s lost their jumper,” he thought as he reached for the sleeve.
Jason reeled back in horror. The sleeve was not empty. In fact when he lifted it free from the pile, one end contained a hand and the other exposed a mess of meat that was once sinews muscles, skin and bone which make up the layers of a shoulder.
“Oh dear,” the old man appeared out of nowhere yet again “ It seems like young Jason has uncovered our little secret.” He said to the crowd of elderly now gathering behind him. “Now we must insist that you come inside for a warm drink.”