OMG, they’re back. The gnats are gone, the mosquitos are looking for puddles and black flies are toast. But THEY are back.

Every couple of years they arrive, go to bloom, just in the nick, just when all the real flowers are fading, dying in jumps, and all the color of summer fades.

It’s election year, and there they are, hooray. They’re popping up all over the neighborhood on every lawn and grassy median strip, in bright yellows and greens, reds and purples, paper flowers stapled to pieces of wood or on wire frames.

VOTE FOR ME, they scream, now, before it’s too late, before the other guy wins and your life goes into the tank. READ ME BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Question 1 on the ballot: Have you ever voted for anyone because you read a sign? Yes. But that was Carmen Villa and it was misspelled. Carmen didn’t need to know how to spell.

We’re not alone in this polit-scape. All over Boston and Manhattan the signs are even worse, stuck in windows and on top of the ubiquitous piles of garbage bags. It’s been fun to see who came up with the cutest slogans and color combos. And they have sparked up my daily walk, bright-spotting my two miles around the neighborhood here and there.

Somehow, bunched up on the traffic stop sideburns, they lose their cuteness, and become clusters of weeds, blinding, ugly overgrowths like kudzu vines that you see suffocating ancient barns on Louisiana’s blue highways.

Of course, no one is really reading them anymore. We’re a small state, and we all know our candidates, and the autumn trees at least change from week to week, going from bright yellow to gold to that final brown sugarish finale, before being ripped from the limbs by big storms.

And, we’ve heard, there is one coming, a monster that is roaring up the coast with its big mouth wide open, threatening to swallow us all. If it hits as promised, there will be a tsunami of signs, clouds of candy corn and tiny costumed urchins hurtling down lnterstate 95 come Halloween.

But it’s days away as I make notes, and the sun is warm. This spring I began a fresh exercise route, venturing into slightly upper-tone shady streets, John Cheever country, where the only sounds are of screeching, Hitchcockian black birds and the wind in the trees. Slowly I became aware of something new, and perhaps, unsettling.

Earlier in the year these were only the homes of strangers, or maybe just casual stop-and-chatters. We waved and nodded as we passed.

“Nice day.”

“Isn’t it?”

“New car?”

“Oh! A schnauzer. What’s his name?”

I admired their gardens and sprinkler systems. I complimented their crisp, newly chemically sprayed lawns, and petted their dogs and kitties. Yes. Cheever country sans pools.

But now, the green and flowered mask has been torn away exposing the naked truth. My neighbors’ souls have been bared in the game of “pick a winner.” The sweet lady with the matching dogs it turns out, is GASP! a Republican. It’s hard to tell how hard core she is, as her lawn sign speaks only of local and state flavor. (There’s a strange absence of Obama and Romney signs.) What far-right dreams, I wonder, does she hide behind that smile? How deep right-wing red is the heart that beats behind that Talbots sweater set?

My political views are, of course, no secret to those who have been reading me for 27 years. I’m too old now to hate with the same passion I had as a youth, and I’m a nonthreatening liberal with too many trees to hug, and a progressive who wastes electricity and oil.

I have two signs on my lawn, as you can see, but only because they’re likable people. They’re bending in the wind right now. By Halloween, if the reports are true, they’ll probably be in Saco.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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