Some lunch break fiction for you this afternoon. Hope you enjoy!
It happened today. A brilliant wink of early evening light dusted gold across the tips of still-green grass through a curtain of thinning branches in my back yard. Just like that, fall arrived.
The corners of my mouth turned upward as I returned my gaze to the kitchen sink full milky suds, thankful to have seen it through the windows that overlooked our farm. The hot water stung my hands, but I didn’t mind. “Cleaning dishes with tepid water is like raking leaves with a toothbrush. Pointless.” My mother’s voice rang in my head as I felt around the bottom of the aged white cast iron sink for any remaining silverware.
“Mom! Wren found his slingshot and is outside shooting at squirrels again!”
Mavis’ determined footsteps across the wood floor followed the sharp crack of the front door’s screen. The sink glugged as it swallowed the last of the dish water. I patted my hands dry on the edge of the towel hanging from the counter where the wet dishes sat and turned to see the same grass-dusting golden light reflect in my oldest child’s brown eyes. Usually the deep color of strong coffee, they now danced alive with steaks of amber and honey.
She stood a few feet from me, hand on hip, waiting for me to declare my plan of reaction. Her determination for justice was her hallmark in our family. Only matched by Wren’s seven-year old mischievousness. I simply smiled and wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
Freshly fallen leaves I hadn’t noticed before crunched underfoot as Mavis and I returned to the front porch. My gaze landed on the distant rolling hills of the Blue Ridge to the north before focusing on Wren’s lanky form silhouetted next to the trunk of the ancient oak near the break in the fence leading to the corn field. One arm was drawn back, hand holding steady at his ear with the slingshot pointing upwards into the impressive tree.
“Wren Christopher Kirkpatrick.” My voice was firm, and although no where near a shout, I knew he heard me. A dozen or so black birds launched from the tall crops behind him as his stance relaxed and head slowly fell. His steps were slow as he made his way toward us where Mavis and I sat knee to knee on the stone steps.
“I always aim a little to the left of them, mom.” He rubbed the back of his neck and kicked at the dirt, looking just like his father. Even at the young age of seven, I saw so much of Peter in his stubborn yet kind nature. He pushed every limit he encountered, always seeking adventure, yet wouldn’t hurt a fly when it really came down to it.
He joined us at the porch’s edge. With a cool breeze blowing from the west, we sat quietly together watching the ridge slowly darken from orange to pink to purple. Darkness comes swiftly in the fall, the sun not bothering to linger longer than it must. On the breeze suddenly came a familiar scent. The kids turned to me with smiles and scurried from their spots, disappearing around the side of the hundred-year old farm house.
My smile matched theirs, but I moved much slower. Taking in a deep breath as I stood and let the last of daylight wash over my face. The worn path down toward the creek where Peter had a bonfire going, the first of many to be enjoyed this season, felt familiar under my feet. I’d walked the path as a young girl, a new bride, and as a first-time mama.
Although fall is the shortest of seasons and followed by a harsh winter in these parts, I never grow tired of its ability to make the humblest of places feel grand and its people feel royal. Light paints the grass gold and awakens the spirit with fall’s arrival.