Locust House Variations, A Weekly Fiction Column by Adam Gnade, “October Story, Part 5 of 5”

True autumn hit the farm with a cold wind that blew hard over the hilly pastures to the west. The leaves on the oak trees went from summer green to a yellow gold, casting a warm glow on the white aluminum siding of the farmhouse. Sitting on the Chesterfield sofa by the windows you had the feeling of being in a kind of forever-dusk—the black trunks and branches of the trees, and the gold leaves, and from them a light you felt more than saw, a radiance like a dark sun.

With the west wind, the trees began to lose their leaves, and left a carpet of paling yellow on the grass like a snake’s belly. The leaves fell until you saw no grass at all, and until walking on the bed of fallen leaves felt like walking on a pile of blankets. It was a nice thing to feel, but it was bittersweet too because you knew those same winds would leave the trees bare, and soon fall would feel and look like winter—the black skeletons of the trees craning their dark arms and bare hands and bony fingers into the gray sky, and you knew the leaves left on the ground would soon dry to a dull brown, and with the first winter rains they would rot. Those beautiful gold leaves like outstretched hands would die a second time, would break, would crumble into the earth, and be one with the earth until you saw no trace of them or their light.

I sat on the sofa and watched the storm and read Stefan Zweig writing of his vanished world of safety. I sat on the sofa and read Octavio Paz’s A Tale of Two Gardens (“We fall back, we give our ground, the animal loses the future with each step”). I read Nicole Morning’s Selftitled (“There are bodies in the streets and every one had a mother”). I read Beckett on Proust and Knausgaard on Hitler’s genocide and the picturesque battles of Le Morte Arthur.

Then October passed and November came with its darker afternoons, its early dusk, and a hard chill in the air.

The golden leaves gone—now the cold torrents of autumn. The spring birds asleep in their trees…

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