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Autumn Quest

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The Mighty Cumberland backdrop materializes as the technicolored leaves drift to the earth, signaling transition. God performs an effortless miracle furnishing a stunning quilt to warm the ground during the months ahead. Autumn foliage frolics through the breeze, using the waft as its partner on the invisible dancefloor. Gifts from the limbs caress my face while promenading by. Some crunch beneath my sneakers, leaving a footprint only to be erased by more leaves and shuffled like cards by the wind. Images of pumpkins and Halloween candy infest my thoughts while dragging my rusty old rake over the sleeping grass.


Life in the '70s is pretty simple, especially for a kid. Now that Saturday morning cartoons are behind me, it's time for the day's quest. I aim to build the most gigantic pile of leaves known to man. I've often dreamed of escaping from the car as Mom drives down Riverside and scaling the fence to play in the enormous sand piles by the road. Constructing my own giant pile of leaves will have to do for now. The urge to throw down the rake before everything is perfect will be a formidable obstacle to overcome, but I'm up for the challenge. It will be a lot of work, maybe a day's worth, but I must remember to take my time and start small, just like when I build a snowman.


Puffy clouds hide the sun as my meticulous plan takes shape below. Tiny blisters form on my pudgy hands, but a little discomfort will not stand in the way of my creation. The sky grows darker, and the breeze coughs up a gust and then another, funneling much of my hard work into the air. Loud booms erupt from heaven while electric spiderwebs decorate the atmosphere advising me to call it a day. Mother Nature is no match for my ambition. Adrenalin pumps through my heart, sending shocks of inspiration through my veins as if it's copying the static light show overhead. "It's not raining yet," I mumble as I raked harder and faster. The entire scene reminded me of watching Frankenstein on television the night before.




Once the job was complete, I threw my tool to the earth. As soon as the wooden handle landed, thunder snapped as loudly as a gun, signaling runners to take off. As I jetted down the hill toward my man-made mountain, big drops of water smacked me in the face telling me that my last warning had arrived. But I was past the point of no return, and my determination forced me to finish the quest. Rain poured as I leaped higher and further than ever before in my life. The wind must have guided my ascent because I felt like I was flying for a brief moment. I vanished into the pile, like when I dropped a pebble into the pond. It was almost like I'd never existed at all.


The darkness kept me company, and the smells of autumn gave my senses a chance to feast on the season. No light managed to break through because outside of my fragile fortress, it was as black as night. The soft raindrops striking the leaves sound like my mother popping the last few popcorn kernels before pulling the pot from the stove. Whenever I'd move my arms around, I imagined I was on the beach, listening to the waves crash against the rocks. I still haven't seen the ocean, but I'm sure it's similar. The storm frightened me, but somehow I felt safe in the solitude.


Only one thing could pull me from my bliss. A single sound struck terror from one end of my soul to the other, and it wasn't the thunder. I'd already grown immune to that. The sound I'm talking about would bring any gladiator to his knees or any supervillain straight back to his lair. My mother's voice grew louder and louder, and this was terrible news. It meant she was out in the rain looking for me. I only had two options. I could stay put and hold my breath or face her wrath. It would be the same outcome either way, maybe worse if I hid, so I decided to give myself up. I emerged from the leaves like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The water hit my face revealing a scared child while washing the mud into the collar of my shirt. "Chris, get your butt inside the house! Do you want to catch pneumonia and die in the rain?" My mother belted out as I made my way inside.


She laughed at me later that evening and told me she also enjoyed playing in the rain when she was a kid. She made popcorn, and we watched Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein together. She knew it was one of my favorite movies. I believe it was her way of saying she was glad I got to have an adventure, but she still had to be a parent.


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