cover mosaic by Harold Kanning
the golden days of autumn
My baby was out of food so we got dressed and strapped ourselves into the car and drove to the grocer’s. I bought two cans of food with a coupon that had come in the mail. My babe was so calm coming out of the grocer’s store that I decided to drive her around the town; it was late October and we were experiencing a heat wave, high temperatures in the 80s all week long, and tonight the air was filled with the golden joy that the entire year had lived for. Autumn was taking place, trees that shared lives side by side were watching each other shed their harvests of mortality-emblazoned leaves. It was the natural perversion of the year’s season.
We drove around town, I don’t even remember where, I was transfixed with the life all around me, listening to the radio drone its ancient classical romances. So much life all around, at all times, too much to even begin to attempt to relate to you in this book! Life is the ether within which all things exist! It floats through the air, touching objects and souls, transporting them from one resting state to the next. And this time of year, this year, the ether of life is vibrant and flowing with activity. We drove to her grandmother’s house; it was at the bottom of a hill, in the shaded grove of some fruit trees, and the woman was bent over, the height of her frame reaching its apex at the tip of the shoulderbones only several feet off the ground.
I laid with my babe and watched the sunlight move across the floor of her grandmother’s house as they talked about her father, what he had gone to school to become, and what model car he drove through one old heavy winter. He was a small man; quiet and warm, and had become a mechanical engineer working with airborne information systems throughout the bulk of his career. Once he had taken a job as a dock worker, loading and unloading cargo to the ships and barges in a northernmost port of Maine. He had heard from an acquaintance that the crane operators in that area were well-paid, honest men, and had hoped to find his place, but soon found out it would take a lifetime of working at sea-level, with gloves on, in the dangerous role of hooking and unhooking the giant tethers of the crane to the cargo boxes, to ever be so lucky as to attain the rare, coveted position of cargo crane forty-niner.
The forty-niner was a term, denoting the man who operated the primary machine in an operation, that I had heard back in Minnesota, several years prior to this day, though many years ago to the past as I sit here with you now, when I was working my virgin green apprenticeship as a carpenter’s helper, living mostly alone in a small white box of an apartment. My tutor, a burly, bearded fellow who always wore red suspenders on his toolbelt, and whose name was Red Heskett, was, as senior craftsman, by default, most often our building project’s forty-niner. He was the first I had heard to call it that, and until I heard it used by my baby’s grandma as I lay there on the floor with her, watching the sunlight pass through the room, talking about the man who comes between them, who unifies them, it was the last. I longed to be a forty-niner now, but more than anything I just simply felt morose about the whole topic of existence. I felt there was too little time to complete anything, or achieve any kind of real success through any attempted scores of planning. I felt life might seem long, if it were lived with a sense of continuity, rather than being broken up into too many small fragments holding too little time to complete anything. And even though the sunlight was shining through the lace-dressed window, and I was lying by my love, and we were graced with the royalty of an elder kin, my heart was still about three quarters filled with sadness, for I knew that these days of overabundant joy, harvesting, and bursting forth of life in its prime ripeness would be but brief, and be gone in an instant; gone to the realms of memory and reliving; hollow, sad reliving, bare, cold, and dead as the crumbling twigs of the trees’ crooked winter branches.
My baby and I made it home and warmed up the two cans of food we had bought. I boiled a pot of coffee over the stove and she dusted and swept our kitchen quarter. We ate our food outside, under the sun and falling leaves, and then slept arm in arm, the dog roaming about nearby, as the sun went down and the sky grew dark.