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Denying Autumn

It was a good piece of land, a mix of pasture and woods. It was a place they could set down roots.

“Where’s the house?” Mike asked as he scurried to keep up with his father’s long strides.

“There isn’t one, not yet,” Tom replied. “But we could build a fine one right over there.”

He pointed to a high spot near the back of the property circled by pines and low junipers. A towering oak stood right in the center.

“But there’s already somebody there, Dad!” Mike sounded worried.

Tom followed the boy’s gaze, and his eyes landed smack dab on the big tree. He smiled.

“Well, that looks like a pretty big hill to me. I reckon we could share with that old fella, don’t you?”

Mike’s eyes widened. “Could we put a rope swing up there?”

“Why, it’d be a crime not to, the way I see it.”

“Oh, boy! Can we go look right now?”

Mike didn’t wait for an answer. He grabbed up his father’s hand and tugged for all he was worth. The pair dashed across the open meadow, cool spring air tickling their scalps even while the full sun warmed their faces. Their shadows danced along the ground that would someday feed cows and horses, and teem rich with fall harvests.

Tom’s lungs burned as they neared the base of the hill, and he held up a hand.

“Hold on a second,” he panted as he leaned on his knees. They were standing in a hollow spot of land, wet with thick grass and splashed in the shade from the scrubby trees that led up the incline. “This would be the perfect place for a pond.”

“I guess so.” Mike studied his father. “Are you alright, Dad?”

Tom smiled again and stood upright. “Right as rain, Mikey.”

“Let’s go, then!” The boy tugged his father’s hand again, and they were climbing.

The old oak tree waited for them at the top of the hill. Tom rested a shaky hand against its gnarly bark. His legs shook, and his heart was pounding like a drum.

“Sit down, Dad,” Mike said. He held out one rope of the swing toward his father. Tom eyed the wooden seat, then pushed himself off the trunk and eased into the swing. He dangled there in the breeze for a few moments, bouncing on the toes of his shoes to steady himself.

Mike stepped around behind the old man. “Hold on, Dad,” he said.

Tom gripped the ropes, and Mike nudged his father’s shoulders from behind. The swing moved in a gentle arc, rope grinding against the limb high above in a singsong rumble.

The two men gazed out on the green lawn. Linda’s crocuses where in full bloom, and so were the weeds around them. Tom never could take care of those flower gardens the way his wife had.

The big farmhouse looked out over the meadow below, where the last two cows munched lazily on baby grass. The tip of the oak’s shadow painted the tin roof a dark green.

“It’s time, Dad,” Mike said. “You’ve done good by this land, made it everything we dreamed it could be.”

The swing sawed back and forth, back and forth.

“Always wanted to build a pond down there in that hollow.” Tom motioned toward the pasture with his chin. “Maybe this summer.”

Published inFlash Fiction

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