October Afternoon.

On my way back to Hardwick, I’m stopped in road construction on the County Road. While I wait for the steamroller, I glance at the passenger seat and notice my knitting has slipped from my bag. The project is a simple hat, and the yarn slid from the needles. To save my work, I lift the unfinished hat and slide the stitches back on the needles.

Just before my car hood, the woman in bright yellow holding a STOP sign leans against the pole. I turn off my Subaru engine, thinking of where I’ve come from and the high school soccer game where I’m headed. How quickly cold shadows edge in when the sun slips behind the mountains at this time of year. The mountains around the road dazzle with crimson and gold, but gray is visible in patches, too. Stick season marches in inexorably.

I’m at the town line somewhere between Montpelier and Calais. A few years ago, I sold our arch — the long firebox and pans used for making syrup — to a man who said he’d pick it up in a few months. His address was in this area. I promptly cashed his sizable check. He didn’t return. More than a few months later, I had sold the house, too, and my daughters and I were moving. I wrote list after list with things like pack canning jars and Salvation Army drop-off and get rid of Toyota transmission in shed. On those endlessly reworked lists, I added arch must be moved. While tracking down the buyer, I discovered an unspeakably sad thing had happened to his family a number of years before he wrote me that check.

I found him. He arrived with a friend and loaded the arch on a trailer. He and his friend were older than me, in a different phase of their lives than I was. They spoke kindly to my daughters.

For just a fleeting moment, still waiting for that steamroller to move, I remember that arch precisely. Stainless steel, black metal, the scrape of a shovel on firebrick.

The woman with the STOP sign appears at my open window. I expect her to chide me for daydreaming. Instead, she points to a nearby pond where a flock of geese have landed. The sun hits the sugar maples around the water. There’s so much in that moment — the clamoring and splashing birds, the stunning leaves, that crystalline memory, the sunlight and green yarn in my lap. The woman tells me, “Head on when you’re ready.”

6 thoughts on “October Afternoon.

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