Eric Mayer

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It was still dark this morning when I hauled the trash to the road. As soon as I opened the door the earthy smell of dry, fallen leaves told me autumn had arrived. It was gusty yesterday. Even though the trees near the house are green the leaves blowing past the windows were yellow. They rustled under my shoes as I went down the path through the patch of woods on the side hill. The leafy smell was stronger there. Loam and dust.

When I was growing up that smell meant huge piles of leaves to play in. I'd toss armfuls into the air and let them patter down over my head. I'd take a running start and leap. I'd burrow through them. It was like digging through light, airy earth. Down amidst the leaves, I existed in a new element, neither air nor water.

In my neighborhood people eventually raked the leaves to the curb and burned them. For a few glorious days the street was lined with fire. Some of the leaf piles smoldered while others sent flames up toward the utility lines. Kids with dead sticks patrolled the sidewalks, prodding gray piles of ash back to life. Passing cars crept along with their headlights on stirring a thick fog of smoke.

By the time I'd dropped the trash bag and climbed the hill again it was getting light. The half moon just beyond the reach of the trees was still bright. I wonder how many places allow you to burn leaves in the street today? Here I don't rake. I grind the leaves up with the lawn mower. I have no piles to leap into and probably just as well.

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