New fiction: Orange


The first day of fall always comes in the middle of summer. Yesterday was sweltering and tomorrow could be worse. But today-

Today you are wearing long pants. Today you feel like eating a hot dinner again. Beautiful long-haired stoner boys buying beer at 1 still wear shorts, their lazily rolling hip bones poking out under their loose T-shirts.

But some people are even wearing flannel.

It starts with a rain. A hot rain that gets colder over time. A gust curls around you the wrong way, giving you just a few goosebumps. The pressure shifts, and the cold air is echoed by an eery warmth inside.

Your mind races forward in time. You are roasting lamb, you are running a cleaver through the flesh of a gourd. You are rubbing your elbows and looking up at the stars. You are giving thanks for a harvest that still clings to the vine.

Soon we will do things together inside. Soon the things that make families families will come to bear, as the oncoming cold draws the veil up between houses. The records we cannot escape, the card games that keep us sane. The television programs with the quaint theme songs we can’t imagine anyone else watching. The stories that we’ve all memorized, and now augment for variation.

But before that is the sharing. Ghost stories to raise a chill, and cider to beat it back. Everyone loves a speedball, even if it’s just hot water and whiskey after looking at the stars.

Or shooting stars. That freezing cold summer night when we watched that meteor shower with another couple, and you got high and kissed me soft. We never made love, and when we saw each other again you said my name like it was a disappointment.

Queer to think of all the cold summer nights. Locking yourself out and breaking a window on the fire escape. Calling your ex to save you from bats flying out of your attic. Laying down next to him, and sometimes feeling each other in the dark. Playing innocent to friends who were drunk enough the night before to be plausibly confused.

Queer how sometimes you’ll get a week of the first day of fall, right in the middle of summer. Flash floods punctuate the near brown stillness of the air, and for days the sun is a silvery ribbon you hardly need to hide from.

Yellow pigments in leaves become visible when they stop producing chlorophyll. Before English-speaking people came into contact with the Indian fruit and its eponymous tree, they called orange yellowred. The sun, from space, is white. Our atmosphere just makes it look yellow.

But everything is still green now, and that’s why it’s not right. Couldn’t proper wear a sweater yet. Don’t really want a dark beer or anything made with pumpkin.

Just the general impression of the wind blowing through your guts at their own resonant frequency. The gauzy impression of seeing an owl, and of knowing soon you will die.

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