Autumn Afternoon

IMG_0761When I drive through the intersection where the Mexican lady sells watermelons and the corner house has with all the pigeon coops on the roof I see the reclusive old Sikh walking down the street towards the neighborhood park wearing his signature orange turban and white beard. Although I recognize him I refrain from waving as I pass by for we do not have that kind of relationship.

A few minutes later I am placing my lawn chair on the grass mid-way between sun and shade and hear rock music playing from the radio of one of a pickup trucks parked behind me that hold city workers, carpet cleaners and handymen who are eating their paper bag lunches.

Today is one of those near perfect autumn days when the temperature is in the 70’s, the sunlight golden and the breeze carries the scent of dry pine needles and leaves as it puffs by every now and then. I notice that several trees have, in the last two days, turned from dark green to shades of brown.

I am surprised because our nighttime temperatures have yet to dip below 60. But the trees know and are already preparing for Indian summer – at least that’s what we called it when I lived back east – those two weeks in October when the countryside is transformed into stained glass colors of red and orange and yellow – a last celebration before the Big Sleep.

Which brings to my mind a story I heard a few days ago that claimed mother bears gave birth to their young while in hibernation only to awaken in spring with a ready-made and hungry family. It seems too remarkable to be true but why would anyone make up something like that.

As I assess my gullibility I look across the field and see two unattended German shepherds sitting beneath a tree, heads tilted upward towards a squirrel that sits on a high branch and mockingly chatters to them. One dog whines in frustration and wiggles back and forth on its haunches while the other, whom I am sure is the female and more deadly, maintains an unwavering stare.

Meanwhile, from the other end of the path a cocker spaniel comes bouncing along. On turning the corner and seeing the shepherds the cocker freezes in mid-stride, fearful of attracting their attention or interest. Luckily, the spaniel’s owner scurries forward, snaps on the leash and makes a wide detour. While the restless shepherd deliberates between squirrel and spaniel, its steely-eyed mate is undeterred.

A rusting blue van driven by small man with a gray goatee pulls in and parks under a tall pine. The double back doors are covered with decals of national parks and conspiracy organizations, and the license plate reads Wyoming. The side windows are veiled with a combination of thin cotton curtains and cardboard, and the rooftop carrier holds a miscellany of plastic crates and black boxes that look like old batteries. A small American flag hangs limply from the antenna.

Over the next half hour I hear the pickup trucks start their engines and slowly the parking lot empties of all save the van from Wyoming whose owner now sleeps on a blanket in the sun. Then I see an old man with an orange turban tapping his cane along the path to the duck pond. I start to raise my hand to wave but remember in time that we do not have that kind of relationship.


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