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Autumnal, Said Right for Once

Following the soccer game where I was the substitute and halfway-in-control coach, me trying my best to juggle the forward players while the backfield lot meanwhile (and in Thoreauvian fashion) confirmed and catalogued the pitch’s nineteen varieties of cultivated grass, I felt somewhat frustrated; it’s hard work, especially with so many parents watching from comfortable chairs, comfortable chairs being the easiest to judge from. Regardless, there were goals kicked and good plays made.
Bear had demanded Cayde punch him hard in the stomach partway through the second quarter: when Bear then afterward lefted one into the net, he said it was because Cayde energized him with a right to the gut. I didn’t argue.
“I asked him to punch me. Then I got a goal,” Bear shrugged.
Guys do this, right? I never played soccer, I don’t know. Also, I’m not a guy’s guy.
At home, Cayde and Bear donned capes and put on a magic show for me and Jenn, then took their magic show to the front-yard, fifty cents per illusion, while in the partial shade of the fast-crisping sycamore. They made at least three dollars on penny-tricks and never once produced a rabbit, nor guessed the right card. And they were pretty horrible at disappearing, which was ok with me.
They wore sequined caps, forgot their shoes, and sat at a table still mostly in their soccer uniforms. That trick with the rubber band and the ring earned them the most coinage. Some lady still owes them a buck according to Bear. Shouldn’t magic be COD?
I later walked down to the corner store to pick up some chicken for dinner. Woody, always affable and characteristically homespun, rang me up at the counter and, when packing away the produce and the poultry, wished me a good rest of the weekend. Woody walked straight outta TV’s Mayberry some years ago, I’m certain, complete with forename and wire-rimmed glasses. He mentioned the heat, and I of course commiserated, saying ‘Yeah–I wish it were more autumnal.’
Woody smilingly corrected my pronunciation of ‘autumnal’: ‘ah-toom-nal.’ (I said it: ah-tum-nal’).
I always get it wrong, and why choose that word anyways? Always, my strange head.
‘I think you corrected me last year, too, Woody,’ and he shook my hand laughing.
‘You have a good one now,’ Woody said.
‘Ah-toom-nal.’ Fall-ish.
Walking beneath the fern trees left of the fence and dragging my groceries home, I wondered why I always get the word wrong: it probably has to do with that long ‘o’ which I dislike; also ‘–toom’ is similar to ‘tomb’ and though spring is supposed to be the rejuvenating season, green buds, etc., I prefer the Fall when the green buds have spent themselves over the course of a season, and when, come September, the leaves rather scrape the concrete in hull-some fashion, fallen and done. I like autumn, and were there some briskness to it, it would prove better.
Fall is not falling: it’s neither a tomb, nor a –toom, whatever semantic is appropriate, it’s just when I feel better, Jenn too, and all this having nothing to do with pumpkin spice.

Blood moon tonight and I forget. Cayde and I are playing in the street—too late, really—but I promised him a game of catch with the Nerf ball that whistles, and it’s 7 o’clock by the time tomorrows meals are done and when the neighborhood kids are ushered inside and Cayde is left without a playmate.
“Daddy,” Cayde is at the screen door, pleading. He lines up two doors down, next to the spent Corolla, and I’m in front of the driveway. We play catch in the dark, and it’s a good thing the football whistles, because we can’t see much. The sky is still halfway lit, but we are silhouettes on the street, as much as the parked cars and the night-winked hedgerows. We spread out because how are awesome are we that we can throw missiles in the dark, and there are the whistles and k-thunks as the football bounces every which way, never too far from the intended target. At 7:15 I remember the lunar eclipse and shout as much to Cayden. The neighbors across the street emerge from their house and debate the wind. I collect Cayde and hoisting him onto my shoulders to get a vantage point above the apartment rooftop, the neighbors flick some lighters and shuffle a few houses down harboring something. The moon is an apostrophe of red. Without my glasses, I don’t see well.
“What’re you doing?” Cayde shouts to the neighbors from atop my shoulders, who are still testing their Bics but also unfolding a filo-thin piece of fabric, if a bit drunkenly, and figuring out some ignition thing.
“Chinese lantern.”
“What’s that, Daddy?” Cayde wants down, curious. He is also unsure on my shoulders, he being eight now.
The neighbors introduce themselves.
“Hi: I’m Dre.”
“Rob.”
“Thom.”
We all shake hands.
“Oh–Dre!” I know her from the neighborhood, didn’t know she was now my cross-the-street neighbor, and we hug in the dark.
“Hey! You live there?” she asks pointing to the sycamore tree. “This your kid?”
Yes, on both accounts, and Rob holds onto the lantern while it expands, the ignition having been lit. The lantern fills up with heated air. We all watch as Rob eventually lets go, the blood moon now visible from even Cayde-level, and the lantern floats upwards like a luminescent jellyfish, up and up.
There is a queen palm across the street and Rob worries he’s going to catch the fronds on fire; Cayde runs down the block following the lantern as it rises, the lantern never coming close to the queen, just rising twice the height of the neighboring apartment buildings before glinting out and falling paper-bag harmless to the ground.
I collect Cayden to sit on the front porch with the family. The blood moon is visible. No clouds, and Jenn holds Finn who sucks his thumb while sporting heavy eyes. The bottom half of the moon is red and, were it fully lit, there’d be the face with its craters and seas. Some look at the moon and see a silhouette of an embryo; others see Jack and Jill illustrated, tumbling down. Stupid things you see in the sky sometimes, like when constellations are very much a stretch.
Like when it’s autumnal, which, actually, I say right for once.

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