Tilting At Windmills: Waiting In The Wings - Encore
Published: September 1st, 2023
By: Shelly Reuben

Tilting at Windmills: Waiting in the Wings - Encore

This little story is about endings and beginnings. It introduces two characters and a gate. Even though there are no good guys or bad guy in the story, I find that my heart is being tugged in one direction more than in the other.

For the two characters are Summer and Autumn. And Summer has stolen my heart.

Yet … autumn, inevitably and rather insistently, is waiting in the wings.

Once upon a time Summer, clothed in delicious shades of green and splashed with brilliant purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, blues, and reds, did more, much, much more, than was expected of her.

Usually, in fact, every previous year, she would flare her vibrant skirts and enter gracefully. Then with absolutely no warning, she would get nasty. Blazing with anger, she would cause temperatures to soar, eggs to fry on sidewalks, brains to fry in heads, breezes to banish, the air to become sauna-like with humidity, and gnats to drift through tiny holes in window screens as though they had been invited to a parade.

Her rage not satisfied, Summer would also turn lush lawns into clumps of brown grass, suck the sweet souls out of our bodies, and dissipate our strength like sun scorching off the morning mist.

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By the end of August, we were exhausted. In desperation, we would lift our noses, sniff, and proclaim with pathetic and misplaced optimism, “I think I smell autumn in the air.”

But not this year.

This year, Summer never lost her temper. This year, her spirit remained gentle. She was playful, but never unkind. She was melody after we had braced ourselves for acid rock. She was the gentle yapping of newborn puppies, when we were armed with bazookas in expectation of devouring beasts.

This year, Summer gave us so many sun showers that we lost count. She gave us lots of rain, but no flooding, night after night of beautiful sleeping-weather, and week after week of perfect ice cream days.

Summer gave us storms, too. Some real doozies. And thrilling nights when raging winds seemed to have been sent courtesy of Kansas and The Wizard of Oz. But they caused no great damage, and their purpose seemed only to remind us that weather, after all, is weather, and should not to be taken for granted. No cars crashed. No bridges collapsed. No roads were swept away.

And following every storm or blast of wind, Summer bestowed upon us gorgeous, glowing days. Not too hot. Not too cold. Little humidity. No gnats. No mosquitos. Splendid, soft, and seductive. Summer, summer, summer.

Which brings me to the conflict portion of our tale. For right now … even without my eyeglasses (I left them in the other room), I can see that Summer is still standing at the gate. The one through which she leaves us every September. And Autumn, as always, is standing on the other side of that gate, biding his time and waiting to come in.

This year, however, Summer is undecided. She shuffles her feet and vacillates. She wavers this way and that. She inches forward and inches back. Eventually, she stops moving all together, and pauses to reflect upon the past few months and the impossible perfection of the work that she has done.

Still lost in thought, she does not hear Autumn “ahem-ing” repeatedly to get her attention. Finally, he begins to tap gently at the gate.

Summer looks up. She knows that she must go. Of course, she must. She always has. She always will. But before she goes, she swirls her glorious green skirts, tosses back her sun streaked head, and recalling a song sung so evocatively by Nat King Cole many years ago, she begins to sing.

“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Those days of soda and pretzels and beer

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

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You’ll wish that summer could always be here.”

We stop what we are doing.

We stare Autumn in the eye, and we shrug.

Then we start to sing right along with her.

Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2023. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com