This Time

Mid-morning yesterday I dove into the pond, the fallen apples on the surface bobbing in rippled water displaced by my body. The water so cold that for a moment I found it hard to breathe and felt a flicker of panic that perhaps my lungs would somehow forget to fill again. Later, dried off and warmed up, I drove to the local filling station for diesel, parking next to an old Mercury Grand Marquis with a tattered landau roof and rusty quarter panels. I’d say mid-90’s vintage if I were a betting man, which I am, if the stakes are small enough. There was a value-size pack of Bounty paper towels and a pile of clothing in the back seat, an open case of Bud Light cans on front passenger floor, and a Trump That Bitch sticker in the rear window. A young couple eating something deeply fried at the single table inside the store. Rail thin, both of them, and I knew the car was theirs, because they were the only other customers in the place, and for a moment I struggled to make sense of it all: The car, the sticker, the couple, nothing what I expected, almost like that panicked moment in the pond waiting for my body to return to its usual business.

The young man met my gaze and offered a curt nod, and I nodded back.

Driving up the road toward home, I noted the foliage line on the mountain, saw that it was lower than the day before, and considered how in the fall I witness the season’s progress from the top of the mountain down, while in the spring, I watch the color creep upward, slowly rising toward the last stubborn holdouts at the height of the land where even in May you can find pockets of boot-topping snow.

Then this morning, milking, lost in rhythm and reverie, I was startled by a thump. I looked around, trying to place it. Then another, and this time, I saw the apple fall.