Her long curls straighten as she leaps, splaying into a sunlit halo at the height of her jump. Arm outstretched, she snatches at the fluttering leaf and misses. She lands, the woodland floor crackling under her sandals.
I think she’s around eight years old. The boy about six; he’s running, face turned to the air above, arms stretched up in a V shape. The little girl is probably two or three; she stands and watches like she doesn’t know what to do.
Squeaks, yelps and giggles pursue the golden leaves as they spin and tumble. The older girl shouts in triumph, holds a leaf to her bowed forehead, closes her eyes and mouths silent words. She looks up again into the autumn cascade. The boy misses a catch, scoops the leaf from the ground and throws it towards the little girl. She giggles and picks up a tight fistful of leaves. Holding it towards the boy, her body and arm jerk. The leaves jump from her hand and scatter. She doesn’t know how to throw yet.
Sunlight. Sunlight so bright. It adds life, makes things more real. Trees can be so huge, so vast. Why is everything so super-real, so vivid?
Of course, my chest tightens, my left arm burns; I’m lacking oxygen.
My fingers, thin and covered with loose, blue-blotched skin, rise from the arm of the bench and reach for the tablets in my top pocket. I’ll take two – if I can get them under my tongue in time. Tremor and the pain slow me down. I’m clumsy and rushed: fumbling.
I want to watch the children.
The pacemaker must have failed and the defibrillator has not cut in. I’m too far from anywhere to call for help. The pain diminishes. It’s more numbness now but it isn’t the tablets working. One is stuck on my denture and I don’t know where the other one went. The world looks brighter, more beautiful than ever. Darkness creeps in from the edge of my vision.
The taller girl snatches a leaf from the air. She spins and whoops; her hair flies out and wraps around her face for a moment. She runs to the little girl who opens her hands. The dimpled knuckles of the very young. The leaf drops; the boy rescues it before it hits the ground.
The little one is holding the leaf. The other two are telling her to close her eyes.
‘Make a wish!’
©Gary Bonn: 2012