Excerpt: 'Farewell Summer: A Novel'
There are those days which seem a taking in of breath which, held, suspends the whole earth in its waiting. Some summers refuse to end.
So along the road those flowers spread that, when touched, give down a shower of autumn rust. By every path it looks as if a ruined circus had passed and loosed a trail of ancient iron at every turning of a wheel. The rust was laid out everywhere, strewn under trees and by riverbanks and near the tracks themselves where once a locomotive had gone but went no more. So flowered flakes and railroad track together turned to moulderings upon the rim of autumn.
"Look, Doug," said Grandpa, driving into town from the farm. Behind them in the Kissel Kar were six large pumpkins picked fresh from the patch. "See those flowers?"
"Farewell summer, Doug. That's the name of those flowers. Feel the air? August come back. Farewell summer."
"Boy," said Doug, "that's a sad name."
Grandma stepped into her pantry and felt the wind blowing from the west. The yeast was rising in the bowl, a sumptuous head, the head of an alien rising from the yield of other years. She touched the swell beneath the muslin cap. It was the earth on the morn before the arrival of Adam. It was the morn after the marriage of Eve to that stranger in the garden bed.
Grandma looked out the window at the way the sunlight lay across the yard and filled the apple trees with gold and echoed the same words:
"Farewell summer. Here it is, October 1st. Temperature's 82. Season just can't let go. The dogs are out under the trees. The leaves won't turn. A body would like to cry and laughs instead. Get up to the attic, Doug, and let the mad maiden aunt out of the secret room."
"Is there a mad maiden aunt in the attic?" asked Doug.
"No, but there should be."
Clouds passed over the lawn. And when the sun came out, in the pantry, Grandma almost whispered, Summer, farewell.
On the front porch, Doug stood beside his grandfather, hoping to borrow some of that far sight, beyond the hills, some of the wanting to cry, some of the ancient joy. The smell of pipe tobacco and Tiger shaving tonic had to suffice. A top spun in his chest, now light, now dark, now moving his tongue with laughter, now filling his eyes with salt water.
He surveyed the lake of grass below, all the dandelions gone, a touch of rust in the trees, and the smell of Egypt blowing from the far east.
"Think I'll go eat me a doughnut and take me a nap," Doug said.
The foregoing is excerpted from Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
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