CSN is 50: Short Story: “Forever Autumn” by Daniel Dilworth Nov21

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CSN is 50: Short Story: “Forever Autumn” by Daniel Dilworth

Frank gazed out the window, his eyes following the black and brown leaves as they fell from the grand oak. He broke his gaze every now and again but the focus of attention always shifted back to the tree.

The barking of a dog ended this for good though. Frank went to the backdoor and opened it. On the step stood the dog, his fur sullied and smelling.

“Oh Molyneaux, how are we today?” he said, rubbing the dog between his ears. “Have you been sniffing out rats again?” Molyneaux cocked his head as if he understood his owner’s words. Frank smiled slightly yet unnaturally and nodded. He returned to the stove and shook the kettle. Still not boiled, so he returned to the door. Molyneaux was sitting now, tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth. Frank crouched down alongside him and rubbed the nape of his neck and brought his hand down to his withers.

“Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?” Molyneaux  whined with apparent satisfaction.

“You want a treat? Here boy,” Frank said, producing a biscuit from his gillet pocket. He threw it to Molyneaux who grabbed it mid-air and proceeded to munch on it. The kettle whistled. Frank poured himself a cup of tea and stood against the sink to drink it. Molyneaux heard the slurping noises, came to attention and dropped what little remained of his biscuit and approached Frank, his head tilted sideways.

“Not for you boy.” Molyneaux dropped and his head and whimpered. “I’m sorry boy, but it’s not something you’d enjoy.” He threw him another biscuit. As soon as he saw it fly towards him, Molyneaux forgot all about the cup of tea. Frank drained his cup and carefully placed it in the sink. As he made his way to the sitting room, the grandfather clock chimed seven times. He passed the mirror and took a minute to look at his reflection.

“That grey hair is getting more prominent,” he said to himself as he moved a hand through it. “And maybe it’s time to get rid of the beard. What would Betty think?” He continued to stare at himself; the longer he held the stare the more he wanted to laugh. Finally the urge left him and he continued.

Frank came to a stop at the piano in the corner of the room. He pushed his finger on a key, then a second, a third. He did this again before finally playing them as a block chord. He held it. “F sharp minor. I think that’s what it is.” He sighed. His attention turned to the window. Ominous clouds hung in the sky and the wind had picked up, swirling the golden leaves on the grey concrete. Frank approached the window.

“What did the song go like?” Frank tried to pick a tonic note. He tried four different notes before he began:
“The summer sun is fading as the year grows old
And darker days are drawing near
The winter winds will be much colder
Now you’re not here.”

He nodded to himself. It would do.

He went back out to the kitchen and looked at Molyneaux. “You coming for a walk, boy?” Molyneaux stretched out on the floor and yawned.

“Suit yourself.”

Frank took the raincoat from the hook and left the house. The wind began to bite at his neck as he walked through the garden. By the time he reached the little gate at the roadside he considered retreating back inside. He stood there, his hand on the latch, unsure of what to do. Eventually, he decided to continue on his way.

The road was covered in leaves, driven into the tarmacadam by the cars and tractors that went up and down the road. Either side, maples stood, like a guard of honour for anyone who passed by. The golden leaves were being blown back and forth. Some refused to budge but some capitulated to the wind’s force and fell to the ground. A lone badger walked across the road up ahead making his way to his set for the winter. Frank reached the top of the road and took his bearings. The valley out before him was subjected to a beaming sun, breaking his way through the clouds. Frank really smiled, brief as it was. He looked at his watch. Half seven. He made his way back to the house.

It was that bit chillier than when he had left. Molyneaux had a mouse in his mouth. He dumped it at Frank’s feet, its limp, bloodied body almost human in appearance. Frank picked it up and cradled it before placing it in the bin. He sighed:

“Supper Molyneaux?” The dog’s tongue fell out of his mouth and his tail wagged. Frank poured some food into his bowl. “Enjoy it boy.” He went back into the sitting room and looked at a photograph on the mantelpiece. His breathed a little heavier and a tear. Placing it back on the mantelpiece, he took a bottle of brandy and a tumbler from a cupboard and poured himself a drink. He sat back in the armchair and took a sip.

“Three years. It’s been three years. And it never changes. It’s always the same.” His voice was weak and cracking. He sniffled and downed the rest of his drink. He poured himself another. “I miss you.”

He began to sing.