The newly fallen leaves stacked poorly in her hand. These red and yellow and gold leaves retained their suppleness. This natural, nearly flesh-like offering, contrasted her brittle metalic fingers. The leaves’ tones wavered through the various shades of autumn. Their organic patterns occasionally punctuated with a spot of green or a tear or an insect-made hole. Haphazard symmetry drew my eyes to the web of veins branching from larger to smaller paths and out to the rim. The brown wind-worn edges showed the future for each.
Her knuckles were stamped and folded tin. I hadn’t seen a tinker of this generation outside of picture books. I would have expected a rime of [chemical name here] darkening the simplistic joints, but she seemed greased and newly made. I knew she wasn’t. Her arthritic posture and shuddering movements betrayed her age. The gleam of her naive but precise frame was the result of care not recent making.
When I did not immediately take the leaves, she spoke.
“Take them or I will unmake you.”
I felt my seals dry and crack in that instant. I imagined the golden fresh lubricants from my recent tuning bleeding out and staining my distal framework. I would overheat next and lock-up. Grandma would move on with her elegant hunched gait, but I would be here, under this tree, till the mist came.
Then the world came back to the present.
I wiped my greasy hands on the canvas flap of my bag and dropped it to the ground. I rolled my hands from anterior to posterior looking for any grime or foreign material that might taint the leaves. Finding none, I took the leaves singly with my left hand and stacked them in the opposite order of Grandma’s in my right.
As I reached for the last leaf her tin hand grasped my brass one like a bird lighting on a branch in a storm: practiced and without fail.
Word count: 150