” I say Zach, can you pass over another branch?” asked Dylon, who was helping Zach clear up his back yard once again. It was the same old, routine, year after year. High winds had brought down frail branches off his rowan trees that hung over his back yard like lazy sloths waiting to be taken notice of. ” Yeah, man, just have a bit of patience, eh?” called back Zach as he climbed his ladder even higher. Zach continued sawing at one branch that had quite clearly snapped but, not quite through. As he worked his saw to and fro he remembered images from his past. He thought about how, that as a child he had helped his father clear up this same back yard and how his mother would suddenly appear from the house with hot cups of cocoa for her two, busy men who had been slaving away in the crisp, cold afternoon. ” David?” she asked once, ” Could you and Zach be careful not to cut away too much as I don’t want us to be too overlooked?” Zach’s dad David, nodded his head and put a thumbs up as she walked back towards the house. ” What is it with Mum about these trees?” Zach asked his dad, ” she’s really adamant about keeping out prying eyes?” ” No, no! ” laughed Zach’s dad, ” she just wants them pruned right too so they grow back each year. She loves the fall, but, she loves to see the berries and the little birds that come to and fro to eat them – she just doesn’t want us to cut too much away!”
” Hey, man?” shouted Dylon, ” Wake up! You’ve gone all quiet on me again”. Zach passed down his bag of branches to Dylon just as Cathy his wife appeared from inside the house, ” Cuppas anyone?” she asked. Zach jumped down from the ladder and gave his wife a peck on her lips, ” Great Darling, just perfect timing!” As the three friends sipped away at their drinks a cold wind blew up across the yard and caught Zach around his heels. ” Brrr!” he exclaimed, ” wind’s picking up again, that’s for sure!” As Cathy and Dylon chatted away about local gossip Zach could feel himself again slipping into his own thoughts. He remembered his mother hanging nut bags on the trees and how she’d sweep across the yard with her broom to tidy up any droppings. ” What are you doing , Mum?” asked a young boy called Zach in all curiosity. ” Oh, just keeping things spick and span” came the reply. Zach could visualise the scene about him, everything seemed cosy and quaint at this time of the year. Not too many weeks away from Halloween and christmas following in straight pursuit. Zach loved this time of the year as much as his mother. The changing colours of reds and gold. The glistening, gentler light of a softenening sun that hung lower in the sky and hit you in the eyes as it moved around it’s course in the september sky. How he loved to toss fallen leaves up into the air and how gracefully they’d fall, spinning, twirling like graceful gliders approaching land. And how his dear mother would tut and sweep up the mess as she scrunched up his floppy hair with a playful hand. Yes, he loved the fall.
” Zach! Earth to Zach!” shouted Cathy giggling as she rubbed his hair, ” where you been, babe?” she asked playfully. Feeling a bit awkward for daydreaming again Zack grabbed his wife and playfully tickled her sides until she fell about laughing upon the ground. ” You two!” joked Dylon, ” like a couple of teenagers!” The threesome then engaged in some more gossip and as the light began to fail, Zach decided to call time on the day’s pruning session. Dylon made his excuses to leave and Zach and Cathy went inside to grab some dinner. ” You know what?” asked Zach, ” I feel that everytime I’m near those trees, mum’s around me? It’s like she’s looking over my shoulder, keeping a watch on how much we take off the branches?” Cathy looked thoughtfully at her husband, ” You miss them, don’t you babe?” she asked, ” I guessed that was what you were thinking about earlier on”. Cathy knew that Zach had never quite got over losing both his parents that way. They’d only just inherited the house three years ago since that fateful night when both his parents were killed outright in a terrible motorway pile-up. Zach had never got over it. He never would. And, at this time of the year it all came back to him. September 26th, would have been their wedding anniversary and this year, it would have been their golden wedding. Cathy shrugged her shoulders as she said, ” Zach, babe. It’s not your fault, right?” Zach looked down at his feet, ” It was my fault. They’d have never have been on that motorway if it hadn’t been for me” he said sadly. Cathy knew not to push him any further now as they had had this same conversation many times over already. She remembered that Zach’s parents had gone out that day to buy Zach’s birthday present, but, it had meant travelling up north along the M1 as the only stockist of this particular guitar had premises in Manchester. David and Sheila had made a special trip that day and Zach figured it he hadn’t insisted upon this particular type of guitar they’d still be alive today. ” You weren’t to know” soothed Cathy. But, she could see Zach had lost himself in his thoughts again.
” See you later, you two!” cried his dad as Sheila and David climbed into their car, ” We’ll be back before supper, so keep us some stew!” chortled Sheila. As they drove away down the tree lined avenue, Zach and Cathy waved them off into the distance. The road was adorned with rich wine coloured leaves and dusty brown, crinkled leaves. The sun shone in breaks between the thinning branches of the horse chesnut trees. What a beautiful vision it was, there was no sign of the high winds and hurtling rain that was to be the beast of the night ahead. Zach and Cathy ran into the house, giggling as they playfully pinched each other in catch chase. Tomorrow was to be Zach’s 21 st birthday and they were so excited about it all. Cathy had an idea. They were having a barbeque birthday party ” Let’s hang some buntings from the rowan trees. Your mum will like them lit up, twinkling in the dusky evening light!” giggled Cathy to Zach. Dutifully they worked away all afternoon until the deed was done. Making the stew that Sheila had part prepared, Zach and Cathy settled themselves infront of the t.v.
The horror of the crash came over the news bulletin. “Biggest ever pile-up on the M1 in living history” they announced. The events of the next twenty four hours were of nightmare proportions. Zach and Cathy became the victims of media attention and scrutiny. Once it had all subsided, Zach retreated into his own little world with Cathy at his side. He’d sit and stare at the rowan trees for hours, the same trees they had been cutting that day before his parents had left. The same trees that his mother had loved and would have loved to have seen the buntings and the berries, and the little birds that came. Never again. But, he promised himself that he would look after them each year and in doing so, he kept her memory alive. Her autumn trees of red and gold.
Sources: My Own