Raymond Bradbury: Farewell Summer

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Farewell Summer

by Ray Bradbury

I. ALMOST ANTIETAM 

CHAPTER ONE

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?"

"Yes, sir."

"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

"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.

CHAPTER TWO

LAID OUT IN HIS BED AT HIS OWN HOUSE NEXT door with a powdered-sugar moustache on his upper lip, Doug contemplated sleep, which lurked around in his head and gently covered him with darkness.

A long way off, a band played a strange slow tune, full of muted brass and muffled drums.

Doug listened.

It was as if the faraway band had come out of a cave into full sunlight. Somewhere a mob of irritable blackbirds soared to become piccolos.

"A parade!" whispered Doug, and leapt out of bed, shaking away sleep and sugar.

The music got louder, slower, deeper, like an immense storm cloud full of lightning, darkening roof-

At the window, Douglas blinked.

For there on the lawn, lifting a trombone, was Charlie Woodman, his best friend at school, and Will Arno, Charlie's pal, raising a trumpet, and Mr. Wyneski, the town barber, with a boa-constrictor tuba

Doug turned and ran through the house.

He stepped out on the porch.

Down among the band stood Grandpa with a French horn, Grandma with a tambourine, his brother Tom with a kazoo.

Everyone yelled, everyone laughed.

"Hey," cried Doug. "What day is this?"

"Why," Grandma cried, "your day, Doug!"

"Fireworks tonight. The excursion boat's waiting!"

"For a picnic?"

"Trip's more like it." Mr. Wyneski crammed on his corn-flake-cereal straw hat. "Listen!"

The sound of a far boat wailed up from the lake shore.

"March!"

Grandma shook her tambourine, Tom thrummed his kazoo, and the bright mob drew Doug off along the street with a dog pack yipping at their heels. Down-town, someone threw a torn telephone book off the Green Town Hotel roof. When the confetti hit the bricks the parade was gone.

At the lake shore fog moved on the water.

Far out, he could hear a foghorn's mournful wail.

And a pure white boat loomed out of the fog and nudged the pier.

Doug stared. "How come that boat's got no name?"

The ship's whistle shrieked. The crowd swarmed, shoving Douglas to the gangplank.

"You first, Doug!"

The band dropped a ton of brass and ten pounds of chimes with "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," as they thrust him on the deck, then leapt back on the dock.

Wham!

The gangplank fell.

The people weren't trapped on land, no.

He was trapped on water.

The steamboat shrieked away from the dock. The band played "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean."

"Goodbye, Douglas," cried the town librarians.

"So long," whispered everyone.

Douglas stared around at the picnic put by in wicker hampers on the deck and remembered a museum where he had once seen an Egyptian tomb with toys and clumps of withered fruit placed around a small carved boat. It flared like a gunpowder flash.

"So long, Doug, so long…" Ladies lifted their handkerchiefs, men waved straw hats.

And soon the ship was way out in the cold water with the fog wrapping it up so the band faded.

"Brave journey, boy."

And now he knew that if he searched he would find no captain, no crew as the ship's engines pumped be-lowdecks.

Numbly, he sensed that if he reached down to touch the prow he would find the ship's name, freshly painted:

FAREWELL SUMMER.

"Doug…" the voices called. "Oh, goodbye…

And then the dock was empty, the parade gone as

the ship blew its horn a last time and broke his heart so it fell from his eyes in tears as he cried all the names of his loves on shore.

"Grandma, Grandpa, Tom, help1"

Doug fell from bed, hot, cold, and weeping.

CHAPTER THREE

DOUG STOPPED CRYING.

He got up and went to the mirror to see what sadness looked like and there it was, colored all through his cheeks, and he reached to touch that other face,

Next door, baking bread filled the air with its late-afternoon aroma. He ran out across the yard and into his grandma's kitchen to watch her pull the lovely guts out of a chicken and then paused at a window to see Tom far up in his favorite apple tree trying to climb the sky.

Someone stood on the front porch, smoking his favorite pipe.

"Gramps, you're here! Boy, oh boy. The house is here. The town's here!"

"It seems you're here, too, boy."

"Yeah, oh, yeah."

The trees leaned their shadows on the lawn. Somewhere, the last lawnmower of summer shaved the years and left them in sweet mounds.

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