The change from summer to fall descended on us quickly. Temperatures dropped thirty degrees, and the air smelled of decaying leaves. Grass turned brown, and when we pretended to be pro ball players in the backyard, and I was Fran Tarkenton from the Minnesota Vikings, we ran back and forth in clouds of dust. The weekly raking and burning of leaves on Saturdays in a rusted barrel behind our house caused the back of my throat to tickle and the deep, dry cough worried my mother.
“What about wearing your hat and scarf? Where are your gloves? You can’t miss school, you know. You’ll have homework and tests. You’ll get behind. I hope it’s not serious. We’ll go to the doctor in the morning.” As she scurried from the room, wringing her hands and wiping her forehead with a handkerchief, I heard her murmur, “Not again, please.”
At night she rubbed an oil on my chest, dabbed a bit on a cotton ball, and put it on a jar lid on top of the space heater, not too close to the flames. A medicinal aroma filled my bedroom, my temperature spiked, and she spooned a sugary liquid into my mouth. I had fantastic dreams of football, of the Super bowl, and a forever summer free of school, one spent with friends on green fields while my deceased grandparents and my little brother, now six, clapped on the sidelines.