Ellis wore no watch and did not own a calendar, yet his hands could read, by the bites of cold, how far the Earth had turned from the sun. His feet could sense, by the softening of the soil, how many more sunrises till spring. Young folks found this to be a bit of a parlor trick, and so would ask him, on his rare trips to town, what day he thought it ought be—their smooth faces bursting into smiles when his answer would land within 24 hours or so. “You’re a marvel, Ellis,” they’d say, but really he wasn’t. He was just a man who’d grown old enough to understand things.
“To everything a season,” he murmured, the words escaping as wisps of weak frost while sunset scored fire upon the sky, made all his stooks look like they hulked, blackened by sinking light. Ellis jabbed his pitchfork into the ground, flinching as the tines kicked up the crunch of dry prairie grass. It was the time of year when seeds could no longer be sown upon this brittle field, and the earth, preparing to lock up and freeze, would grow nothing.
“Or at least it shouldn’t grow nothing,” Ellis whispered, and a shiver cut through him as he watched the sky, gaze tracing the variant layers of glow and the few scraps that still clung to blue. His eyes lingered upon the shadows where clouds had lost all their light, skin prickling as he easily plucked out a few predictable shapes of the season, one startlingly as long and straight as the barrel of a gun.
“Halloween,” he rasped. Ellis owned no calendar. Did not use a watch. Yet the day was unmistakable, and as shapes trolled ’cross the sky he pulled his collar up, rubbed his cheek against its flannel warmth. Seeds could not be sown within deadened grass. This is what Ellis knew. Yet what he’d come to understand (but only once his veins had gone ropey and his hair became snow), was that “To everything a season.” And seasons—like Halloween—hid their purpose beneath window dressing like caramel apples and grinning goblins…all while sowing their seeds.
Shuddering, Ellis pulled his gaze out of the sky, cast it instead past his blackened stooks and into the outlying prairie. Soon winter would embrace the ground with glitter, and he would be able to tell by the angle of the sun which day landed on Christmas. Another season, different seeds that would be scattered then bloom unexpectedly throughout the following year, become things like a forgotten twenty found in a pants pocket. A merry greeting card arriving in the mail. A new job. A first love. A brand new, warm winter coat found on sale just when someone thought they were too broke to replace the threadbare jacket they had. Good things. Love things.
But….he looked back into the Hell colors painting the sky. Tonight wasn’t that season. “A time to laugh, a time to cry,’ whispered Ellis. “A time to live…” He broke off and looked out at his blackened stooks, a quiet choir. Tonight Halloween would cast out its seasonal land-field of seeds—and in the coming year those seeds would bloom into diagnoses, heartaches, deaths. “Seasons,” murmured Ellis. They wore man-made names and had histories scholars debated and cynics dismissed. Evoked rituals most people celebrated. And yet…as simple as one glance at the sky that said breakfast or supper, or one look at shadows that said morning or night, Ellis also knew the seasons were neither sleighbells nor skeletons. But they were good or evil. And Ellis knew that neither played favorites. And he understood that neither played fair.
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