Fahrenheit 52

The Leaves

Pete's least favorite part of working at Last-Chance Video was the yard-work. He had more than enough of that at home, mowing and trimming their lawn constantly, just as his dad ordered.

It wasn't that there was much of a yard at Last-Chance. The store was a triangle-shaped strip of property smuggled between Route 35 and Branch Avenue and it was mostly parking lot, dumpster, and a scrawny little apple tree on patchy bit of grass.

It was that you didn't work at Last Chance to be outside - you worked there to be inside.

If Last-Chance had any windows, they were long blacked out. No light could enter, other than when the rare, annoying customer came though its jangly door.

Last-Chance was Pete's citadel. As more people starting renting their movies from the vending machine outside Food-town and Shop-Rite, Last-Chance settled on its own unique library: foreign filsm, manga, video games, and Pete's favorite: the adult section.

The adult section was in a room behind a beaded-hangy doorway-thing, and it was part of Pete's "job" to go back there and dust off the VHS tapes and DVD cases, and even make sure that some of them still worked.

He'd just found a particularly dusty title when Frank called.

Frank was the manager of Last-Chance. He'd driven by the store and said that the parking lot was a mess.

Pete sighed, hung up, grabbed his black Operation Ivy hoodie, and went outside.

The sun blinded his mole-eyes. Pete pulled on his hood, tightening it around his skull and tying the bow-strings tight. He looked ridiculous, as his face was almost completely covered by the hood now. He hoped no one from high school saw him. This would have to be quick. But, man, it was chilly out here, thought Pete.

Pete rubbed his arms and saw what Frank had called out: a huge pile of leaves had scattered all over the yard and parking lot. They weren't from the apple tree. It was still early October and its leaves were still green and intact.

Pete grumbled, wondering which other nearby tree had ruined his afternoon, and unlocked the storage closet to grab the rake. At home, Pete's dad let him use the leave blower, which was still kind of annoying because you had to wrangle with the extension cord, but no luck here.

As soon as Pete touched the handle of the rake, his hand jumped back - it was freezing cold. The whole rake was. It made no sense, but Pete found some gardening gloves in a bucket and put them on.

Raking wasn't so bad today. Pete made quick progress on the leaves. They were actually kind of beautiful, he thought. Yellow, orange, red, with hints of summer green. They reminded Pete of L.L. Bean catalogues that he'd sift through while on the downstairs toilet at home. He soon had a big pile of leaves in the parking lot.

Pete rested his rake against the fence behind him. The pile of leaves looked good enough to jump in. He remembered playing in leave piles as a kid with the neighbors across the street, until one of them got run over by a car while in the leaves. Pete had avoided leave piles ever since, mostly as a rule from his parents.

Maybe he'd break it now. But the leaves seemed too perfect to mess up.

He took a step back. He had another idea. He could make a scarecrow using the leaves. It was October, after all. Frank probably wouldn't even mind. Pete looked at his sweatshirt and realized that it would be perfect for the scarecrow. He probably even had a pair of sweatpants in his car. It would be perfect. A scarecrow that looked just like him. He could make the turnip-y head out of newspapers. Maybe the scarecrow could even do his yard-work for him.

Pete smiled and laughed a little. He took another step back, staring at the golden-hued leaves, and tripped on the now fallen-over rake. Pete stumbled backwards, knocking the back of his neck against a rusted bolt sticking out from the next-door building. The bolt entered his skull and killed him instantly, pinning him in place against the wall. Pete's arms and legs slumped down lifelessly. Blood trickled down his back, down his pant legs, and into the pile of perfect leaves.

When Frank returned that night, he was pleased to see that the leaves were gone from Last-Chance, and he was only slightly annoyed about the weird scarecrow.