It was a beautiful autumn morning and I was pedaling my bike along one of the back country roads I had yet to explore. The tires of my blue mixtie crackling through fallen leaves of gold and brown, orange and red. I sat upright, my hands lightly holding the cork grips of the swept back handle bars, a bright yellow scarf trailing out behind me. I wore an easy smile, my eyes bright from the crisp air and the joy that comes when riding your bike on a beautiful day during one of your favorite times of year.
The country lane I rode down was bordered by patches of mixed forest and broad green fields with the occasional drive that went off into the distance over a hill and towards a plume of smoke rising from some hidden house. Houses where people were most likely coming in from their morning chores and settling into getting a nice Saturday breakfast on. I could imagine the scent of fried potatoes and onions and the frying eggs to be plopped on top of them, the scent of yesterdays fresh baked bread being toasted up and slathered with butter, of coffee waiting for the cream from that mornings milking to rise and be skimmed from the top of the bucket. And pancakes bubbling up on the griddle. All that imagining got my stomach growling and I began to keep an eye out for a spot to stop and pull out my own packed breakfast – one far less extravagant than the breakfast I could easily imagine being fixed in the distant farm houses.
Eventually I came around a bend in the road and off to the right saw an old cabin with a sturdy log fence surrounding it and the accompanying yard. The cabin looked unoccupied but the apple trees that filled one side of the yard looked well kept and still held plenty of bright red apples, though most of the leaves on the trees had fallen to the ground. I leaned my bike against the log fence, pulled the bag that held my breakfast out of the front basket and made my way to the gate where a sign read:
Opening the gate and walking up the path and out amongst the apple trees, I enjoyed the scent of ripening apples in the morning sun. Many of the lower apples had already been picked, leaving the higher ones for the birds and other countryside critters. I could imagine the raccoons coming by at night making a party of it. I eventually found a bright red specimen within reach and plucked it from the branch, the perfect addition to my breakfast.
I settled on the top step of the cabin, not quite sure if the porch swing that hung there was still secure, and pulled out my breakfast. I unpacked a hard boiled egg, coffeecake, and a thermos of coffee and set it all next to me on the porch. Using the cloth napkin I had packed I polished the fresh picked apple till it shone and sat it with the rest of the food while I poured my coffee into the small steel cup that capped the thermos. The steam rose into the air and I breathed it in. I couldn’t have ask for a better morning to be out on a ride or a better place to be enjoying my simple breakfast.
As I ate I watched birds flick back and forth from the row of conifers that edged the far side of the fenced in property to the apple trees on the other. Chickadees called cheerily as they hung upside down from the branches, searching for tasty little insects. Juncos filled the air with their squabbling clicks as they chased each other under the trees, white outer tail feathers flashing in the sunlight. A steller’s jay flew into the branches of the apple tree nearest me and screeched its claim over the remaining apple, before pulling it from the limb to fall to the ground and spreading its bright blue wings to follow after its prize. A squirrel scurried up a branch of another tree and perched while taking bites from an apple, watching me as it chewed with big puffy cheeks. I could hear golden-crowned kinglets and the occasional red-breasted nuthatch as they fed in the conifers across the way.
I packed up the remains of my breakfast and walked towards the row of Douglas Firs and Western Hemlocks with my second cup of steaming coffee in hand, hoping for a glimpse of one of those nuthatches. It was always a treat to watch them climb down trees head first, tucking their curved beaks up under the bark. Within a few feet of the conifers I stopped though. On the ground among the fallen needles of the conifers was an old cracked grave marker. Squatting down to look closer I could just make out the worn engraved words of what appeared to be the epitaph of the much beloved teacher from so many years ago. I stood and stretched, looking around again. It seemed a pleasant place to be laid to rest, with all the birds happily foraging overhead and the scent of apples in the air. I figured Ms. Elsa Wilson’s spirit to be quite content.
Ready to get on with my ride I made my way back to the gate and looking out over the orchard, quietly thanking Ms. Wilson for the sharing of her apples and resting place. Taking in one more deep breath of the apple scented air I mounted back up on my bike. As I rode off I glanced back at the cabin to see the porch swing moving steadily on the porch, with not a breeze to be had, and I smiled. Obviously the porch swing was still sturdy after all, at least sturdy enough for a happy ghost to enjoy on a sunny, autumn, apple scented morning.
The above is a piece of short fiction written for the Magpie #38 writing prompt. To read other responses to this prompt or participate check out Magpie Tales