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One About What's Her Name, Used to Stop By in Autumn

by Kat Beyer

She used to come by every year, in the autumn, never arriving before the change of leaves or after the first snow. We forgot about her the rest of the year; there was always the matter of getting enough to eat, you see. These days my granddaughter Jodie, who works at that flashy company down the road, what's it called--Innovocor or something, they all have names like Roman gods don't they?--Jodie just takes her car and brings us home bags of food. I don't complain, nor Russell neither.

Let Jodie and the rest of the grandkids roll their eyes, I still say they should hope the old times don't come again. They haven't lived in a time when gardens weren't recreational.

Can't remember her name. Demi maybe. Or Marta. When the nights would draw in, we'd remember her. You'd be sitting on the stoop, carving your jack o'lantern with the kitchen knife you weren't supposed to use, listening to your mother taking names in vain in the pantry while she tried to figure how to get you through the winter.

The leaves would kick up, a gust of yellow and orange and red down by the road, and she'd be walking along like she had plans, one hand on the fence rail. Some years she had red hair and overalls, other years black hair in those dreadlocks, and a face sweet as milky coffee.

She'd step onto the porch. “For your mother,” she'd say, and there would be two or three big split willow baskets by the door, bags of flour, sugar, potatoes, oats, cracked corn, butter already churned, everything needed, even shot for the Winchester. “And for you to share with your sisters,” she'd add, and hand you a new tin bucket for the well full of apples and gingerbread, maybe even chocolate.

Our neighbors' boy Carl, who grew up to be Jodie's boyfriend's grandfather, he didn't share one year. You'd better believe we always shared after we heard what happened: weevils in the flour, potatoes sprouting in January, back roof of their chicken shed falling in and foxes to follow, and gingerbread that tasted like potash. Demi never said a thing when she came by next, just gave him the baskets and the buckets just the same. My theory is she saw he learned his lesson.

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