haibun
A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2007, vol 3 no 2

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Richard Straw

Fiddling On

In late October, the last of summer's crickets can still be heard amid the leaves and twigs near my office here in North Carolina. They're not like the ones I grew up with in Ohio that are driven underground a bit earlier by colder weather.

Once I get home, I flip through several family albums, looking for one photo in particular. I almost don't hear my wife calling me downstairs for supper. At the table, I pass around the photo, saying, "See anyone you know?"

The kids study it, but draw blanks. So, I tell them that years ago my mom photographed my dad, his brother, and me in an Ohio apple orchard. Dad's and my uncle's sacks are chock full and sit lopsided in tall grass. The apples lasted until Thanksgiving and went into pies served hot with vanilla ice cream. Our kids never met my uncle, though, and they saw my dad just once or twice. They barely recognize me with my moustache and long hair.

I don't tell them of the evening when my uncle, surrounded by his family, died painfully at home of lung cancer. I also don't tell them of the night my dad called me after he learned he had terminal cancer in early autumn as the leaves were turning red and gold. They're beginning to realize on their own why my mom doesn't say much when we phone her on Sundays at the nursing center, that her premature senility doesn't mean she loves them any less.

"Someday," I do say, "we'll go apple picking. Wouldn't that be fun?"

apple pickers gone
down among the windfall
a muted cricket


The haiku first appeared in Acorn, Number 17, Fall 2006.