Burlesque of the Phoenix

Photography by Brian Michael Barbeito

by Amy Stonestrom

Say good bye to summer and hello to fall when you read this flash CNF piece from Amy Stonestrom!

I am walking on a path next to the iron red St. Croix—Sconnie side—with the brown dog and the tall husband (both mine.) We are complaining more than normal, only the spaniel is happy. Last week it was sticky hot, air conditioner grinding. Mid-September but we still walked around panting, barely dressed. Me in a sundress the consistency of tissue paper though it was still too much fabric. 

This week, we shiver. The same sun shines as a week ago but the rays are frigid, as if someone finally noticed that we were past well done and turned the dial on the thing from 2,000 down to 25. At night, and even in the afternoons, the long-haired cat has already taken to jumping in under the quilt. My tissue paper dress lies in a pile on the bedroom floor and now I wear shoes that cover my toes and a goddamn stocking cap. My husband dons his earthy green walking flannel. (Not to be confused with his dark green fishing flannel or his bright green dress flannel.)

Summer is dying and she is beautiful. Summer, unlike her brother Winter, falls from grace with splendor. When Winter dies, he’s just gross with his mold crusted snowbanks—everything smells like rotting foliage and thawing carcasses mixed with wet dog. Summer’s death march, however, is a well choreographed burlesque show.

While we layer in wool and fleece, the botanicals are shedding their garments. Summer directs the entire plant kingdom into a hot and bothered blaze before they do a slow strip tease. First the red-headed sumac light up in lipstick pink and quickly disrobe as the blondes enter stage left. Hemlocks, poplars, birch and ash take our attention with a shimmy of flaxen hues. 

We drool but hold our breath and wait for the maples to take center stage. These guys are the the Chippendales of the forest and they bring all the sexy; sultry red, florescent orange, citron yellow. Then the more modest oaks, the Burr, the Swamp and the Pins, work up the bravery to do their thing. Timid, they try to downplay their russet and golden bravura but, ya, we still notice. The oldest white oaks, the vintage calendar pin-ups, cling tightly to their coverage as the sun’s last graces fade. 

While we gawk at this show, we haven’t even noticed that the days are short and the frost is settling in the low spots. Summer sneaks out the backstage door before she can hear our applause. “Bravo! Bravo! More! More!” We plead, then beg but we never get an encore. 

Of course we’ve been played. Of course we have. While we watched the show Summer was leaving us in the hands of her abusive brother. He’ll steal our mojo and mess with our heads (not to mention give us the flu) after she’s gone. We’re on our own now, tan faded holding a bottle of Vitamin D, but she has to go subterranean. There’s a sequel to produce and an heir to birth. She will call it Spring and it opens in six months. Maybe less if we’re lucky.

~~~

Amy Stonestrom is a writer and designer from western Wisconsin. She is currently an MFA candidate in Bay Path University’s creative nonfiction program and she recently completed the Memoir Writer’s Project intensive at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her work has appeared in Brevity, Superstition Review, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Wanderlust Journal, Montana Mouthful and others. You can find her at amystonestrom.com