Summer was falling away. From Blue, from Red. The boys were walking together, along the beach, along the wall. The sun dipped, lower, then lower still, lower still. The first-of-September sky eagerly welcomed the orange star into its horizon. Over the bay, a soft wind brushing the sand – it crawled, wisps of golden, grainy hair. The moving air enveloped the boys. On it, the smells of October, and no further.
‘Candle wax in a hollowed out pumpkin,’ Red whispered. ‘Leaves in their final… um… color-bursting throes of oncoming death.’ Louder now. ‘October! God damn October!’
Blue watched his best friend as he ran steps ahead to turn and face Blue.
‘You smell it? Huh? Do ya?’ Red walked backwards, throwing up his arms.
Blue lifted his nose to the dimming heavens. Sniff. Pause… Sniff, sniff… ‘I smell school. Homework. Teachers.’ A deep breath, huffing in the clouds, sucking in the sand, beige and purple. ‘The cafeteria.’
Red stopped walking. Blue bumped into him. Red looked away from the bay. He gazed blankly into the west, sniffing, searching. His olfactics caught something sharp and dusty.
‘The hallways. I can see ‘em in my head. Clear as day.’ Red clutched Blue’s shoulders, turning his friend, slightly. ‘Breathe in that air.’ Red pointed to the western sky. ‘And try and tell me you don’t smell the halls.’
‘Whoa.’ Blue inhaled again and again. ‘It’s like I can smell my locker.’
‘Ha! No one wants to smell that, my friend!’
On they trotted. Farther from home, farther from mum and dad, farther from board games and card games, and cats and lazy dog, farther down the beach, closer to summer’s finale. New aromas found their way into the boys’ noses.
‘Now, apple cider donuts. And – and – and! – apple picking…’
Blue nodded. ‘Yeah, I got that… Hmm, what about this?’
Red’s nostrils flared. ‘The trees. Outside Mr. Math’s room.’
‘Close your eyes. You can see the red leaves. Raindrops on them.’
‘But, do you smell the rain?’ Blue opened one eye, sneaking a glance at his friend. ‘That’s the real question.’
Red and his nose searched the air, now opening his eyes. ‘No. I can’t smell the rain.’
‘Me neither. But, I can feel it.’ Blue held his arms. Goosebumps formed on his flesh even though the end-of-summer night was soaked in humidity.
Ahead, Blue spied a small group of girls. Three of them, sitting on the wall. All that Red saw, the only thing he could focus on, was the girl dressed in black, her wings hidden beneath her blouse. It was known around town. It was peculiar, of course, but the girl in black wore her wings with a smirk. Red had never seen her fly, but he assumed she could.
‘Hey, fellas,’ the girl in black greeted them.
The boys waved, and the girls stood, walking over to them.
‘What are you boys up to?’
‘Just walkin’,’ Blue answered.
‘Smellin’ the air,’ added Red.
The girls sniffed, craning their necks this way and that. ‘Smells like the beach,’ the girl in black laughed.
‘Oh no, no, no,’ Red told her, coming closer. ‘There’s so much more on the wind. So much more than what’s here and now.’
‘Oh yeah?’ she asked, not looking convinced. ‘Like what?’
Red looked from the girl in black, to her friends, to his best friend. ‘Let’s all walk, and I’ll tell you.’
The adolescent quintet continued along the sidewalk. Blue’s hand brushed against the beach wall whenever he got too close. He and Red told the girls of everything they should be smelling on the breeze. The fresh apples – soon to be picked from their trees – and the tractors you ride into the fields to pick from. The slick insides of gutted pumpkins. Their seeds baking in the oven. Not-yet-opened packages of Halloween candy days before Halloween. Mid-October mornings, the air chilled, filtered through skeletons in a catacomb. Piles of yellow and brown leaves, raked high, and ready to be fallen into. And those dreaded school days, they always glided on the winds of dying summer.
Soon, the girl in black and Red were shuffling through the sand. Just the two of them. Blue and the other girls had stopped and sat on the wall to peer into the sky, which was birthing last night’s planets and stars. Blue heard a yelp, and threw his head around toward his friend and the darkly dressed girl.
Red was looking to the sky, smiling, widely and wildly. Blue followed his gaze. High above them, the girl in black was zig-zagging through the air, her dragonfly wings beating against the black sky.
Blue’s eyes watched the flying girl’s fluid movements. ‘Wow.’
‘She does that all the time,’ said one of the dragonfly girl’s friends. ‘Your friend looks like he might be in love.’ She giggled.
Blue turned his attention to Red. Red looked entranced. The movement of his head, his following of the girl in the sky. It was as if he was anticipating which direction she was going to fly. He didn’t follow her so much as he moved with her. And he smiled on. When she landed, the girl in black embraced Red, her wings wrapping around both of them. This caught Blue off guard. In all of their years as best friends, Blue had never seen Red so close to a girl. Were the years truly passing so fast? Were they growing up already? Blue looked at his hands. No wrinkles yet. No need to panic yet. He glanced back at Red. He now sat on the sand with the girl in black. They sat very near to one another. And their hands touched, just barely.
Blue felt for scents in the air, he breathed, sighed. He caught decay, insects, dirt. Burials. He smelled night, then dawn. Fields of wild grass in November. He smelled more than just the summer ending.