Because I could not stop counting, I dragged my body through the woods and gathered leaves one at a time to assuage my anxiety.
After five days, the numbers I used for counting became too tired and too sore to continue, but by then the leaves were gone from the ground. I had done my part.
And because I didn’t know how to put them back on the trees, I tried selling them for a dollar apiece. What else is one to do with such a wealth of fallen money?
I built a concession stand as deep as the silence of deer and sold the first leaf to a friend, but the leaf bit him and so I had to give him his dollar back.
I sold a different leaf to Mr. Washburn, who returned the next day and yelled at me. He tore apart the leaf with his hands that wouldn’t stop screaming like children.
“This—this is what you’ve done to autumn,” he said through his blood-white teeth and walked away until he was just a dot.
My parents bought a leaf because they felt sorry for me. At night it bit them over and over and yelled at them. They didn’t return the leaf, but I could tell something was wrong.
And though I was forty and ought to have known things, no one else would buy any of my treasures.
“The leaves have never hurt anybody. That is reason enough to purchase at least one,” I said to everyone I almost knew, though the direction my shoulders pointed formed an irreparable cosmos between us.
My parents encouraged me: “Son, how many people your age are able to count as many leaves as you’ve counted?”
It made me feel good about myself. I was special enough to continue eating and using up days like they would never run dry.
I stashed the leaves—and it was enough to fill an entire forest—in my room where it was always autumn because the leaves kept falling from the space station stranded on the ceiling.
Really it was because nobody ever looked. It would have been easy to see, with the slightest effort, that the trees I planted in my walls went on forever, in the direction of winter. My parents didn’t notice how cold it was when they held the leaf in their hands and that the leaf, like me, was happy enough to be held for even that small distance.