May 1, 2008
By Elan Kiderman, New Rochelle, NY

Gravity seized the leaf. Fate stared grimly upon the moment, looking without watching. Against the backdrop of life, the leaf looked like crimson; crimson looked like silence. The world was flat. The leaf would fall into the trough five feet from the trunk and rest there for the night. Fate knew this and would ensure this. A compulsory breeze, and defeat. Surrender to a ditch.
The leaf’s integrity would be lost beside a large redwood in a small-town park, empty except for a boy and his dog. They would overlook the fall because it would not impact them. The dog had paused fleetingly, enchanted by the breeze rushing through his not-so-golden hair. The wind carried wisdom. A sensation of liberation. He knew of life without the boy and the freedom that accompanied it. He knew joy and joy brought courage.
The boy would search for weeks and lament for months. But the false hope––scars––scars would make him fall. Scars would echo in dried tears. Fate would capsize him with a breeze.
Depression would follow- an occupational hazard. Fate did not delight in pain; he wanted only to heal. He could lock the cage after the boy fell asleep, to prevent the dog from escaping. He could make the boy forget, if only to attenuate the hurt. He could interrupt the breeze.
The breeze did not want to be interrupted. Fate knew this. Such an alteration would have harsh consequences. At first it would mean but a change in emotions, but eventually it would cause a transformation of events. The boy doesn’t come to dinner one night; two people don’t meet; two sparks don’t collide; a life is not lived. Fate sighed, as he often did. Knowing all was not a painless craft. What he knew he could not prevent––only ensure. There were no surprises, and his only stumbling block was the absence of a stumbling block. One day he knew that the excitement-deficient lifestyle would kill him. He stared again at the boy, yearnings propelling him. He could not. Would not.
Instead Fate stood and wandered towards the leaf, which seemed to dance unwittingly, softened by desire. He put out his hand and it fell gracefully into his palm. Freedom filled him as he paused only for a moment––to feel. Feel what it meant to choose. Feel how it felt to inhale a breeze that would cause amorphous pain. Smiling for the first time since last time, he bent down and placed the leaf next to the trough, half a foot from where it would have fallen to rest. It would not change anything, but it made all the difference.

A gunshot. Crimson. His smile faded but the memory did not. Death pranced before him with unusual confidence. “The boy,” Fate thought as he felt the beginnings of tears––tears that would not be dried by a breeze. He willed himself to turn around, to witness what he had done, but fears overpowered him. “The boy,” he thought again. “I lost focus––killed the boy. Only to satisfy my yearnings. To keep a leaf from falling.“

In the silence that followed, Fate climbed the redwood. The climb seemed eternal, for he carried weight with him. At last he reached a peak, and waited. The new moment carried a new breeze. His tears began to smile as he let gravity seize him. Eyes closed, he saw only crimson. In the moment before he hit the trough, the Leaf beheld a dog’s final breath, a boy’s first cry, and the crunching of a key that had unshackled the world.

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