Seventeen. I leave the kitchen fast, out into the back yard, and watch, near the tops of the pines, the bats’ quick jabs and feints. The house is quiet from the outside, everything dark blue under the low, silver-veined clouds, and through the long window I see my father, still pacing the warm, yellow kitchen where it smells like stir-fry, the dirty dishes dumped in the sink, his hand still roving the hair on the top of his head. His tuneless whistle. His fingers snap restless, anti-rhythmic—what is it? I never know. I only know the collateral. I sit under the red maple, my back against the side of the house, and I scoop, with both arms, the dry leaves into thick piles next to me, next to the house, over my legs. A pocket of soft flames beneath the pile churns up sweet, slow, milky smoke, bitter in my eye.

“Matthew?” My mother comes around the corner, anxious and stern. “What are you doing?”

“I don’t know. Burning leaves.”

Matthew Werneburg is pursuing a BA in English at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. He is originally from Connecticut, where he returns in the summer to write, work, and hike. His creative nonfiction pieces capture moments in time, poignant memories, the subtleties of human interaction and emotion, and often incorporate images and scenes from the New England countryside.