They arrive before sunrise. Three strangers in identical raincoats, driving a battered pick-up truck.
They have come to steal the leaves from under my tree.
They move like clockwork, leaping out of the vehicle with practised ease, each man knowing his part. They are professionals, they have done this before.
I feel like I should be sounding some kind of alarm, calling out to someone for help. They feel it too. You can see it in the way they glance guiltily about, by how afraid they seem that the sun might come up and catch them.
One man holds the black plastic bag open. The other two shovel hasty armloads of leaves into its mouth. When they feel they have got enough they knot the top of the bag, throw it into the rear of the truck, drive off.
By the time I think to take down the number on the license plate it is too late.
There are still some leaves left though. The ones they didn't get away with. The ones they missed.
I pick one up in my hand, uncrease it between my fingers. Wondering what, in the currency of fall, its denomination would be.
And I imagine the leaf robbers, the haul they got away with. I imagine them sitting in a dark warehouse somewhere, counting these golden leaves one by one, seperating them into three equal piles.
I imagine one of the thieves arriving back at his house and pouring his share out on the bed, then throwing himself down on top of it, laughing like a maniac to hear the crisp, illicit crackle of our ransacked summer.