autumn colors


Fiction by
Xavier F. Aguilar

About the Author

In Autumn’s Grace

Growing Up Poor


More echapbooks
by X.F. Aguilar:

Garment of Flesh
Like Running Water
From My Father’s House



It had already been snowing for thirty minutes when Roger walked into the rear parking area of Toni’s Coffee Shop. A light covering of white reflected the month of December as red and green lights cast their glow. The rifle under his ankle length coat was hard against his thin body.

Roger waited in the shadows as he watched the young woman inside closing. Marcia. As the colored lights began to flicker off he said her name over and over in a whisper voice. He scrutinized the movements she made as her presence taunted his loneliness.

When the police found him he was hiding under a fallen tree with his gun next to him. “C’mon outa there,” instructed the officer while the snow grew thick. The cop continued, “If you don’t come out this snow will bury you alive.” The rookie stepped back and watched a thirty-seven-year-old man roll out.

The brown stock of the rifle lay in plain sight while half hidden under the tree trunk. From his new position the lawman could see it. “Put your hands on your chest.


If you had seen Roger in September you would have had a glimpse of a tall man wearing blue tinted sun-glasses. He could have passed you in the supermarket while he looked for a Red Delicious apple for his lunch. He may have even smiled at you and said a few words as a friendly gesture.

It was in that month when he had erected a tent to the east of the interstate and begun to live as a recluse. The woods that surrounded his campsite were thick with brush and ferns and he would sit in a makeshift chair of leaves piled high. When he awoke in the morning he would brush off his overcoat and ­begin walking toward the coffee shop away from the highway.

He fingered the coins in his deep pocket while standing outside the glass door. Behind him was the sound of children as they waited for the yellow school bus. He counted the coins only by their feel. The children at the corner grew louder as he tried to remember his own childhood. There were no memories.

Roger took hold of the door-handle and wondered how many hands had touched it before him; he thought about where those hands had been. He knew that children liked to pick their nose, it was evident that men scratched their crotch and he knew that young couples enjoyed fondling each other; he wondered how many people had washed their hands before eating a sandwich or French fries?

He grinned broadly as he imagined the billions of germs passing into the mouths of the many customers at Toni’s Coffee Shop. Even the ones who went into the restroom to wash their hands had to grab the handle to get out of the urine smell. Roger looked around the restaurant until his bloodshot eyes captured her likeness in the upright mirror to his left.

The smell of bacon and eggs cooking made Roger’s stomach emit sounds. He walked to a back corner where he could sit and watch everything that was going on. Extracting his change he placed it on the smooth table top. He didn’t want to appear as though he were loafing; everyone respected money.

When the school bus pulled to the curb the children went wild. Two boys grabbed hold of a girl and knocked her to the ground. The girl standing beside her with a blue bookbag gave the fallen classmate a swift kick to the ribs. Every student fought to be the first to board the coach. When the blond child did get up she was crying and her face was covered with mud.

She was the last one to climb the step onto the bus before the doors closed and silence visited the sidewalk. He saw a woman come running to the exact spot where the children had been. With hair rolled in curlers and holding a child by the wrist she swore aloud as she realized the school bus had come and gone. Roger snickered.

“Can I help you?”

Without looking up at the voice he murmured, “Just coffee and a donut”.

“I’ll get your coffee. You can help yourself to a donut at the counter.”

He wanted to look up. He wanted to see the creature that produced such lyrical phrasing, but, he was afraid. He mumbled, “OK”, and he lowered his head onto the table to hide his pain.

When he looked up again his drink was on the table; a vapor rose above the hot nectar and he decided not to get a donut. The man who lived in a tent took a sip of his hot brew and reveled in the warmth as the liquid passed into his empty stomach.


A routine set into the life of Roger as he began getting coffee three to four times a week. Even on the days he didn’t have enough change he would still make some excuse to go to Toni’s Coffee Shop. As his presence became more familiar he learned that the young woman he was so attracted to was Marcia.

It was a Tuesday when he crawled out of his tent and stood to his full height. The mid-morning sun touched his balding head as he stretched his arms toward the sky and grunted. While his arms were extended he opened his hands that the palms would get some rays. He turned quickly when he heard the leaves rustle. He saw them disturbed by some hidden force; a mole he thought.

He bent and picked up a handful of the moist leaves to wipe the mud off his shoes. The black oxfords he had found in a trash can in some small town he had passed through. When he had finished doing that he walked over to a tree where he kept what little change he had. At the base he had cut out a niche wherein he hid his money. He grabbed a handful of coins that felt slimy from dampness and put them into his overcoat.

From his position he could hear the big trucks blow their horns on the interstate as they passed each other. He was glad he had picked that site to prop his tent. He could hear the noise of humanity and didn’t have to interact.

By the time he reached Toni’s it was 10 a.m. and the place was almost empty of customers. The sunshine was very bright and it made various shadow design on the tile flooring; the light at the counter reflected the chrome lever of the ice cream machine. Roger picked up a slice of toast that someone had left and put it in his pocket.

In the far corner sat an obese man with a pony tail. He was eating sausage and eggs and drinking orange juice. Roger caught his glance, smiled at him and nodded. The eating man shook his head from side to side and bit into a thick greasy link.

“Good morning, Roger,” said Marcia as she placed a napkin before him. She had seen him take the toast when he walked in. She knew he often picked up leftovers and she never made anything of it.

Now he looked up at her. From all the mornings he had frequented Toni’s he had come to know the friendly waitress who always had a smile for him. He felt warm in her company. “Good morning, Marcia. I’ll just have coffee.” When he smiled at her it was almost like kissing her pretty face.

“I made too much sausage for a customer and have left over,” she lied. It was a game they played from time to time. “Rather than waste food could you help me out and eat it?”

“I can help.”

Roger watched the girl move across the floor as if she were vapor. The white uniform pressed against her body and her femininty was evident. He reached into his pocket and placed the toast beside the napkin.


It was cold and the fresh snowfall was like a white blanket draped across the county as Roger stood waiting. The vagrant felt a rush of excitement as he thought about the weeks of watching, the times he had followed Marcia to her home, the lure of her presence.

“Marcia,” Roger called as she stepped out, “I want to talk to you.”

“Roger.” She had learned his name from serving him at the coffee shop. “What are you doing out here so late?”

The ebony night was starless and a chilling wind ruffled the collar of his coat. He revealed the rifle to Marcia. “This gun is loaded and I’ll shoot you if you don’t do as I say.”

She smiled at him and wasn’t afraid. “Why would you want to hurt me Roger, I’m your friend.”

“Shut up. I don’t have friends. You’re a witch . . . you put a spell on me.” His eyes became large like he was fighting to keep them open. His hands shook as he pointed the rifle at her stomach.

She laughed aloud at his words. “I’m not a witch, Roger, I’m just a working girl who you met at a coffee shop. You’re not a killer either.”

Her laughter added to his imaginings; he lowered the gun and quickly ran from the encounter. A fear grasped at his throat as he expelled a sound Marcia had never heard before. Again she laughed aloud at the running man as he headed for the solitude and safety of his tent.

After re-entering the shop and calling the police she made herself a hot cup and waited. She looked at the clock on the wall and watched the time tick by. Twelve minutes and thirteen seconds later a cop was shining a flashlight into the building.

That’s when she told the rookie what happened and sent him off to track down Roger. She opened the pack of Winston on the counter and took one out. The filter felt cool between her lips until she lit and sucked the first drag. She blew a stream of smoke while she watched the cop fade from sight.

The events would have been different had she known that Roger had convictions on two felony charges in Pennsylvania and felony arrests in California, Montana and Florida. If she’d known that the homeless man was easy with stealing from any who befriended him, Marcia might not have been so kind.

Before she finished her cigarette the phone on the wall began to ring. The message was to let her know that her threat was apprehended. The rookie had followed the fresh prints in the snow directly to Roger who hid under a toppled tree. “He told the officer that you put a spell on him and caused him to fall madly in love with you.”

The loud laughter from Marcia echoed throughout the empty shop. Replacing the phone in the cradle she crushed out her smoke. She remembered his smell of damp earth, she envisioned his wide-eyed stare and his broken toothed smile. She thought of him sitting by himself.

Walking across the patterned floor she turned on the night light which she had previously forgotten. The small lamp gave an eerie glow to the place. She looked around once then opened the glass door to leave. The wintry wind slapped her so hard it caused her eyes to smart and tears slid down her face.


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© 2007 Xavier F. Aguilar