It was almost pajama time when Mom poked her head into the living room. “Quick—get your coats on!” she said, smiling.
Alan and Terry looked at each other. “It’s dark out. Don’t we have to go to bed?”
“Bed? When the moon rises and the night calls? Don’t be silly!” Mom laughed as she bundled them into coats.
Keys jangled in their father’s hand as the family hurried outside. Their breath left hazy trails overhead as they ran to the car through the autumn night, frost tickling their noses. The moon was like a huge golden apple that followed the car as it wove down winding roads to the sleepy town below.
“Where are we going?” Terry asked.
Dad’s cheery whistle from the front seat and Mom’s chuckle was their answer.
They stopped at the town park, streaked by moonlight through half-bare trees. The breeze rustled branches, shifting the silver-edged shadows of ancient maples.
Dad and Mom leaped out of the car, giggling, and scurried among the trees.
The empty park beckoned to Alan and Terry. They stepped out, and the ground rustled with maple leaves—knee-high in places.
Where were their parents?
They heard footsteps; then a shower of leaves broke over both children—skittering down jackets and clinging to hair.
A shout of laughter, and a sudden glimpse of Mom and Dad—running hand in hand. Ducking behind a maple tree.
“Follow me!” Alan cried, scooping up an armload of crisp ammunition. He chased the laughter, Terry at his heels, her arms filled with the fall harvest.
They split up and circled the tree.
Flying footsteps crunched.
High laughter joined low, rising to be captured by half-gloved tree limbs. The night exploded as silver light caught reds, oranges, and yellows flung into the air. Shadows gathered and scattered everywhere. New leaves tacked to the ground to be tennis-shoe tromped, then hand-tossed.
Mom chased Alan chased Terry chased Dad chased Mom.
Caught in crisp clouds of captured leaves.
Then, at last, leaves no longer flew but were heaped high, reaching skyward. Mom, Dad, Alan, Terry fell and rolled into parent-pile, child-pile, family-pile.
The golden moon was sliced in half by a cloud.
The family wound their way to the car, still chirping their delight, and tumbled inside.
Captured leaf-bits complained from coat collars and pants pockets, from ponytails and tennis shoes.
The car grew quiet as it slithered up the hill through the cozy-darkening night.