'Thank God none of us is responsible for nobody else,' says Gary.
Gary is one of your closest high school buddies. The other four are Benny, Steve, Martin, and Lou. All six of you are gathered around a pile of burning leaves and you're drinking from cheap six packs, watching the smoke rise.
'Thank God none of us ever tried to leave this town,' says Steve.
In high school you figured you would end up elsewhere. You used to talk about college with Martin, neither one of you knowing what it took to get into one, either financially or grades-wise. And neither of you ever bothered to check into it. Benny was a really good singer in high school and you all used to say he'd be a superstar one day. But whenever he was questioned about whether he wanted to run off to New York City he'd just say, 'My mom is sick.' She's gone now, but Benny's still around.
'Thank God none of us ever gave up drinking beers around burning leaf piles. For good I mean,' Benny will say.
Gary and Martin both have a few DWIs under their belts. Gary got two just from driving home after sitting around a burning leaf pile with all of you guys. He went into AA for a while, as did Martin when he got his. On order from the court. The other four of you worried so much that they might never come back to the leaf pile again that you really started losing sleep. You almost lost your job at the hardware store because of the way you'd snap at customers. The thought of six turning to four was terrifying. You couldn't imagine sitting around that fire with just Benny, Steve and Lou, the four of you trying to have a good time just like you've had a couple times a week ever since high school, and the whole time knowing Gary and Martin are just a few miles away living just fine without their friends in their lives anymore. Steve said he would occasionally hyperventilate when he thought about it. Thankfully, once the court-ordered number of weeks in treatment was appeased, Gary started drinking again, and eventually Martin did too. And you're all pretty sure you'll be able to finish out your thirties together without any other disturbances.
'Thank God we never shot up the school like we planned to Sophomore year,' says Lou.
You had the idea long before it came into style, which is kind of why you never went through with it. Your classmates certainly deserved it, you're certain of that, but you just couldn't imagine how it could possibly play out. You didn't have the video games or the news footage. Or the internet for that matter. You just had your ingenuity, which wasn't enough to get a gun in your hands.
"Ahead of our time," says Lou.
'Thank God none of us ever turned queer. I sure wouldn't have been able to tolerate that. If one of you guys had gone queer and started putting the moves on me while I was just trying to sit here around the leaf fire. I'd have killed you probably, if anyone tried any of that faggot shit on me,' says Martin.
Martin turned queer early on in middle school. Ever since then he's talked endlessly about how much he hates queers. He's put the moves on each of you at least once, but the advances were never aggressive enough that they couldn't be brushed off as a joke. Except once when Gary passed out at Martin's house on New Year's and Benny walked in and saw Martin blowing Gary while he was asleep. Or at least while Gary pretended to be asleep. Benny came out and told the rest of you, and it made you all giggle a little. But whatever, it was New Year's.
'Thank God beer still comes in six packs and autumn leaves still catch fire,' you'll say, raising your beercan in the air. The other five will lift their cans in kind and howl at the moon, which is really big tonight. In your sixteen years coming out to the middle of this field to drink and burn leaves, you've seen all kinds of big pretty autumn moons before, but never so big as this one tonight. The moon seems to get bigger and bigger ever year.
Happy Burning Leaves Day!