Six a.m. and still dark. Emily could hear the soft rustle of wings. Standing on her back porch, a brown sweater hastily thrown on top of her pink-flowered nightie, she looked out into the black. She couldn’t see them yet, but she knew. Could feel it somewhere near her heart. They were leaving. Then she heard them take flight. Squinting, she could just make them out against the early glow, climbing higher and higher, then fanning into a familiar V.

Migration time. Emily shivered in the morning chill and pulled the thick sweater closer. Suddenly she saw something out of the corner of her eye.

“C’mere, girl,” she called.

Abby, her nineteen-year-old calico, stretched, yawned, then ambled up to one of Emily’s legs, wrapping her tail around it. Emily reached down to pet the silky back, but disinterested, Abby headed down the wooden stairs into the yard. Things were coming into grayscale. An old tire hung from the thick-trunked maple. A rake lay across a pile of leaves. A wheelbarrow, half-filled with apples from the orchard, leaned up against a bale of hay.

Looking into the yard was like looking at an old black-and-white home movie. She could see the children squealing, fighting over silly things, racing around like squirrels. She could hear them too—their voices squawking over the sound of the wind and distant barking dogs.

With head bowed, she wished them each well: Samuel for his need of accumulation, Gloria for her pursuit of all wingéd things, Jonathan for his love of music. She grieved for them even though they still chimed inside her. Like morning vespers, they were.

A goose honked overhead startling Emily. “They’re gone,” she whispered. And all images drifted up past the morning’s pink-and-gray. Abby looked at Emily, blinked twice, then jumped inside the wheelbarrow, silent as the creeping daylight.

The goose honked again. “Farmers’ Almanac says it’s gonna be a bad winter,” Emily shouted raising a fist into the air. “You hear?” She laughed at herself.

Abby mewed softly.

“Wasn’t talking to you, Abby.”

Emily looked back into the yard. Light began to scuttle through the gray. Leaves on the maple turned from black to maroon. Blades of green sharpened. Oaks at the end of the property became a golden brown. Then the smell of coffee filtered out to the back porch through the screen door. “Time to go in,” Emily told herself as she turned for the door and went inside. She poured herself a cup, went heavy on the cream and drank it down greedily. Poured herself another, then sat down at the kitchen table. Dents and scratches bringing her close to clamorous birthday parties and distant dinnertimes.

Isn’t someone supposed to be coming?

Just as quickly as the thought entered her mind, it left. Emily stared out the screen door watching Abby lick a high-raised back leg as she sipped on her second cup.

A creak on the stairs called her mind back into the kitchen. “Happy Thanksgiving, Emily.” It was a man’s voice, rich and deep. “Coffee smells good…”

Who is this?

She turned, watched him pour himself a cup, then sit right down next to her. “Sleep well, Em?” He waited, smiled at her even though her face was a stiff mask. Cautiously, he placed a hand on her shoulder. “Kids’ll be here this afternoon.”

Emily blinked twice, set her mug carefully on the oak table, then headed back out the screen door. She knew she should know him, but couldn’t place him.

Slant light was strong now, washing the backyard in its golden rinse. Emily scooped Abby out of the wheelbarrow and placed her on the wet grass. “Got work to do, girl.”

Under the tree, she picked out the bruised winesaps one by one, pitched them over toward the massive oaks. One splattered against a trunk making a squashy mash. Emily laughed and went back to sorting through the apples.

Abby watched her, then started rolling on her back. Emily looked down at the cat. “Who is that man?” she frowned, put a hand to the shoulder he’d touched.

Abby gave her a single blink.

Emily shrugged, collected eight good winesaps in the hemline of her nightie. “Gotta get started on my pie, girl. Somebody’s coming this afternoon.” She walked up the stairs as overhead the migrating geese flew south like missives of motion and truth.