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  • The brisk November wind had been in town since the last week of October, but today, Thanksgiving Day, Charlie felt it more acutely than he was able to in the weeks prior. The leaves had already shown off their brilliance in red, orange and yellow, and were now taking their final bow and falling gently off stage. Shuddering, he pulled his collar up to protect his neck from the chill, before returning his hands to his coat pockets. He wandered along the edge of the woods, while watching the sun sink slowly down to the horizon, before he broke through the dark shade of the trees and reached the baseball field.
    Strolling aimlessly around the diamond, Charlie made a point to jump on the worn white bases that after years of use showed their stuffing through the split seams. Each base was covered in fallen leaves and dirt, and Charlie rubbed the soles of his shoes against them until they could be seen amongst the surrounding weeds. He paused for a moment on home base, and swung an invisible bat back and forth a few times in the brisk air, before pretending to hit a homerun and imagining the bleachers, full of fans, in a boisterous uproar. However, in reality the bleachers were empty; all cold hard metal with no humanity to bring them to life.
    The field was different in November than it had been in July; it was lonelier, barren and too quiet. The place he thought would lift his spirits instead dragged him to despair. Turning to slump home, he saw the dugout and decided to sit for a moment to stay out of his empty and silent house for a while longer.
    The dugout was old and dusty, full of the leaves that the neighboring trees had shed in their preparation for winter, and it was clear that no one had used the field since the last days of summer. Charlie stepped down to the bench, and sat facing the field, before his sight fell on an abandoned baseball glove, forgotten by a small child whose hand could have been the twin of his own son’s. Charlie picked up the glove, thinking of the last time he had been here. It had been the second to last week in August, and his last week with his son. Jacob loved baseball, and was content to spend every moment of his summer visit at this field. He was turning nine soon, and with age would come a growing reluctance to spend time with his dad, a truth Charlie knew would come to pass far too quickly. Maybe next summer Jacob wouldn’t want to hang out everyday, but prefer to be alone. Maybe not, but that summer would come eventually and then there would be years before that rift was closed. They had spent their summer together carefully, getting ice cream as often as they could and playing baseball every sunny day that was available to them. Rainy days were spent watching cartoons, or going to the movies. Charlie wanted Jacob to have so much fun over the summer, that when he went to back to his mother he wouldn’t be able to stop talking about his “great summer with Dad.”
    Charlie scuffed the tips of his work boots along the dirt floor of the dugout, drawing marks and lines with the steel toes. It wasn’t fair, really, that he was only allowed to have Jacob for a few weeks in the summer and over Christmas. Jacob lived with his mom for most of the year, and when Charlie and Anna first split, he just hadn’t been in the right frame of mind to fight her for more custody. And now, four years of nothingness later, Charlie wanted his son to really know him. He wanted Jacob to be proud of his dad, to want to spend more time with him and not just see him, or their time together, as an obligation forced upon him by his mother.
    Charlie leaned back against the wood grain of the back wall, and for a moment, forgot where he was. When he closed his eyes, it was Christmas. Jacob was at home with him, and they had just woken up and tiptoed down to the Christmas tree, drinking cocoa and Jacob was opening his presents, gleeful over everything his thoughtful father had bought for him. Later, they would have a snowball fight and then go to Charlie’s mother’s house for Christmas dinner, and maybe Jacob would fall asleep on the way home and have to be carried inside, resting his head on Charlie’s protective shoulder.
    Charlie opened his eyes, and realized it had grown dark. The sun was now fully set, and the air had grown even colder. There was only a month left until Christmas. With his mind set on the holiday to come, and not on the lonely, and therefore pointless, holiday now passing, he set on his way home.
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