The surprise was ready. Melanie had worked hard to ensure that this November would be the most wondrous time that her daughter, Fawn, had ever experienced. She’d made all the right calls and had the work done in a forest around their estate. As the workers departed, she left them with thanks and heart-felt appreciation for their services. They even received a fresh coating of sunscreen on their way out.

The laborers exited with large mallets in their hands only minutes before young Fawn was due home from school. In the coastal town of Nashville it was hard to find trees in abundance, so Melanie had chosen an estate an overview of a small forest near the backyard. Still, the great melting pushed the ocean closer and closer to their home, and Melanie worried that one day, all of the trees would be lost.

When the bus pulled up and the doors swooshed open, Fawn smiled to all of her friends and exited the yellow vehicle. She swung her UV umbrella held over her right shoulder as she skipped up the driveway to her mother. “Mommy, it’s my birthday!” she announced with a grin.

“I know, sweetie! I know! I got a big surprise for you waiting out back, too!”

“Really!?” The little girl’s squeal could not be contained as she took off, almost dropping her umbrella in the excitement. She tore around the house with her mother walking slowly in her wake, and when Melanie finally passed the gate, the most glorious scream of joy echoed across the yard.

There, amidst the naked sun-scorched field of grass, a huge pile of brown, crispy leaves flew from her daughter’s hands. The girl had already ditched her umbrella to dash up onto the deck and climb so that she could jump upon the pile. “Mommy, are they real? Where did you get all these leaves!?”

Melanie smiled with her arms crossed and gave her daughter a knowing smile. It was easy to believe these were fake dead leaves. In the perpetual summer, leaves never even turned yellow. “I had some workers come by and kill a few trees a few months back.” she said. “They collected them today and brought them out here just for you!”

Fawn smiled broadly, and when her mother watched her dive into the pile of flaky brown shapes, she knew it had been worth the cost and effort. The crunching sounds of the leaves brushing one another filled the yard as the girl swam her way out then dove back in as soon as she had reached the edge. The neighbors were watching at this point, amazed at the pile of dead things strewn about the yard across from them.

The day continued until the searing sun began to set, and Melanie picked up her little one to carry her inside. “That’s enough for now, sweetie,” she said.

“But Mommy, what if they turn green tomorrow? They’ll all go away!”

Inside, Melanie laid the child in her bed and pulled the covers over her shoulders. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” she said with a warm smile. “They won’t be green tomorrow. They’ll be just as dead as they were today.”