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John Updike

“Do you remember a fragrance girls acquire in autumn? As you walk beside them after school, they tighten their arms about their books bend their heads forward to give a more flattering attention to your words, and in the little intimate area thus formed, carved into the clear; by an implicit crescent, there is a complex fragrance woven of tobacco, powder, lipstick, rinsed hair, and that perhaps imaginary and certainly elusive scent that wool, whether in the lapels of a jacket or the nap of a sweater, seems to yield when the cloudless fall sky like the blue bell of a vacuum lifts toward itself the glad exhalations of all things. This fragrance, so faint and flirtatious on those afternoon walks through the dry leaves, would be banked a thousand-fold on the dark slope of the stadium when, Friday nights, we played football in the city.

[…]

Now I peek into windows and open doors and do not find that air of permission. It has fled the world. Girls walk by me carrying their invisible bouquets from fields still steeped in grace, and I look up in the manner of one who follows with his eyes the passage of a hearse, and remembers what pierces him.”

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The opening and closing paragraphs of the short story “In Football Season” by John Updike. (Full text)

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