They would appear every year around this time, a few weeks after first frost, when skies turned uncertain, and evening began to flood our afternoons. Some caution enters with the season, attended by its sidekick, mischief, daring to betray all reminders to take care where it’s cold, where it’s dark. To watch out.
They appeared as other seasonal creatures did, the kind that inspire axioms administered to students. As in, watch the squirrel gather acorns for winter, watch the leaves turn and fall, the geese flying south (as they once did with more note, in greater numbers). But no one of the sort inclined toward neat lesson would mention these other creatures, except with some comment about fools. Who catch their death of cold––that or eternal fire, for lack of modesty.
They were always young men at the age of terror and anticipation. A few years, some young women joined, but these were a different sort of spectacle, the sort you had to take care not to see. The ran across the clearing, naked except for boots, laughing with hoots and shrieks, with pumping arms and wild faces. A few wore hats. They appeared suddenly and were gone. After, no one could ever be sure who it was, unless someone bragged about it later. It seemed best not to know. There go the streakers, someone would say. And then it would be quiet again, as the evening continued, and the cold.