Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Cut Down

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Stories

Desperate for money, I mowed my neighbor’s lawn and tried focusing on the nice weather and the twenty-five dollars waiting for me inside. When I was about halfway done with the front, this old Portuguese man walked by with his dog. I was dumping the fresh, wet grass into the compost bag when he said, “You still have a lot to do, my friend!”

I was annoyed that he tried talking to me. I was doing my thing, he was doing his thing… why couldn’t we just leave it at that? I smiled while stuffing the grass down, trying not to sneeze, and said “Ah, don’t remind me.”

“You know, my son, he take care of lawn, but not no more.” That’s great. Please keep walking. “Now I has to take care of lawn. It’s a bitch.”

“Yeah, I know how that is,” I lied. This was the first time I’d touched a lawnmower in years.

“So I stop taking care of lawn. Why bother? I wait two months. Summer get hot. It get too hot for grass. I like that. Hot sun just burn away all the grass! Much easier. You just gotta wait.”

This was funny, I had to admit. I imagined him sitting shirtless in a lawn chair on his driveway watching the rest of his yard turn to asphalt as the sun burned his leathery skin around a huge goofy grin on his face. Scotts lawn care wouldn’t be calling him for an endorsement anytime soon. “That would be easier,” I said.

He adjusted his cap and the dog sniffed the curb and I fastened the bag back onto the mower. Maybe now he’d leave.

“It’s a good lawn, though,” he said.

“It’s not mine.”

“That’s okay. It’s still good. You do good job. Maybe I won’t let sun burn mine this year.” He smiled as he said it.

“The grass likes it best when it isn’t burned to a crisp,” I said.

He laughed and said, “You think it like what you do more?”

“Well someone has to cut it, right?” I was only talking to him now. All I had to do was rev the mower and he’d leave. “If I don’t cut it, it grows wild and you wouldn’t walk past here anymore, would you? It would be ugly.”

“It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?” he said.

“Yes.”

The dog pulled toward the telephone pole.

“Enjoy your work.”

“Enjoy your sun.”

“Good luck,” he said.

“Good luck,” I said. “Take care.”

So I made my twenty-five bucks from mowing the neighbor’s lawn and I’ll be back next month to mow it again because it’s grass and grass keeps on growing back… but it’s okay, because now I know that the last thing I want is to watch it all burn.

Crazy

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Stories

So there’s this guy, right? And he’s absolutely insane. You’ve probably seen him. He walks around the city all the time. Wears this red knit cap, blue and purple windbreaker, black pants, floppy boots. He’s gotta dress warm, ‘cause he spends all his time outside, but he even dresses that way during the summer. Maybe in the summer he takes off the hat. I don’t know. I can’t remember. Old guy. He’s fuckin’ nuts. Just randomly starts screamin’ at shit. Sometimes he just shouts out the chorus from some old song he used to listen to or maybe something he heard pumpin’ from someone’s car at a red light. Sometimes he just puts out a high-pitch “WHOO!” like he’s gearin’ up to play in the Super Bowl or somethin’ and he don’t ever break stride or take his hands out of his pockets. I heard he used to be some kinda super genius who just snapped, you know? Kept on learnin’ and learnin’ ‘til he just couldn’t understand something or some shit like that and just snapped. Crazy shit, huh? Being all smart like that and just losin’ it? Walkin’ around every day shoutin’ and singin’ at all the shit that ain’t there? You know the craziest part? He’s fuckin’ happy. Always got a smile on his face. Man, I was just like you. I couldn’t understand it.

But that’s not what you want to hear about, is it? Nah, you want to hear about why I’m crazy, right? Have you guys started callin’ me crazy yet?

And the teacher’s going on talkin’ about how she’s sorry she couldn’t grade our tests because it’s been a long weekend for her going back and forth to the hospital or some other bullshit and I just stand up and tell her it’s bullshit, it’s all bullshit, you know? And then she starts yellin’ back at me to get out of her class with tears runnin’ over her baggy eyes and that she tries hard and her father is sick or some shit like that, when Kyle gets up to try and calm us down, but I can’t calm down because I finally fucking get it. I finally fucking understand it. So Kyle’s head hits the desk and I throw a chair over to where the teacher is because it was just in my way and I had to move and I can feel this fucked up feeling of knowing inside me and I hate it. So I run out the door and for a second and I can hear everyone behind me talkin’ to each other real loud and the teacher screamin’ and other people are lookin’ out from the windows in the doors into the hallway, but I’m just runnin’, man. I don’t care that I was never the fastest because I finally fucking understand it.

When I get outside onto the street, I just kinda go downhill because it’s Fall River, right? Everything in this goddamn city is downhill from everything else. So I get a couple of blocks away and I don’t know where I’m going, right? Home isn’t there. I’ve been walkin’ away from home for a long time. Nah, that ain’t right. It was there, but it was never really there. It just dissapeared, little bit by little bit. It walked away from me. And I’m not taking that bullshit no more now. So I start walkin’, but my blood’s still pumpin’ ‘cause I finally understand it. The bullshit’s bullshit and I get it all.

So that’s when I do it. I start screaming out a little bit. Just a little. And it feels good, so I do it more. I’ve never done it before then. No one ever does it, but they should because I swear to God man, it just… I don’t even know. I don’t even fuckin’ know. I just know it did what it did and it worked, you know what I mean? Nah, you don’t. You just scream into pillows, don’t you? You just scream to yourself a little bit every day, don’t you? I did that. I used to do that all the time. But this time, I’m screamin’ it loud, head up, eyes closed, arms stretchin’ out everywhere and I’m screamin’ out every goddamn thing that comes to mind. And people must’ve thought I was crazy or some shit, in their goddamned cars, listening to their fuckin’ music, but I’m not, man, I’m tellin’ you.

I get it all, and I know I’m not crazy.

But that’s where you found me, screaming and walking. And now here we are and you’ve got to try and understand what I’m thinkin’ but you can’t because you haven’t ever walked downhill while screamin’ at the top of your goddamned lungs because you’ve got to understand the bullshit first before you can do that. So fuck you.

And the old guy isn’t crazy, either. He gets it. I get it. You don’t. And you’re gonna tell me I’m wrong or some shit like that, but I’m not. I’m screaming and maybe someone else will hear me doin’ it and then we can understand this shit together, because man, I’m just getting started and there’s a whole lotta shit I still don’t understand.

Birthday

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Stories

It was such a strange birthday that year.

I remember putting on the dress clothes my parents had bought me and which I had laid out the night before: khakis, white loafers, pink-striped button-down with a baby blue necktie and the blazer I had worn for graduation the year before. I stayed up late talking to some girl whose name I’ve chosen to forget, so I hadn’t gotten much sleep. Just an hour or two.

There was a line at the wake, all the way out the auditorium doors into the parking lot where Hell’s Angels were waving American flags and revving their engines. The old vets wearing the hats with insignias and pushing walkers probably couldn’t hear them. I remember the woman behind me sobbing. The man in front of me was talking loudly about thisandthat to the voice in his earpiece and a baby’s scream bounced off the concrete façade. It was hot; almost ninety-two, and I could feel the sun slowly burning away the skin on my nose and my closed eyelids. I could almost hear my mother telling me how I should have put on sunblock like she always told me to do.

I knelt down before the coffin and just kind of stared at the flag draped over it. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t even know why I showed up. But I just knelt there for a while, staring at the flag, then through the flag to the varnished wood, then through the wood to the ravaged body. Maybe my eyes were still closed. I can’t remember.

I felt like I was there for a while, because the woman behind me who had mostly collected herself by the time we made it inside the auditorium broke down again and just about threw me down. I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I got up and shook the hands of the man’s mother, father, grandmother, sister, uncle, other uncle, other grandmother, and the almost-widow; the fiancé, holding the hand of the three-year-old son. It was his birthday, too. I guess it was strange for both of us.

I grabbed an empty seat in the back and listened to the politicians talk over the flag over the wood over the body. The man sitting to my right said something to the man sitting on his right and they both laughed. The sobbing woman sat to my left. A marine gave the almost-widow some medals. The uncle gave a funny eulogy. The other uncle gave a sad one. The father refused to go up at all and the almost-widow left at one point. I texted my parents saying don’t worry, I’m okay, I’ll be home soon. They said my best friend had showed up early and they were all wondering where I had gone. I said don’t worry, I’m okay, I’ll be home soon.

Some hours later, after I blew out twenty-three candles and opened up gift cards and packages with ugly, ill-fitting clothes, I watched my mother cut up the cake and put the thin slices on plastic plates with big scoops of French vanilla ice cream. I remember watching it melt. They watched me watch it melt.

And when my friends left dejected after I said no, I don’t feel like killing some brain cells tonight, I watched them walk to their cars from my bedroom window. I was lying down on the bed when my parents knocked on the door saying that I knew I could talk to them about anything. They love me. Happy birthday. My thigh buzzed and the girl said she doesn’t usually make offers like this, but since it’s my birthday…

I walked out to the woods that night wearing mostly nothing – exposed. Overcome by jealously, I leaned my head against a tree and stared past the bark and waited for a bullet to come and drill my brains into the spot where I was staring. When I knew it wasn’t coming, I waited for the world around me to explode; just swallow me up like an angry beast. But then the nothing. And then the nothing.

I knew there must be more to it, but there just wasn’t. I was like a father without a child, a husband without a wife, a soldier without a war.

It was such a strange birthday that year.