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|Posted on December 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM|
Truth, most times, is stranger than fiction. I present to you today something which could never be made up. A strange little tale from the annals of my personal life ... shocking, though true. Hope you enjoy.
The Green Grass of Christmas
by E. A. Irwin
“You want what?”
I stared into the small, bloodshot, piggy eyes of my next-door neighbor. His appearance resembled one of the members of ZZ Top—an out of shape, bare-footed, frighteningly tattooed, cigarette-sucking, beer-swilling member none of the group wanted. I didn’t even mind tattoos. Some ink is quite beautiful; however, his were just plain ol’ ugly. Did I mention his fingernails resembled yellowed eagle talons?
He’d been rejected by ZZ Top and me. Sans guitar, sans anything that would make his standing on my front porch on a Sunday morning more intriguing, or more attractive, although, he did wear a baseball hat covering his out of control frizzy yellow head of hair which blessedly cast a shadow on his less than appealing features. Unfortunately, the shadow cast wasn’t dark or deep enough to prevent me from gawking at the teeth that matched the level of hair color, rushing quickly toward brown barn boards.
The urgent desire to vote him invisible accelerated through me faster than if I’d sucked on an extra strong tea bag while eating Sugar Pops. The level of his performance attempted to be somewhat original though; just couldn’t wait to hear the profanity sure to come as he honed his watery, blue pig eyes on mine.
Insanity began with this back story: I informed the gardener he didn’t need to trim the hedges, since the last time he’d cut them back I waited almost an entire day to look at them, knowing his expertise with a hedge-trimmer was similar to doing chemistry in an Easy Bake kitchen. Let me just say when I did look expletives exploded in my head, raining like the last bright white, phosphorescent bursting Fourth of July firework—causing a really saucy curse word to exit my mouth. But the man really was one of the nicest gardeners we’ve ever had, even if he was shorter than me by several inches, and I’m not tall, thus making it decisively difficult for him to get the correct stance on the stool I’d provided for his gardening feats.
I have five large hedges. Personally, I like their fluffy outgrowth and usually cut the hedges until I’m no longer able to reach the height differential with the electric hedge-trimmer known by me as the vibrating dead severed leg. I loosed the gardener with his trimmer. Shame on me. Now that I’m positive that his expertise isn’t bushes, we’re fine, just too much angst on my part due to his getting paid for making them ugly.
Had I tried for geometric puzzle shapes to compete in upcoming gardening magazine design layouts, I was on my way. I now possessed two parallelograms, a trapezoid, and one suspiciously resembling a rhombus. The remaining bush he hadn’t touched (apparently his search for three-hundred and sixty degrees on each bush had boggled his mind to the point of anarchy) so luckily it still remained in a gentle round blob. Geometry gone wild, and he hadn’t even tried. In fact, he’d been quite proud he’d accomplished so much with his hedge-trimmer, and what he’d used to get those really fine cuts down the sides—his weed eater. Truly a man of many talents and wonders, so I’m back to doing them, dragging out my trimmer, holding the vibrating severed leg over my head until I’m finished.
But I digressed. As I mentioned, I’d interrupted the gardener’s conversation with my neighbor, a dual purpose since the ZZ Top wannabe was preventing him from doing his job. Not that I don’t want the gardener to obtain further employment or mind him having unusual friends, I just don’t want him getting in the middle of what I sense coming; Ol’ Long Beard making some demand of the gardener, me, or the people that live in my house. Basically, I don’t want ZZ around. Period.
Apparently, the lilting sound of my voice reached the gardener’s ears. He turned, acknowledging my presence with a seemingly desperate and heightened expression. Like, could I come out and get between him and yellow teeth so he could get back to work?
No. He’s an adult. He’s a man. I’m a short non-confrontational woman who just wants the lawn mown and edged. Besides, my voting ZZ invisible hadn’t worked, and the bag of incantations for insipid bothersome neighbors was truly empty, its last power depleted on my previous attempt at community peace with him. Suffice it to say, ZZ’s last foray into his realm of persecution, while screaming dim-witted and disgusting insults, resulted in me staring into those creepy eyes and demanding he bite me. Simple. Au contraire, nothing is ever simple as we march toward world peace and ZZ’s version of world dominance.
As the gardener acknowledged me, I quickly turned to retreat into the inner sanctum of my home, my wishes known, and my job completed until he is handed a check for his work. Unfortunately, the neighbor also witnessed me, heard my voice as it spoke words intended for instruction, ignoring the fact it was definitely not an invitation for interaction between us. Hiding on my porch as the bush spoke to the gardener reached fail safe. I heard those words. Words I’d rather not hear. “I want to speak to you.”
I ignored him. Not nice, don’t care. He raised his coffee cup, as if noticing the odd-shaped pottery thrown on some off-kilter potter’s wheel would grab my attention and hypnotize me into conversation. The cup? One of those clay things in the shape of a triangle with a flat bottom and a small hole in the top so liquid doesn’t slosh unknowingly onto your car’s interior—some weird tri-color combination which clashed with his otherworldly appearance, the only color in harmony that of muddy brown resembling his teeth. Another influx of geometry to make my brain hurt.
The plea of his triangle cup fell on deaf ears. I stepped inside, watching through the security door to see if he was going to cross the border like a welcomed guest. Yep, the yellow man cometh—straight to my door, his sense of boundaries unknown to him and his kith and kin. Another thing which bothered me far more than any tragically cut hedge could ever accomplish. An infiltrator he was. Come to lay his form of crap on my porch like a member of the Hell’s Angels Taliban. Life was always his way, none other existed.
Side note: The man has the smallest stride I’ve ever seen in a man. What was with the teeny, tiny steps the likes of which I haven’t witnessed since Fred Flintstone approached the bowling lane to throw a strike? As he pitter-pattered his way toward my door, I couldn’t even think about what to say, too mesmerized by those baby steps, as I imagined him toppling off bright red stilettos onto the sidewalk. Perhaps he wasn’t aware the coffee couldn’t escape the triangle cup no matter how big of steps he took. The sight of him became intriguing in the worst possible way, as I struggled with the urge to laugh hysterically, while yelling something inappropriate. I bit my lip and remained mute not wanting to stoke the fire building in his belly.
One step, two, up on the porch, I see you. He bore an expression only his odd features could capture. Something was on his mind, and he was going to be a neighbor in the most ingratiating form. Falsely pleasant, with a giant plop of humility on the side.
I stepped from my living room in an attempt to stop the pollution of his person from entering my sanctuary, while sparing those inside the travesty of his words as he worked up some sort of outlaw conversation. He spoke. The wannabe possessed one of the most unusual voices, muffled, yet strangely piercing as it reached your ears doing a dance of insanity while it pushed along the auditory canal. The man was slightly deaf; most assuredly from listening to head-banger metal most of his life. I listened to the oddity of his speech, suddenly transfixed on his piggy eyes, yellow beard and ochre teeth, the bare feet and vastly protruding beer gut, and longed to pull the baseball cap lower so I no longer had to stare at the freak. The tenor of his voice soon became background noise while my eyes took in the troll before me.
I stood on the porch, my Tara, waiting for his words to ignite the fires that would inevitably burn. My best conversation was going to be short, an economy of words just to get him gone. “What.”
“I like Christmas. I really like to decorate for the season.”
This was September. We’d just had Labor Day, and were nowhere near celebrating scaring each other on Halloween, hadn’t had a chance to honor the veterans, for pity’s sake we hadn’t gotten to eat turkey or be thankful at Thanksgiving. Besides, I’d seen his decorating; the opportunity of not witnessing it again waged uppermost in my mind.
I’d been known to decorate at Christmas. Sometimes the hedges become giant packages tied up in red ribbons leading the way to my home, though I’ll admit one year wasn’t my finest. I’d purchased sets of lights all strung on a grid, placing them strategically over my hedges, hoping a soft glow of illumination would enhance the winter’s night. I was wrong. I know I was wrong, because all I saw in the winter’s night was a grid for algebraic equations. I couldn’t find X or Y, and am still unsure if I had traversed into negative numbers, and couldn’t remove the suckers since everything got tied up nice and pretty in those red bows. I understood the mistake and those lights never went up again.
His decorations? Well, some strands of mismatched lights still hung in their catawampus positions from last year, his form of decorating similar to his disarranged mind. Last year a scarecrow sat in its prominent position on the bale of hay along with a reindeer and various other tributes to the holidays. Frightening in the worst possible way, as if someone decorated while on LSD. I take that back. That comment was unfair to those losing their minds on hallucinogens—he’s just tacky.
I contemplated what to say, his statement expected some sort of response. “And?”
“I really like to do it up, like things really nice and I want to see a sea of green lawn for Christmas. I spoke with the gardener to have him seed our lawns and put something special on it so it will remain green across both properties.”
Something special? Wasn’t part of the promise of winter and cold weather simply that the grass stopped growing and you didn’t have to tend to it? Wasn’t this the circle of life for grass, undisturbed by my interfering with water and seed? Wasn’t this Bermuda grass at its finest?
“You want what?”
“Don’t worry about the expense; I’ll pay for everything to get us going.”
The visions dancing in my head weren’t sugarplums, but invoices for winter rye, fertilizer and all the water wasted on sod meant to die in December. Besides the fact I didn’t want grass, was the mere fact the man had the nerve to usurp our authority as landowners because he’d decided his cockamamie idea was sound. Moreover, he never followed through with anything having to do with money, upkeep of the property he rented, etc., etc. The water flow from his home during the summer season rivaled that of release from the Hoover Dam. I could only imagine how much it would take to sustain winter rye, a grass discouraged by our town because of the water issue.
Christmas was supposed to reflect a wintry feeling unless you lived in a land down under. My thoughts ran to decorating with snow, a scene from Currier and Ives complete with horses and sleighs, or at least layers of polyester batting to simulate a snowy landscape—not the greens of Pebble Beach. A migraine formed somewhere near my left eye socket as he spoke in a voice that sounded slightly mechanical. But wait! He wasn’t through. He hadn’t even looked in my eyes to notice I wasn’t hip to his request.
A voice spoke from the darkness of my home. Great, the man brought forth someone dwelling within. My attempt at circumventing the situation screeched to a halt.
“Get off my property, no one here is interested in anything you have to say.”
Strangely, by this time, I wanted to hear what was truly going on in that drug and alcohol induced sponge he used for brain. He was beginning to give information, as the person inside thwarted my efforts to extract what was really on his feeble, wannabe brain.
He pointed to the door. “Why do they have to be like that? I just came over to try to be neighborly, they’re a real—”
A fight ensued between the dark and the yellow troll on my porch. Expletives escaped him at rapid-fire speed as he cocked his oral gun, shooting rounds of verbal ammo straight into my face. Ah yes, now we were back to reality. I thought I might have had to endure more of his traipsing through nicety while I mentally poked a meat fork between my eyes to alleviate the migraine pain. He continued backing me against the security door. I prayed I’d become liquid and ooze through its holes like a sieve in an effort to escape not only his insulting attitude, but his cigarette, coffee-laden stinky breath.
“You’re on my property, insulting my family; no one’s interested in green grass during winter.” I tried to be nice … honest.
His demeanor changed faster than a lighting strike. More expletives completed his neighborly visit as he tiny-stepped his way off my porch, signaling his discontent with a finger well placed above my tidy, shorn hedge. The gardener gaped in disbelief, his speed finishing the yard surpassing his ability to do a good job. I just thanked God his weed eater hadn’t cut crop circles in the lawn while speeding toward a hasty finish.
I approached the gardener with a tentative grin, embarrassed he had heard the ramblings of insanity from the yellow man. “I don’t think we’ll have green grass for Christmas.”
I watched the wannabe tripping along, his delicate step in direct contrast to his wretchedly, vulgar person, inside and out. His attempt at world dominance once again thwarted his loss of ultimate control over life on my street a hollow victory to me, his neighbor. He’d never understand, and he’d forgotten the most important thing about ZZ Top wannabes. There’s just something about a sharp-dressed man.
© E. A. Irwin
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