Yard Work

For the past few weeks, my neighbor has been trimming his yard with scissors. He usually starts in the evening, when I’ve just finished putting my
son to bed and my wife is watching reality TV with the volume off. I can
see him outside, crouched to the lawn, his hands working furiously. His
expression is neither happy nor sad. Sometimes he wears a baseball cap,
sometimes not.

On the show my wife mutely watches, a group of college kids have been
tasked with circumnavigating the world in a school bus. Sometimes they
hang-glide or visit landmarks, Stonehenge, for example.
My neighbor works on the grass around his mailbox. After that, he’ll move
on to grass along the walkway. That seems like his plan, if he has one. You’d
figure a guy cutting his lawn with scissors would have some kind of plan.

Tonight I read my son another bedtime story. The books all seem to deliver
the same news: the world is more exciting than you’ll ever know—now go
to sleep. Most times I don’t think my son is even paying attention.

Later I drink a beer I don’t really want and watch my neighbor finish the
grass around the mailbox. I watch him from my living room window. My
wife watches TV. It gets dark out. My neighbor scoops scissored grass into
a black garbage bag. He fills the bag, then another. I think he should be
ready to start on the grass along the walkway, but he doesn’t. Instead he
crosses the street and starts on my yard. He cuts my grass.

“Come look,” I whisper to my wife. But she’s already left the room. In the
morning, bags line the curb, knotted with yellow ties.

Anthony Varallo’s second story collection, Out Loud, won the 2008 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. His first collection, This Day in History, won the 2005 John Simmons Short Fiction Award. He has received an NEA Fellowship in Literature, and his stories have appeared in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, Epoch, American Short Fiction, and elsewhere. Currently he is an Associate Professor of English at the College of Charleston, where he is the fiction editor of Crazyhorse.