Short Fiction: Roy’s Lawn

    Roy stood at the living room window and watched the young man pushing the electric lawnmower back and forth across his front yard. Roy’s daughter, Rhonda, came in from the kitchen and set a cup of tea on the coffee table. “You don’t need to keep watching him, Dad. He’s not going to mess up your lawn.”

 Roy didn’t answer.

 “Come and sit down,” said Rhonda. “I’ll put the cricket on the tele. Have a relax.”

 “I’m fine,” said Roy.

 Rhonda came and stood by him and looked out the window. “I told him about the garden. He’d said he’d be sure not to disturb the roses.”

 Roy grunted and kept staring out the window. The young man had an electric mower. Much quieter than Roy’s old Victa. No two-stroke fuel fumes. Just the smell of cut grass. The young man paused, took a handkerchief from his pocket, lifted his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. He stuffed the handkerchief back in his pocket and continued pushing the mower across the yard. Roy sighed.

 Rhonda turned Roy around and guided him to his favourite armchair. She sat him down and handed him his tea. “Leon’s very good, Dad. He mows our lawn too, you know.” She turned the television on. “Let’s see… ah, here we go. Where are they playing this time? Is that Brisbane?”

 “Adelaide,” said Roy, glancing at the game on the screen. “I can mow my own lawn.”

 Rhonda turned to him with a sympathetic smile. “I know you can, Dad, but you don’t need to. You’re seventy-eight now, and it’s hard work. You need to take it easy. I’ve organised it all—Leon will come round every second week and do the lawns for you. You won’t even need to be here. You could go for a walk, or go visit Bill, and when you get back the grass will be done. It’ll be good for you, Dad. You’ll see.” She squeezed his shoulder and then returned to the kitchen to prepare lunch.

    Roy leaned forward and set his untasted cup of tea back on the table. He watched a few minutes of cricket, tapping his fingers on the armrest and listening to the rise and fall of the electric mower’s whirring drone as Leon passed the window. Roy scratched the end of his nose. He looked toward the window, and then back at the television. After another minute, he huffed, heaved himself up out of the chair, and went and stood by the window again. Leon was easing the lawnmower around the curved edge of the rose garden with surgical precision. He even lifted one of the new rose bush shoots stretching out onto the grass so as not to harm it with the mower. Once he navigated that delicate section of lawn, Leon turned and inspected his handiwork. He nodded to himself. Beads of sweat glistened on his cheeks. He turned back to the mower, set a sturdy grip on its upper handle and charged ahead once more. Roy sighed. The yard looked good.

    Maybe he was too old to be mowing that lawn anymore. He had no hard feelings toward Leon. He just felt a little sting of envy. To work with his hands, to toil in the sun, to feel the sweat trickle down his chest and the thirst claw at his throat. To feel the proud ache of an afternoon’s work and the satisfaction of a job well done. To look upon something of his own doing. To open a beer, sit on his front porch and savour a rest that has been earned. To feel some potency in his hands. To feel useful. Roy didn’t drive anymore, he couldn’t play golf, he wasn’t allowed red meat, and there were so many television channels now he sometimes could not find the one he was looking for. He was getting used to losing little things. But watching that young man mow his lawn, it felt like this one had been stolen.

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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