Fall / Fall

Raking Leaves

DSC01593

Leaves were falling. the village was beautiful. the richness of colors, stunning. you don’t get this living in the concrete jungle. or if you live in an arid landscape. We deal with cold temperatures Bub.

The beauty of the changing seasons is our reward. something to embrace.

The doorbell rang. I opened it.

They thought I didn’t recognize them. It was The Macgillycuddy Boys.

Billy and his younger brother Timmy.

Both boys ran with the gang that would throw snowballs at my car last winter.

It was them. make no mistake about it.

The older brother was doing the talking now.

“Mister? do you need someone to rake your leaves?”

I locked eyes with the little one. he was giving me the stink eye.

“Is there something wrong young man?” he wouldn’t answer me. “Is this your brother?”

“Un-huh,” Billy responded.

“Are the two of you registered to rake leaves in this state?” they looked at each other.

“Are we what?” Billy asked.

“Registered. are you Registered? Do you boys speak English?”

“Un huh.” Billy said.

“So, let me get this straight? You two are Brothers. You live in Illinois, You speak English. You’re here today to ask me to rake the leaves in my yard for money. Are you boys Troublemakers?”

The younger one rolled his eyes. I looked at him. “Do you remember me Timmy?”

“No.” Timmy said.

“You Don’t?” I asked him very directly.

“No.” he said. I stood there staring at Him. Timmy starting tugging at his brother’s coat, he cupped his hand whispering something in his ear.

Billy spoke up.” “Mister we gotta go.”

“Go? but you just got here? wait a second, you came here today with a business proposition and now you want to run off before you get an answer to your question?”

“Umm? we…Umm?” Billy stuttered.

“Young Man ask me your question again.” they exchanged glances.

Billy softly asked “Umm…Would you like somebody to rake your leaves?”

“Somebody? Who?”

Timmy rolled his eyes again. exasperated he blurted out, “Us.

I shook my head from side to side like I was being offered something that smelled rank.  “No Thank You.” and closed our door.

I woke the next morning and looked out our window. the nine bags of leaves I had left out on my curb for pick up were spread all over our front lawn. the bags were missing and so were the yard waste stickers you are required to purchased from the village. no sticker? no pickup. someone was sending me a message.

It was The Macgillycuddy Boys.

Standing in your yard trying to clear it of leaves while more leaves drift down on you from the trees above can wear on you. Last year I raked 47 bags of leaves. a few of my neighbors were quite amused at the eager new guy on the block who thought he could stay ahead of Mother Nature. Mother Nature wins every time. don’t even try to take her on. she’ll kick your ass pal. Imagine trying to keep snow off your driveway in the middle of a blizzard? That is the feeling you get on my street when the leaves start to fall.

“Why don’t you hire a couple of kids from the neighborhood?” My neighbor Nancy asked me. “Why are you putting yourself through this?”

I smiled and almost bit through my lip. I wanted to throw her in her bushes.

Pay someone to tend our land? Never!

Never say Never……Ever.

I woke up and felt like a hundred year old man. My Back was killing me. my left shoulder ached.

I went over to take a look at the community bulletin board at our grocery store to see if I could find someone to handle the leaves for me. Tacked on the board was a piece of paper. It read in bold print.

FALL CLEANUP. We Rake Leaves.

At the bottom of the page was a phone number.

I called the number, a woman answered.

“I’m calling about the Fall Cleanup.”

She said, “Sure, hold on a second. SHAN….NON it’s for You!”

Shannon? a few seconds later a girl’s voice on the other end said, “Hello?”

I introduced myself. “Are you the person to speak to regarding the fall cleanup?”

“Yes.” she said. “My friend Eileen and I will rake and clean up your yard.”

“Great, How do we get started?” she informed me that they could come out tomorrow after school for an estimate. I gave her our address. we arranged to meet at 4:30.

4:30 on the dot. I was out in front of our house when two young girls with rakes walked up. Shannon the young woman I spoke with on the phone said “Hello.” then introduced me to her friend Eileen.

I showed them the yard, “Ladies? what’s this going to cost me?” they gave me three options. once a week 40 dollars, twice a week 60. and for the season 160.

“I’d like you to handle the season. When can you start?”

They looked at each other smiling.

“Right now? If you’d like?”

They went to work. no smirking, no shuffling of feet, no stink eye.

They raked both the front and backyard. bagging about 17 bags of leaves all neatly stacked at the curb. Once they finished they knocked on our door, still smiling. telling me they would be back on Saturday.

“Ladies? before you go? do you know the Macgillycuddy Boys from down the street?”

“Yeah, We Know Them.” Shannon replied.

I sensed an edge in her voice.

“Ladies? I’m worried that Billy and Timmy won’t be happy with you taking their business. I have it on good authority that these two boys are known troublemakers around town, it’s possible they might try to undermine your business.”

“Undermind?” Shannon inquired.

“Yes, undermine, They want to try to keep all the business to themselves. we’re not all bad ladies. but these boys? The Macgillycuddy’s? I just don’t trust them. Billy told me that if you want a Woman to do your work for you? go ahead hire one, see what kind of job they do? they’ll take your money and never show up. they also said you two ladies had been in trouble with the police?”

“Police?!?” The smiles disappeared.

“Yes, The Police. I also suspect that they might try to sabotage your work by dumping the leaves you worked so hard in raking on the ground.”

Eileen looked at me and said, “They better not.”

“Yes.” I pointed at Eileen. “They better not, keep an eye out for them.”

They told me they would, and to not worry.

Want to be treated like a professional? prepare like one. project yourself as one.

It was clear these girls knew the score.

In the business world today. when you look to provide a service to someone. you better be able to provide the customer with the factual information they need to make a well-informed decision that is best for them. You can’t stand in front of someone during a sales pitch and say, Umm? and Roll your Eyes at the potential customer. You sure as shooting can’t give them the Stink Eye and then expect them to give you money?

“Tell that to your little brother, The Eye Roller.”

The squirrel was laughing at me.

I was never more sure of anything in my life.

I hissed at it.

Then, I went back to my raking. filling up seven more bags of leaves.

I looked back up into the tree.

Strange, It was still there?

Only now? there were two more with it. watching me. I stared back at them. they exchanged sideways glances.

These three were up to something. No two ways about it.

“You Imposter.” I heard a voice say, “You fool no one.”

It sounded like Peter Lorre. high-pitched and nasally.

Then the other two started in on me.

“He’s holding the rake all wrong! Will ya look at this guy?”

“He’s not taking into account the wind? it’s out of the west.”

“No No it’s out of the north!”

“Hey man? get it together. rake away from the wind, geez c’mon!”

“If he’d check the weather he’d see the wind is going to pick up.”

Peter Lorre and his squirrely pals were judging me. criticizing my technique. my way of doing things.

I rubbed my eyes.

“If he waited two days? he wouldn’t have to rake em? they’re all gonna blow away!”

One of them put a finger in its mouth to dampen it, then held it aloft to test the wind.

“High pressure system is heading our way. winds definitely gonna change.” it said.

I dropped the rake and ran into the house.

That night, as I slept.

A voice, “Imposter.”

I was raking in the yard again,

I looked into the trees, they were filled with squirrels.

Every branch. Every limb was full of them. And every one of them was looking at me.

“Do yourself a favor and move back to the city, you’re out of your element.”

It was that prick Peter Lorre. I guess he was the lord high squirrel?

One of them threw a bus ticket at me. told me to “Beat it.”

An eerie silence fell.

A large herd of squirrels stared at me from the branches above.

I went into our garage, found the can of gas for the lawnmower and poured it at the base of the tree. then I lit it.

“How do you like that PETER?!? WHERE’S YOUR MOSES NOW!?!”

Flames raced up the trees trunk.

My wife came flying out of the house, grabbing our garden hose spraying the tree with water.

In the distance, sirens approached.

“Can you believe that Honey? Did you see them? Did you hear what Peter said to me? Look? they gave me this bus ticket.”

She looked at our charred tree, before turning to contemplate the love of her life.

“What is wrong with you? What Bus Ticket?”

“I Didn’t Do Anything? They Started it!”

A fire truck pulled up in front of our house. followed by the police. I was ticketed, and told in no uncertain terms not to set anymore fires.

I walked back into the house. and stared at the fireplace. confused.

The following morning, I got dressed and went out into our front yard to scan the trees.

Where’d they all go?

It began to rain. winds were gusting through the branches. I stood there an hour or so watching and listening. Until I heard the rumble of thunder. I had some chores to do before the game started.

Work, work, work.

That afternoon, I fell asleep on the couch.

I was in Hawaii. relaxing in a lounge chair at the pool. A squirrel approached me and asked me “If I’d like something to drink?” I said no thank you. Would it be possible to get something to eat? The squirrel shook his head and said, “No.” Then he hit me with his little drink tray and ran off.

Had a difficult time sleeping that night. keeping one eye on the tree outside our bedroom window. first I heard scratching. then murmuring? like an angry crowd had gathered.

It kept growing louder and louder.

I pulled the covers up to my chin and waited.

The next day at work things got a little sketchy. I had some sort of a confrontation with a parking meter.

At lunch, my co-workers saw me yelling at my sandwich in the break room. All they would say is, he seemed incredibly distraught.

They called my wife to come get me.

To be clear, if I may?

Just because she signed the papers to put me away. doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. it’s only temporary arrangement. ok?

She needed to do something I suppose?

Everyday for the past two weeks.

I would come home from work and run through the sprinkler in my suit.

Sure, I got a few strange looks. But what the hell?

Down the street, we have a guy who cuts his lawn at dawn in his pajamas while drinking a glass of wine.

Everybody’s dealing with something. you know?

Pressures either at work, issues with your kids, your spouse, maybe it’s a combination of things?

If that’s your only problem? Be Thankful. The stuff on the surface can be handled. You can work through it.

But, if you start to see things? Or hear voices? things that aren’t there? Well? You have my sympathy and my understanding Pal.

I really want to go home. I’m tired of all these restrictions.

I wasn’t talking to the squirrel. He was talking to me.

What was I suppose to do? Ignore it?

I should’ve, I could’ve, unfortunately? I didn’t, I just couldn’t.

So now?

I’m sharing a room with this guy who thinks he’s….Magilla Gorilla. Keeps calling me Ogee or Mr. Peebles.

I guess I shouldn’t complain, he’s respectful, picks up his stuff, stays on his side of the room. What more can you ask of a roommate? his goofy voice can wear on you. All this “Gee Mr. Peebles” nonsense. My Name is not Mr. Peebles. I don’t own a pet store with a Gorilla for sale.

Let it go man!

“Won’t you buy him? take him home and try him? gorilla for sale.”

C’mon? take him home and try him? That’ll never work.

I want to go home and run through the sprinkler.

My wife told me on her last visit that my friends and co-workers have been calling to inquire how I’m doing?

I’m feeling better. The dreams have subsided. I am sleeping better.

Although? I can’t be sure that they won’t come back?

I saw a squirrel outside yesterday.

Didn’t talk to me. Didn’t even look my way. Which is fine by me.

Doctor tells me I should make a full recovery. I just need some rest.

Things are a lot easier here, I have lots of friends. a nice bed to sleep in, three square meals a day.

I get visitors from time to time holding clipboards.

Everyone is always asking me how I am?

We get to talk about our problems every day. The people who work here are really friendly.

And the patients are mostly cool. Mostly.

Except for this guy named Larry who keeps asking everyone, “is it safe?”

“How the fuck should I know Larry?”

Tomorrow for grins. I might tell Larry it’s not safe, while staring at his forehead. just to see what happens.

I think I’m calmer? calmer than most people in here. I have lots of room to run and play.

As long as I promise to take my medicine and stay off the electric fence.

I can have jello for desert. And….Not the kind they put fruit in. I like my jello clean, and neat. Preferably Lime or Cherry. don’t even try to pass off that stuff you can’t see through. You know the kind I’m talking about? That pink or white shit. You never know what surprises they’re hiding in there? I like to see through my food when possible. Otherwise, I just keep picking at it until I’m sure there are no surprises. I won’t drink anything out of a can. Has to be a bottle or jug I can see through.

I use to love fast food. not anymore. Few years ago some cement head was putting severed fingers in the chili at Wendy’s after he purchased it? Then Blaming Wendy’s for it? and suing them? Wendy’s? The Guy hired a lawyer to sue Wendy’s? for, are you ready for this? mental anguish. Messed up the whole fast food thing for me. Can’t go near it anymore. Bums me out. Because I love chili.

I also love a good fish taco. extra fish. Grande Fishy Taco por favor. With a glass of water. from a bottle, no ice.

Sometimes, I hear voices.