02 May, 2013

Lawn Gods: Neighborhood Beautification Task Force

Explosions lit up the night sky above us as my troop and I ran through the cornfields of Kansas, desperate to be at home, riding our significant others instead of the War Machine that we had become. We were living a nightmare. The enemy within our walls as we sat, paralyzed with fear at the swiftness with which they struck.

I couldn't think about that now, though. It was taking every ounce of fortitude I had to keep from eating my own gun. I've never been a fighter, but getting drafted into a war you don't believe in tends to change that about a person. At least I'm getting to see the world, despite being returned home indefinitely.

A slap on the back woke me from my reverie.

"Wake the fuck up, man!" said Diego, my friend from before the invasion. He started walking back the way we came. "You just overran the target! Let's get back to the group, eh? I don't wanna be out here without backup."

He turned back towards me to flash his trademark grin, and at the apex of the grin, an explosion sounded behind me, and he dropped to the ground, dead. Wide-eyed, I turned around to see the killer of my friend. Instead, I turned to look right into the barrel of a gun pointed not just at me, but my right eye.

"Holy-" The hammer cocked back.

"-shit." The round exploded out of the chamber. I was dead! I was shot in the face! What the fuck! I can't even get an open-casket?

...

I bolted upright in bed. It was dark. I swore. Looking over at the clock, I realized I had only been asleep for two hours. I swore again.

"I'm never going to sleep for longer than five hours at a time. Ah well, time for a smoke, I suppose." I rolled out of bed, put on a pair of boxers, and went downstairs. On my way through the kitchen, I took a swig of whiskey and continued on through the double French whatever doors onto the deck that Diego and I had built two summers ago. It wasn't the best quality, but it was something we had built with our own two hands. Four? Whatever. I grabbed my cigarettes and Zippo off the grill and lit up, looking out at our perfectly-trimmed yard.

For two slackers (some have even called us degenerates), Diego and I sure did know how to tidy up a place. From the outside, our shitty house looked amazing. Just...don't go inside if you want to keep the image of a clean, well-balanced neighborhood. I have always suspected the rest of the street to be the same, but as soon as our neighbors see us, they want nothing to do with us. Just because we wear ripped-up jeans and thick, black boots with four-inch soles and covered in steel plating in the summer, they think we're scary-looking.


That wasn't always the case. Diego and I used to be all cardigans, clean-shavedness and loafers. Then he met Janet, who brought us to a concert. Her favorite band, The Hackenslashes. Separate it out in your mind. It was the kind of concert where someone in the pit was just as likely to leave with an STD as a broken nose or jaw. Something about the song lyrics just resonated with the two of us. We moved to Emporia, renovated the house so that it looked better than the others on the block, and turned it pretty much into a flop house.

It was just the three of us currently, Diego, Janet and I, even though she was at work. What can I say? Not all of our polo-playing past was abandoned. We still felt a slight obligation to be upstanding citizens, which is why we took the job as the Neighborhood Beautification Council. As we slowly started playing less polo, it became the task force. We don't really look too terribly crazy, but I digress. Who gives a fuck about all that? The more interesting bits are about to happen.

...

Sitting on the railing of the deck, looking out into the backyard and onto the next street over was kind of a hobby of mine. Diego was passed out, Janet was at work, and Kiera wanted nothing to do with me once she found out I wasn't as pure of a punk as she was, and thought I was, so she ditched the three of us. Whatever. Who the fuck needs that?

Anyway, I moved from the railing to one of the deck chairs, smoking like a chimney and slowly getting shitfaced. Maybe then I'd be able to sleep. The door behind me opened.

"Shit!" I jumped. Maybe Diego wasn't passed out. I looked back and immediately wished I hadn't. Diego had come out of the house with just a wifebeater tank top on.

"Son of a bitch, go put some pants on or something!"

"Hey, I woke up, heard some noise out here, and figured I'd come out and scare whomever it was into going away." He lit up one of his menthol cigarettes. Disgusting. I took a drag off my own cigarette and blew the smoke in his face. "Seriously, dude. Go put some pants on. Janet's not here, and she's the only one who'd want to see that."

"Nah, man. I think I'm going to become a nudist. I like the way the summer air rustles my jimmies."

"You kidding me?"

"Nah," he practically sighed out his response, blowing smoke in my face and sat down in the deck chair next to me.

"Then here, at least cover up. Save it for the nudist colonies. The neighbors'll freak their shit if they see us out here like this." I threw a towel to him.

"Fine." Then he started laughing as he stood up and wrapped it around his waist. "I don't actually want to be a nudist, I just wanted to call you gay for looking at my unmentionables."

"Dickhead."

"Yeah. Gimme some of that whiskey, dude." I passed him the bottle and he laughed again, plopping back into his seat. "Hey, did you see the mail? We got a letter from the neighborhood committee saying that our run as the Beautification Council is coming to an end."

"What?" Those meetings were the only time I could see Tilly. Her husband wouldn't exactly take kindly to me popping over for a social call, even if they are getting a divorce. I couldn't lose that.

"Yeah, something about us not being a...uh...'proper family unit,' or something like that. I dunno. D'you think Tilly'll be upset to lose her boytoy?"

"Without a doubt. We've had a connection for almost three years now! But she's not going to lose me, as we're not going to lose our positions. Neighborhood bylaws indicate that we'll be fine. We pay the most, per month, and every year, we win the 'Best Lawn' competition. There's no way this lawn would be this amazing without my secret ingredient!" I felt a slight upwelling of indignation at Edward Marsailles poisoning my lawn last year, even though we still won.

Diego rolled his eyes at the mention of the competition. He'd been the one who has had to deal with me during the whole ferocity of crushing the Marsailleses across the street. I could tell he was preparing himself for all the drama, but I also knew he secretly loved it. He, Janet, and the husbands on the block would get together and shoot the shit and gossip.

In just three short months, we'd be at it again, grumpy, octogenarian Ed and I, vying for control of the 'Best Lawn' title. Diego sighed loud enough to bring me back to the present. He tossed me a sleeveless hooded sweater, my boots, and put his own boots on. I looked at the clock through the kitchen window. Four-thirty a.m.

"God damn it. I was just getting comfortable. I might have even made it back to sleep!" Diego rolled his eyes again and tossed me the keys to our golf cart. I loved driving this thing. It was a special golf cart, with a truck-like bed to it, as it was reserved for the house that took care of the neighborhood's lawns. It even had a logo on the truck bed, which I had promptly painted over, changing us from a Council to the Neighborhood Beautification Task Force, and now it was time to go to work.

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