Day 9 of 100 Word Prompts – Poor
The sound of lawnmowers rumbled through the neighborhood as Jack stepped out on his porch. His neighbors had begun their weekly ritual of maintaining the grass on the same day every week hours ago, waking him from his sleep. He sipped his coffee and looked out over the acre of lawn that had overgrown and became a sanctuary for the wild animals that lived in the surrounding woods.
“Morning, Jack!” Frank called as he waved and pulled his mower to a stop.
“Here we go again,” Jack muttered, taking a sip from his coffee while Frank began the trek through the high grass.
Jack waited patiently for Frank to tip-toe through the grass. He found it entertaining to watch Frank cringe as he tried to see through the grass to what could be living around his ankles.
“Jack, could I have a word with you?” he asked as he arrived at the foot of the porch.
“Of course, Frank. What can I do you for?” Jack replied, sitting in the single chair on the porch.
“Well, our neighbors have been talking recently,” Frank said.
“Uh-huh,” Jack said nodding.
“They are complaining that your lawn,” Frank paused, motioning to the high grass, “is a tad overgrown.”
“Is it, Frank?” Jack asked, “Just a tad? I was hoping for completely.”
Frank laughed nervously. “I think you might be right. They, well, we were wondering when you were planning on cutting it back? If it’s a mower or brush trimmer you need, I don’t mind lending a hand and a tool or two.”
“I appreciate the offer, Frank, but I like my lawn the way it is. You see, we live very close to the woods over there,” Jack replied, pointing to the tall evergreens less than a hundred yards from the porch, “I wanted to make sure that the animals that live there know they are welcome here on my property as well.”
“I see your point, but some of us are concerned that the lack of care you put into-”
“I care for my property very well, Frank. You know that. I am the first one to repaint or clean my gutters. I would argue against everyone in this neighborhood that my house is in better shape than any of theirs-with the exception of yours, of course,” Jack said, lifting his cup as though toasting. “When’s the last time you saw a deer in your yard, Frank?”
“I don’t know, maybe a month ago, why?” Frank asked.
“I have three bedding down out back every night. If they didn’t have anywhere to feel safe in the neighborhood, they wouldn’t come here. I heard how excited your wife was when she saw them wander from my yard into yours. Also, your kids love to play hide-and-seek in my yard. The grass is just high enough that they can disappear in there,” Jack said.
“I know, I just think it’s a bit of an eye-sore is all. So do several of the other people nearby,” Frank pressed.
“You think wildflowers that draw in honey bees are an eye-sore? I didn’t hear anyone complaining when their gardens finally began producing vegetables and fruit,” Jack said. “I promise you, Frank. This property is necessary for this neighborhood in this state. How many ticks have you had to pull off the kids?”
“None,” Frank said.
“The opossums that live nearby love the high grass. They sniff around eating all kinds of ticks and help to keep the kids safe from Lyme disease. Have you noticed the birds around here? That’s because they live in the trees in my yard. I’m telling you, Frank. This is a great place,” Jack said.
“Yes, but the other neighbors won’t be-”
“Let’s not worry about the other neighbors,” Jack interrupted. “We’re talking now. How do you feel about my yard?”
“I-I don’t know,” Frank said, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Be honest, Frank. Tell me you don’t love the way the grass sways when the wind blows through, or the occasional bird that’s rare for this area to fly out of my yard and over yours,” Jack said.
“I do love the way it looks. It reminds me of the fields back home in the midwest, though smaller of course-”
“Of course,” Jack said.
“and the animals are nice. I didn’t realize that you had deer around here and had wildflowers for the bees,” Frank said.
“I thought you’d agree,” Jack said.
“Well, what about just the front yard? You do have the largest back yard in the area,” Frank said. “We all have two-acre lots, but you bought six behind all of us on the street-”
“I don’t think people need to live in a sardine can,” Jack said.
“So you’d have almost 14 acres of grass and trees still if you just mowed the front yard,” Frank said.
Jack looked at the front yard. It was nearly a quarter-acre of grass. He thought about it for a minute before answering.
“I really don’t want to have to mow my lawn every week like the rest of you, though,” Jack said. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if it were mowed, but I don’t want to invest that kind of time-”
“What if I mowed it?” Frank suggested.
“You mow it?” Jack asked, “I’d feel bad if you spent that kind of time in my yard.”
“It wouldn’t be a problem, really. I like to mow, and where we’re neighbors, it’s the neighborly thing to do,” Frank replied.
“If you want to, Frank, I won’t stop you, but don’t touch my back yard, okay?”
“Alright, Jack,” Frank said as he practically jumped from the porch and ran to his mower.
Jack watched Frank’s expression turn from concern to determination as he lifted his mowing deck and drove into his yard, cutting a path near the garage.
Jack rose from his chair and walked into the house. He deposited his coffee cup in the sink on the way to his office. It was a simple room with a few paintings, a single window, and a small maple desk sitting in the center of it. Along the back wall, a projector screen had been mounted to the ceiling.
Jack walked to the window, double-checking that it was not only locked, but the blinds were closed before he pulled the string on the screen. The white vinyl sheet descended, revealing the map of the neighborhood with Jack’s house at the center with the outlying subdivisions he had bought behind the homes. Seventeen IDs had been taped to the map at various points on his property.
Jack stepped back from the map and smiled as he admired the collection he had accumulated over the last three years. Seventeen was still a small collection but wasn’t a bad start for the time he had been here. He picked up a sticky note and walked over to the map, placing it in a small empty area.
“That should work for the next. Now, where should I collect this one from?” Jack said, rubbing his chin.
The door opened behind him, making Jack spin around quickly, feeling his heart skip.
“Jack, I was wondering-” Frank stopped, his eyes locked on the IDs on the map.
“Oh, Frank, you poor soul,” Jack said, shaking his head as he reached out and grabbed his shoulder.