My neighbor across the street is mowing his lawn. He’s an older man, maybe in his late 60s — although I’m not good at guessing age. This is the first time I’ve seen him mow his lawn this year. Last week a man and woman mowed it, early enough in the day that I was annoyed that they woke me up. Last summer a lawn service came every week. But he’s mowing it now, shortly before the sun sets.
He has stopped several times to rest. The first few times he turned the mower off. Now he just sits on a retaining wall and leaves the mower running. I am pretty sure he’s drunk. He’s staggering a little as he walks. During all of my previous encounters with him he’s been drinking iced tea pumped up with vodka — he always offers to make one for me, although I never accept.
He’s told me that he’s divorced, badly, and that he’s a painting contractor. He owns the house, which he has slipt up into several apartments. One of his daughters was living in one of the apartments with her kids for a while. One time he brought over a Zip-Loc bag of sauerkraut, out of the blue. He said he’d made it himself, and when I said I couldn’t accept it he was so offended and hurt that I took it after all. It’s still in my freezer.
Now he’s stopped the mower, left it at the bottom of an incline, with most of the slope mowed. He’s sitting on the wall again, watching traffic pass. People walk by.
It could be that’s he’s simply old and tired, tried to do too much at once. I’ve never thought before that being old and being intoxicated look similar. I’m watching for him to grab his chest or arm; the hospital is two blocks up the street from here. But he’s just sitting.
He has a William Holden look: the aviator shades, the hair receding at the temples, the square jaw. He looks like the old William Holden, with cheek jowls and worn skin. I imagine he was a hottie in his day.
While I was typing he started the mower up again. He started mowing, then his foot slipped and he went down to one knee on the slope. He pulled hiimself up and bullied the mower up the hill, struggling.
I can hear the mower going still, behind the house.
After a while the mower stopped, and I waited for something else. Three minutes, Five. He came around from the back of the house, hands in his painter’s pants pockets, and sat for a second on the front step. Like he knew I was watching. Then he went in the front door.
What a beautifully written, sad little vignette.
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