LEAVES, AND OTHER
By Jerry Bisantz
The majestic Maple. The over -arching Oak. The beauty of these amazing trees are one of the reasons we fell in love with our house so many years ago. Sentinels of Suburbia, they tower over our house, one in the backyard, one in my neighbor’s front lawn. Over 200 years of growth represented in their stately branches. Lending shade in the summer, glorious new growth in the Spring, they proudly stand against the worst that nature can hand them and continue to give comfort and beauty to a world of concrete, cars and noise.
And then: Autumn. Yeah, Autumn. And …
LEAVES, SO MANY LEAVES!!!!
It’s 9:00 AM. After a reasonably healthy meal of Quaker Oats (adding raisins, the only way to eat them) I head out to my garage. The quest begins. THE RAKE. I gotta find the rake. I lift the garage door, and I hear the scrambling of my new tenants, two squirrels. I have tried to get rent from them, but to no avail. I do what I always do… I bang on the side of a metal garbage can to scare them, as my mind always leaps back to that scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas, certainly don’t want to pull a “Julia Louise Dreyfuss,” a squirrel leaping on my face. I bang loudly, they scatter to the back of the garage. Oh, well, something to deal with later.
After much swearing and searching I find the rake. It’s under the tarp that I used to put under my tent when I last went camping. A perfect place for it, I think. Now, grab the large plastic garbage can with the wheels. I will put the paper leaf bag in said can so I will have a little stability as I push the leaves down. I have 24 bags. That should do it.
Now, the most important part. My i -phone. I simply MUST have music while I work. I plug my ear buds in, hit “songs”, hit “shuffle”. The dulcet tones of Van Morrison comes on, assuring me that I am very lucky indeed, to be on the “bright side of the road”.
OK, armed with my rake, my bags, my tunes, I am ready to do a real man’s work. A job that has been passed down from generation to generation. Attack mode is assumed. The reliable scraping sound of the rake somehow seems to blend with Van and all is good. But, oh, my God. There are so many
I won’t look, I will just rake. If I look too much I will get overwhelmed. I feel like Sisyphus, it looks like I will never get anywhere. I rake, I pick up, I jam, I rake, I pick up, I jam, I rake some more. The leaves are dry, and I begin to feel that asthmatic clutch in my throat that happens every year. Is it the Oak? Is it the Maple? Well, one of these suckers kills my breathing, an allergy I have had from childhood. It’s hot, and sweat begins to drip into my eyes, blurring my vision. Rake, pick up, jam, rake, pick up, jam, rake, pick up, jam. New bag, open that sucker up. How come they never want to open easily? I have to reach further into the bag than I possibly can. My arms are not long enough. I finally open one up, force it into the garbage pail, I reach down, and take a huge scoop of leaves in my rake, put it into the bag, but the end of the bag folds over as I start to empty the contents, spilling my nice pile onto the driveway. Bend down, Jerry. Rake, pick up, jam, rake, pick up, jam. I have a great vibe going. Paul Simon is telling me that he has a Kodachrome camera and my music cuts out. The ear buds have become unattached. I remove my garden gloves, grab my cell phone, and drop it into the bag of
The music cuts out, so I cannot hear where it fell. It’s gotta be on the top, surely it couldn’t have fallen too deeply into the bag? I reach into the bag. Feel around. No phone. This is ridiculous. It’s gotta be there. I mean, come on! I just dropped it! I continue to feel around. No phone. Sweat pours down my face. My eyeglass lenses are actually streaked with it. Do I really have to go into the house and call my phone? Really? No, it has to be here, somewhere. I gently pour the contents of the
Onto the driveway. I run the rake through the contents that have spilled all over. Nothing. OK, fine! Fine! If that’s the way it’s gonna be, that’s the way it’s gonna be. I rip off my glasses and set them on the side of my porch ledge. Can’t see a goddamn thing out of them anyways, they are so sweated up. I run into the house. My wife is in the kitchen. “Sharon, will you call my phone?”
“Just do it, please!”
“Why, did you lose your phone again?”
“Just do me a favor, and call, OK?”
“You lost your phone again, didn’t you?”
“Honey, JUST call my phone, OK? I will run back outside.”
I run to the pile collected next to the plastic can. I hear a vague buzzing sound. Great. I left my ringer off. I run my fingers through the
Listening and smoothing, spreading the leaves in a long line along the driveway. I still cannot find my phone. I run back inside, use my house phone, dial the number feverishly, set the phone down, sprint back outside, listening for that dull throbbing sound of my cell phone buzzer. Is this it? It’s got to be…
GOT IT!!! I have found the phone. Thank the Lord. OK, the hell with music, it’s a nice day. Just me and the sweet Autumnal sound of the rake. Who needs music on such a nice…
what the hell is that? That sound???
My back neighbor has fired up his leaf blower. Is there anything on planet Earth as obnoxious as the sound of a leaf blower? My neighbor, great guy that he is, has every power tool ever invented. A real “Man’s Kinda Man”, he drags them out at every opportunity. He’s always working on something. Fixing. Doing. Scraping. Hammering. Climbing. Sawing.
I hate him.
I get a call on my cell phone, now carefully placed in my back pocket.
“What ya doing”, comes the voice.
“Oh, that’s nice, a great day for it.”
“Yeah, and the good thing is, no wind at all.”
“Well, I won’t keep you, have fun raking.”
“Yeah, a lotta fun, talk to ya later.”
I hang up the phone. One second later the wind kicks in. One second. One… lousy SECOND . . .
the pile of
begin to scatter all over the yard, literally eliminating the work I have already done. The trees begin to drop more leaves in earnest. I look at my cell phone to call my friend back to commiserate over the irony of my last remark.
I can’t read the cell phone. My glasses aren’t on. I walk over to the edge of the porch, where I had placed them.
Not there. My eyeglasses are not there. The wind. The goddamn wind has apparently blown my eyeglasses into the
Now, here’s trouble. Expensive progressive, invisible multifocal lenses in my Ted Baker frame somewhere in a pile of… I won’t write the word, not now. Can’t bear to say it, even. I carefully walk around, sliding my foot slowly. The last thing I want is to scratch my new lenses.
I mean, how far could they possibly fall? The wind wasn’t that strong. Now, on my hands and knees, perspiring through my shirt (and what the hell is that all about? It’s November and I am boiling) I am gently, very gently moving these brown, paper thin gifts from hell. How long have I been looking? Five minutes? It seems like an hour. I mean, this is a pair of expensive eyewear! I keep expecting to hear a crack when I take a step, a lens crushing beneath my foot. I move a barrel out of the way, I gently rake a spot. Another spot. Another spot.
I look up at the sky, I curse the heavens, I swear as loudly as I can and throw the rake to the side. The wind picks up, the sun finally comes out. I see a dim refection off to the right, a spot that is simply not possible, yet, there they are! My eyeglasses, sitting gently on a pile of
Settling the eyeglasses back on my nose, I proceed. Rake. Pick up. Jam. Rake. Pick up. Jam. Change the bag. Rake. Pick up. Jam. Rake. Pick up. Jam. Change the bag. You get the picture. The wind continues but I learn that if you put the barrel on the downwind side the contents may actually fall in when you jam.
A full hour later I am finished. Exhausted. Need a strong drink. Maybe illicit drugs. Heroin might do. I look at them all. Twenty four bags all. Full. Proud. Very proud.
I have lined the bags up against the wall of my house. On Thursday night the good city of Lowell will pick them up and I am done.
I wake up the next morning. I look at my yard.
It is filled with
When these damn trees finish shedding their appendages, it will be Thanksgiving. Who knows how many more bags need to be filled. But, I think, when it’s done, it’s done. No more worries at all. The yard will be clear. All those beautiful bulbs I planted will be able to punch through the ground, and I will be able to see them. I mean, it’s not like I really have to worry about