Today, Eileen said to me, “You know what this house needs?” I responded by saying, “Yes, actually. You told me yesterday.” But she proceeded to list, “a new roof, new kitchen cabinets, a paint job on the outside, and some landscaping.”
So I borrowed an axe and chopped down one of the offending trees in the backyard — offending because it’s not real attractive and since it’s growing to close to the house. It wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but it turned the trick. Eileen came out just as it was falling over, and then almost wordlessly, we started working on clearing some more of the mess of young trees, bushes, and weeds lining the back of the house.
Our backyard is actually pretty cool, but we’re not really all that quick on the upkeep. Still, it’s much better than Boo Radley’s. Boo is our backdoor neighbor; his yard is directly behind ours. Once, a few years ago, a huge tree in his yard fell into ours. It smashed through our fence and made a big mess. That was the only time I’ve ever spoken to Boo. He told me to just give him the bill for the clean-up and fence repair, but we procrastinated on the fence repair for a while and when we finally got around to calling fence companies, nobody would come out to look at it even. I eventually did it myself a year or two later and never got around to billing Boo cuz it was so ridiculously late.
A couple of summers ago, right before we left for Ecuador, we heard a rumor that the city was requiring Boo to do some yard work. For years, he had simply let everything grow and it was truly a mess. There was a tree leaning precariously over his roof; unkempt bushes and weeds crowded his tiny front yard; the backyard was a veritable prairie, full of grass that grew up to three feet in the summer.
Sure enough, one day a for-hire grounds crew was working in the backyard. I spoke with a guy operating one of those mow-anything lawn mowers that you used to see for sale on late night commercials. He confirmed the rumor and explained how bad it was — baby trees growing in gutters, stuff like that.
When we got back from Ecuador last summer, I was amused to see a lawn mower sitting in the middle of Boo’s yard amidst the three-foot high grass. It remained there all winter, which also amused me, and it’s still there now. I’m still amused. But here’s the kicker: near the lawn mower and barely visible under the cover of field grass, there’s a small garden gnome, a little like the one that was in Amelie.