July 6th, 2004

consider it dug

my flesh began to swell.

Taking care of a home left to its own devices is hard work. The lawn needs to be raked before and after it is mowed, the weeds need to be sprayed with a weed-killer or pulled out by hand, the bushes need to be trimmed.

At the time, I was in the postage stamp-sized backyard; thick, slightly undersized work gloves covered my hands, a saw was in my right hand. I was doing my best to remove the trees.

The trees in question had to have been hardy fellows to have survived. They had managed to take root in the thin layers of dirt which were liberally sprinkled over cement, so a good number of the trees and weeds were able to be removed without any trouble. One of the trees, wedged in a shady corner behind the air conditioner, refused to cooperate. I was unsuccessfully yanking at the trunk, sweat trailing down my forehead and cheeks, when she came.

"She" was a little girl; a neighbor whose parents lived around the corner from her grandparents, who were my neighbors. She was wearing a pastel colored t-shirt with jean shorts. She held a paper cup with one hand while the other covered the top, as though she was attempting to prevent something to escape.

She was walking by as I straightened my back and wiped sweat from my forehead with the cloth covering my shoulder. She stopped, realizing that I was there.

"Can you keep a secret?" she asked me in a hushed tone. Having never talked to the girl before, I shrugged and nodded my consent.

She uncovered the cup and motioned for me to look in. "I'm trying to sneak it in 'cos one of the kids at the park said it was all alone and its family died. It's a baby hamster and it's lonely!" she burst out.

I said the first - and only - thing that came to mind at the sight of the small brown creature. "That's really cute."

Nodding furiously, she spoke up again. "They won't let me have it so I'm gonna bring it in and hide it and keep it company," and at that, her eyes gained a youth-like look of hope, of the sort of innocence which is lost once a child realizes that the world is not as perfect as they had formerly believed. "I need to go."

I gave a sort of half smile and she scurried off, rushing to her grandparents' house. I turned back to the tree - which, at six and a half feet tall, defeated my own five feet and nine inches by a significant margin. I reached out, wrapped my glove-covered hands around the trunk, and yanked with all of my force.

Moss and wet dirt were displaced as the roots were released from their tenuous grasps. I grinned with success, tossed the tree upon the pile of previously uprooted weeds and trees as a symbol of my macho manliness, and wiped my forehead again.


The next day, I was taking the garbage out the back door. It's an awkward task, taking out the garbage - no one ever wants to admit defeat to a pile of refuse. The simplest way is to gather every bag, box or item and drag it out to the curb in one go.

I managed to step away from the door as it slammed shut, narrowly missing my arm. I winced under the effort of carrying so many pounds of trash, ground my teeth, and walked toward the street.

As I returned to the house, ignoring all but the inane need of soap and water, I stepped upon something which laid upon the ground. It made a sickening crunch as I treaded on it. Continuing to walk, I turned to see what had made the noise without really noticing that I had turned.

A tiny paper cup.
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