That yard was out to get me: to make me pay for his neglect. I’d cared too much about the inside and, jealous, possessive, he’d lost his muddy mind. I’d been keeping my eyes up, you know; worrying too much over the above-ground happenings: erratic employment, broken family, troubled friends and their alcohol-fueled urges to star on the nightly news.
My lawn complained. At first, I ignored his gentle whine of crabgrass, the infringement of dandelion, and the breach of a few bare patches. Then, earthquakes, erosion– he cursed upon me every kind of summer heat and back-break pain.
After all that I did! And I did come back and try to make amends. I mowed and nourished him; watered, weeded, thatched and re-seeded that suicide self-destruct fescue. But one blade whispered its infestations to the next. A martyr too, next thing I knew, he’d poisoned his own well. He cultivated bad habits, and invited the Mole in. I could see the trails of dead; moving grass, tunnels of hollow rising across my beloved. My band of land was a solid ocean mess of waves, dried dark brown, and a gravy grave of gray.
Once, my love had been only a man, but as you know, metaphors are everywhere and I began to see him in all his forms. So long ago, we’d gone to the ocean together. I’d watched the sun play on his skin, dapples golden then, the salt silver waves divided against and around his strong legs. There was my first hint: Mole, the ocean-break. Back then, it was so much prettier than this.
The trouble began in August, when she moved in. When my lover, my world, left me for the woman with the mole on her cheek. The beauty birthmark echoed before me, and beneath my feet. I’d never met her—she’d done nothing to me. But how I hated the Mole.
All the while, the neighbor snakes hissed. Spreading secrets, seeds for weedy egos, they dug in their insults for me to water and mow. How it hurt! Every step I took, I sank deep into once-firm earth that now gave in like a wet sponge from my weight, from my wait for him. I’d pleaded, pulling, trowelling on my hands and knees. Come back! I love you, can’t you see?
He smirked a cruel crack of dust. He’d won his wormy word wars. But where had my green grass gone?
As I knew of the Mole, she too, knew of me. I caught her peeking in my window. Her beady black eyes tried to gauge the contrast of our dirt days. From beneath my curse, she found her relief. Her gray smoke body spied what differences lay between her and me. Intruding upon my space with her moley face, the Mole had become a mole.
For them both, I wished the worst. I dreamed one day I’d find her, bloodied snout, blind eyes, crashed against the sidewalk curb.
“Poor stupid, I was once you,” I’d say, remembering how I’d cozied down the last winter with him. To all reason I’d been blind, deaf, and dumb; rotting away with the grubs and the cigarette butts. Sad baby badger, under his mud-love, I knew she’d smother. Little pig-mouse, maybe she’d plunder the roots, my bulbs, and move on. Or else, just bleed here, over him, like me. With its fickle seasons, the Earth is an evil place.
But there was no need for revenge. I knew, in time, that my patch of world would lose even more ground, gain only shit and bits of dead heart and bone. And the Mole? She too, would die, burrowed in him like a cancer, leaving only the yellowing specks of her ugly rodent teeth, her tearing nails, lost in decomposed velvet. Let her soft body rot into the larger mess of him.
Prayers are less selfish than spells, and so I pray that the metaphors will fade. I pray for the loss of my angry self. I pray to truly not care. But my yard is wanting; full of blood meal now.
Did my yard really think I’d keep up the work? Did it really believe I’d edge the dead and overlook these hills and holes? Unforgivable, unforgivable. And the neighbors? Let them talk. I live above ground. Over this poison that I’ve set, I smile, and wait, raking over deserving terra firma. Incantations are right, sometimes. As cute as they can be, rodents spell sacrifice, and I’ve stopped crying over dirt.
Julia Gordon-Bramer is currently a candidate for a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri- St. Louis. She recently published a story in Carve Magazine, taking second place in their 2007 national Raymond Carver Short Story contest. She placed second in the James M. Nash 2006 short story contest, and she won first and second place in the 2007 Deane Wagner Poetry Contest (both sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild). Additionally, she is a 2002 finalist for the national William Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress Creative Writing Award, a board member of River Styx literary magazine, and a Member of Distinction (2005, 2006, 2007) with the St. Louis Writers Guild and author of a memoir, NIGHT TIMES, currently seeking publication.