Operation Tidy

Clouds had massed and greyed and closed in. They hung low and sunlight became opaque and filtered. It even felt as if the temperature dropped. It had been steadily heating up all morning. Now it was early afternoon and the two white-skinned figures stood on the broad green grass under a diminished golden orb and looked a bit silly under their wide brimmed hats. There were no shadows. The sun had been too high, and now it was gone.

The two figures looked at each other, conversed briefly, and commenced their work.

The sun came back out with a dramatic flourish. It was prickly and bright, and it stung.

One figure crouched behind the wire fences overgrown with passionfruit vines and rose thorns and long grass, and began to pull at the soil. It was slow, methodical work. Unwanted vegetation piled up roughly where it had been discarded, as weeds and extraneous growth was removed. The space was shaped and ordered and rationalised. A pathway became visible. The planting scheme became logical. The worker wiped the back of a glove across the forehead, and did more weeding. Periodically the figure stood and gathered up piles of uprooted material and tossed it beyond the boundary of the wire fence, and the little garden consequently became neater, and more like a bed of herbs, with strawberries, and a fern in the corner which refused to die and was kept for sentimental reasons.

The other figure hunched as it moved around, beneath fruit trees, raking up old and squashed pieces, and then used a shovel to collect the pulped and rotten remains which the birds had left and slung them into a tall bin with wheels on it. The bin stank and flies circulated. Occasionally the figure picked up remnants of dog dropping in the shovel, and these too ended up in the bin, it was unavoidable, and gradually the ground beneath the peach trees looked better. It was just grass now, but it was ungainly and disordered and it couldn’t be left like that.

Out came the lawnmower and the second figure trudged and slouched and pushed and pulled it. The machine moved across the ground, tidying relentlessly as it went, describing a pattern of jagged lines, up and back, which were not at all obvious when the length of the grass had been sufficiently reduced and it became a neat lawn once more, beaming back up at the refulgent sky.

And the two figures again met in the middle of the backyard. They piled the cut off bits of plant and the weed and overgrowth into the bin, by the armful, and their arms became itchy. Sweat ran down their faces. They mopped their brows with the upper part of their sleeves. Grass clipping were heaved into the bin, on top of the rest.

The whipper snipper was the last machine to be used. It sputtered into life and soon it roared and reacted like a weapon designed to exact revenge. Lengths of grass on the fence line and at other edges exploded when the cord came into contact with them, and fragments scattered, and a new series of untidy green piles were formed at the perimeter of the property. The slouched figure felt something damp and green and dangerous fly into an eye, and the machine was turned off for the day.

A pair of dogs came out when they heard a neighbour move a bin in their driveway. They ran out, growling, and barking, and when they saw the neighbour and recognised him they kept barking, this time with excitement at seeing a friend. Tails wagged and he said hello over the fence. The dogs were pleased that machines had been turned off.

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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