Clear

The task at hand.

This morning was one of those Zen dawns with no color, no real light for a while, but a nice cool breeze and very gentle rain. It felt good to be outside, and not have insects buzzing around and without the humidity trying to kill me. I’ve been waiting for this morning to arrive, because the back fenceline desperately needs attention, and so many things have gotten in the way of me getting back there and getting the job done.

I have to cross over the fence into my neighbor’s property to hack down a bunch of stuff because wild grape wines, as well as a few other species of vines, are getting on the electric fence and that will eventually cause a short. The wild grape vines do not produce wild grapes, tame grapes, wine grapes, or any other grape, but their leaves look like the leaves of grape vines, so that’s where they got their name. 

The vines have partners in crime. American Beautyberries, a waist high bush with small purple berries, grow in abundance in South Georgia. The vines use these bushes as launching pads towards the top of the fence, so the plan is to clear a section five feet wide and go after any bigger vines if I can get to them, and I have a bush hook, so yeah, I can. 

Slow Progress, and more to go!

It’s a cool day, I feel good, it’s early in the morning, kinda, and it feels good to swing hard and work muscles again. I had major surgery late last year, and this is the first time I’ve really set out  to push, and push hard, my body with this sort of work. The bush hook is a great tool for clearing and the best piece of exercise equipment a human can own. 

There’s vines growing up out of the ground that have cut marks on them, where I hacked on them three years ago. The vine will grow from another shoot, not the old one, so I can tell how many times I’ve cut them. None of this stuff is big but it is thick, and it is bushy as hell. I hack, and hack, then push the stuff away from the fence, hack so more, push some more, and slowly, a path is cleared. 

Hacking isn’t just hacking away at a clump of vines or bushes, or both. There’s a system here, depending on where the open part is, where I need for it to be, and how close to the ground I can cut the bushes, or the stems of the vines. Position of the target dictates position of my body, how much power I have to use, how well I can aim, and I can cut exactly where I want the blade to be. I use a slight slicing movement when I swing, and again, depending on what I am cutting and where, that will decide which side of the blade I use; the flat side for thicker stuff, the side with the hook for vines, so they cannot slip away uncut. I’ve been using a bush hook for decades now, and it’s a part of my body when I work. 

The Rescued Tree

It’s work. It’s hard work. The day wears on and I am wearing down. My breath is quicker and heavier. The handle turns in my hands as my strength ebbs. But fatigue and I are also old friends. I know my limits, or I once did, and this is the first test of my strength and endurance since December of last year. I know better than to push too hard, but where is the point I ought to quit? Isn’t quitting just as bad as going too far, when I have already finished more than half?  

The last twenty feet or so aren’t thick but the twenty feet before that is the very thickest. There’s an Oak tree being strangled to death by vines in that mess, so I decide to, at a minimum, rescue the tree. I have to cut wider to get the debris out of the way. Vines stealing the crown of the tree have to be pulled down. The remnants of bushes and the still grabby vines try to bring me down, because they sense my weakness. Stumbling, yet still upright, I swing away, much less able to hit a target, my hands slipping, my breath ragged, yet moving forward, cutting bush and vine, and making progress. 

An After Photo of the very bushiest part, shown in the first photo.

Suddenly, I reach the end. I’m careful now, tired, no, not tired, I am exhausted. Sweat dries quickly because of low humidity and it is still a beautiful day. There’s nothing about how I feel that seems to indicate injury, but oh yeah, I am going to feel this tomorrow and maybe for a few days to come. I climb the fence to get back over to my property and Budlore Amadeus awaits and escorts, his stubby tail wiggling. The walk to the shed to put the bush hook, hat and gloves seems overly long. 

My left hand isn’t fully functional at the moment. It’s cramping up and hurts. My knees ache. My back? HAHAHAHA! That’s going to be interesting tomorrow, certainly. I cannot remember the last time I was this tired. Yet this is exhaustion, my paycheck from swinging a bush hook for three hours. I have cleared the entire back fence line on the back side. I feel good, my body responded to my demands for more when there didn’t seem to be any, and the job is done. 

It feels good. I feel like me again. 

Take Care,

Mike Firesmith

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

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Yesterday, I took the bush hook out and hacked and hacked and hacked some more, and finally got to where there was a tree that needed to be removed from the fence. I woke up stiff as hell and sore, but I also needed to finish mowing, from two days ago, and get the weed eater out. I need to rewire the fence’s electric wire, but there is no point in doing that until I can get some work done is getting the fenceline clear. But first I have to finish mowing.

 

Many year ago I had a dream where I was sitting in a house, smoking pot with some friends, and this guy just walks in with a shotgun and blows this other guy’s head off with it, and walks about again. There was smoke, blood, screaming, and everyone ran like hell out of the back door. Of course, once we were outside we realize the only phone was a landline inside, cell phones had not permeated by dream world at that point, and so we went back in. Well, the dead guy was not only not dead but he was standing up and even though most of his face was missing, he seemed pretty lively for someone who took a direct hit from a shotgun. We’re still thinking, okay, the dead dude isn’t dead, but he’s got to be injured severely, but no, he isn’t. We watch as his face slowly reforms and he tells us, “Stupid bugs, you’ve seen things you shouldn’t have.” And we run. And that’s more or less how the dream ended and the story died.

 

The mower doesn’t crank right off the bat and I feel that odd sense of dread that comes with dead lawn equipment and the relief of not having to mow today. But I would have to get the damn thing fixed today, which might be as bad as mowing. The mower roars to life and the debate ends. I have about thirty minutes in the front and all of the backyard to mow. It occurs to me that the story died a long time ago and I ought to try to bring it back. But how? First, aliens, supernatural creatures, or… something different. I’ve never had a story with…what?

 

The front yard is a curious mix of jungle envied Bahia grass and weeds from the woods. It’s a tough mow if I let it go, so I have to mow every five days or so. That last sentence could have been a poem, you know. It’s a yard that wants to be a jungle, not a jungle I’ve turned into a lawn. Back and forth, back and forth, and the area I have to mow shrinks. So, what if the dead guy who isn’t dead was a creature that comes from a race of beings that live exclusively in and around Black Holes? They’re intelligent enough to build bodies that mimic humans, but they are also creatures who spend their existences traveling through space in the blink of an eye, literally. Mostly, they are seekers of truth through science, but there’s a very small number of them who like to play with lesser beings, the way some humans use animals for entertainment.

 

I like this, I think, but it needs some work, and I have to get the weed eater out to cut the weeds in the Holey Land, that part of the yard marred by the diggings of two Giant Labs. My safety glasses are so fogged with humidity I cannot tell what I’m cutting so I have to stop. I can still clear around the fence, I just need a general idea of where to point the weed eater, so off I go, to clear around the inside of the fence.

 

So the Black Hole creatures here on Earth are renegades. They’re outcast from their own people. They have no physical form, so they create human bodies to live in. They have an innate ability to travel within certain forms of energy, so they travel instantly from one place to another, often leaving a dead body behind. The bodies appear to be human and only an inspection at the molecular level would indicate they are not.

 

Why are they here and what are they doing? I ponder that as I mow as closely to the Holey Land as I can. Boredom? Spite? You’d think an advanced civilization would be beyond that. But what if they’re not?

Weed eating goes well.  Children at the beach don’t think about the animals they kill collecting shells and sand dollars, so perhaps the Black Hole People just have no way to consider us as important enough to have empathy for at all. The two that are in the story use people in their own game of tag and if humans die then that’s part of the vacation.

 

I clear an area that is fairly large, and it’s now a place the dogs can run in the grass by the fence and see their feet. Hawks and Owls like short grass because it makes prey animals easy to see. And suddenly, I think, what would make one of these creatures more visible to another?

 

The story begins. There is a narrator, a man who is in terrible heath. He is only twenty-one but has heart problems and has had them since birth. He’s a very pale and very weak person, but brilliant. His friend is a very pretty but very unmotivated woman who he’s helped through High School and college. He has a crush on her, but he’s realistic about his chances with her. She likes guys with good drugs and money.

 

They’re at the narrator’s house an hour after the shooting. She’s explain how the man who got shot hired her to pose for photos, for really good money, but them started asking her to go to different countries, and for no good reason, asked her to leave a cell phone in various places. This frightens her, but at the same time, the pot is really good, the sex with the guy is great, and the money is more than she can get anywhere else.

 

The weed eater hits the fence and the hotwire wraps around the head of the weed eater and I get shocked. Oddly, the fence I still working so I have to go unplug it. The reason the alien has the woman drop off cell phones is they’re his conduit to difference locations. His opponent, with whom he’s sharing this friendly game, is doing the same thing. Both agree that the humans are as expendable as water bugs.

 

So, the woman theorizes that the alien has never intended for her to remain alive, knowing what she knows, and now the narrator realizes that he too is in danger. He asks her if she wants some hot chocolate and after he makes it, he hands it to her and tells her that he has always loved her, and that he has an idea how to get them out of all of this. As she stares at him, rapt in attention because he has always gotten her out of so much trouble before, he pulls a knife out and stabs her in the eye, killing her instantly.

 

The alien may just quit once she is dead, and he’s willing to take that chance

 

 

Take Care,

Mike

 

 

 

 

 

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won.

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In my defense, I did try to pull the old tree down a couple of times but it refused to yield. Chainsawing a derelict tree is iffy, even to professionals, because rotted trees fall in odd ways and in odd places. Yet, still, when it crashed into the front part of my shed I wished I had done more and even as I had the thought I should have done more, I went into full procrastination mode, and did nothing about the stuff in the shed. My reasoning was sound; the front end of the shed was wrecked, but the roof was still relatively intact, and the stuff inside was still dry. It was cold at the time, and I didn’t need the mower or the hand tools, or for that matter, the chainsaw at that point in time, so I just left it. Until I got another shed I would just leave it like it was.

 

Then I started night work, and that drained my energy down to nothing, and I knew I would have to mow, one day, and I knew the longer I let it go the worse it was going to get, but night work, exhaustion, and dread got the best of me. I decided to go into the shed today, and get the stuff out I could, put it on the porch if I had to, and mow the grass. It was time. I was looking to see where Lilith was earlier in the day and lost her in the backyard.

 

Yeah, I know, I know, don’t say anything, I know.

 

First, there was still part of the tree on the shed. I got the axe out and started chopping and Budlore Amadeus began barking at me. Every time I hit the tree with the axe, it made a deep resounding boom from inside the shed, like Grond was hammering away at it. This made for interesting tree removal, true, but it was a little funny. Once the tree was removed, I hard to unbend the shed as best I could, and say what you will about cheap metal sheds, but cheap metal is easy to bend. I got lucky; my metal rake was wrecked and the handle on the mower was a little misshaped, but all in all, most of the stuff was okay. Now, would the mower run? Yes, indeed, it would and it did. I was in business, except the grass was forest tall, and it was hot as hell. And I had been using an axe for the better part of an hour.

 

It was already one in the afternoon when I wrestled the mower into the front yard. I’m a push mower guy, yeah, really, because I don’t like the idea of being as out of shape as I am and paying five hundred bucks, or three times that much, or more, to sit and mow. Sure, this thing has gotten out of hand, certainly it’s going to be a bitch, but it’s going to be one hell of a workout. I decide to push, pull, and finesse this thing until I run out of gas, in the mower, and then take a thirty minute break. Usually, a tank of gas will nearly do the front and back yard, and I can get both done in two hours if I hurry, three if I do all the detail spots.

 

One hour later, I have an area mowed the size of my first apartment, minus the living room and kitchen. True enough, it’s the thickest and hardest part of the front yard, but I’m making zero progress at this point. Push, pull back, lift up, push, lift up quick as the mower nearly stalls, and the gnats are just about to carry me off like the Flying Monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. The tank runs dry shortly afterwards, and damn, this is going very slowly.

The first break I feel okay, but I can tell that my legs and back are getting a workout. I’ve got a good strategy in going slow, sectioning off the yard, cutting less than half the width of the mower, moving back and forth through the roughest part, and truly, I haven’t had to mower quit but once or twice. It’s slow, damnably slow, but I knew it would be.

Two hours later and I’ve got about half of the front yard done, with a patch that I’m going to have to attack with a weed eater to start it. There’s a pine tree there and there’s a billion cones, broken branches and a lot of debris. Fine. I expected that also. What I didn’t expect is to be two hours deep into this thing with just this to show for it. True, the thickest and hardest is done, but barely, and my body is beginning to protest. Still, after two hours, I still feel okay. During my break I take two aspirins and drink a lot of water. I may very well have two more hours to go just in the front yard. It’s not impossible, and I am running out of hours in the day.

 

Push, pull, lift, wait, and the grass is being cut and the hours are going by. My first real job was in the fields so there’s really nothing I will ever do that compares to that at all. This is bad, but it’s on my own terms. My back and legs are beginning to ache, however, and I can feel over half a decade of life hanging off of me. My making progress and can tell it down, driving deeply into the yard, narrowing the uncut area, and I wonder when we Americas lost the ability to appreciate hard work. There was a time everyone worked hard at something and now it seems nearly no one does. People don’t force their kids to take Summer job in the fields anymore, and you never see a kid pushing a mower. I’m sweating and it’s pouring off of my body, but it does feel good, this does. I can feel my body’s strength out here in the heat and the dust, and the tall grass, and it is a good thing. Do kids understand this feeling these days? Have they ever been pushed to the point where the work seemed endless, the days never-ending, and pay laughably low?

 

Three hours, and there’s a thin strip left. I have to refuel and take a break. It’s after five and I think I can knock this out before sunset. About ten minutes into the break the thunder kicks in and I go outside to make sure I can get the mower on the porch in case of rain. As I am pushing it the rain begins, hard, unrelenting, and incredibly cool. I’ve had more than my share of outside jobs where a rain like this was a benison. It feels good to be drenched to the bone, all the clothing wet, all the sweat swept away, and now, the day is done because of the rain. Put the tools away, go inside, and strip down in front of the washer, and then take a shower.

 

The day is done, even if there is still grass to mow. It doesn’t matter because I knew this would happen and it would be this way. I will likely sleep better much later on in the night, and feel good when I awake.

 

Take Care,

Mike