The smell of gas fumes the air.
I watch Jones glide the lawn mower back and forth over his jagged lawn. Pada-ping-pada-ping. The machine grumbled at its work. A rock flew from its blade, just shy of my yard.
Daisy, Jones’s old boxer, eyed the mower with suspicion, lowering her floppy face and baring her teeth every time it swished by.
I leaned back in my lawn chair, tasting a cool sip of beer on my tongue. It was only nine in the morning but this August day was already at ninety. Today would be a scorcher.
I caught sight of Ms. Bell scurrying out her door. She was in a blue floral dress with a bible tucked under her arm. She scowled at me as she hopped in her car.
I snickered. Must be Sunday.
I let my head drift back to gaze at the sky, a thundering blue with no cloud in sight. I could feel the sweat starting to bead on my face, my cotton tee soaking it all in.
A tiny voice yelled at me from the sidewalk. I lowered my eyes to find a short little tyke on a scooter. He was covered for any accident. Boots, gloves, helmets, and knee pads. Some mother loved him.
“Are you dead?” he continued.
My eyes widened at this one. I contemplated for a second on letting my tongue loll out to give him a show but then I thought of that mother that had armored him. I could see it playing all out. Her coming over here yelling and lecturing me about the frailty of children. It wasn’t the threats that scared me. It was the fact of how much she really believed it.
I sighed. “Do I look dead?”
The boy scrunched his eyes, thinking. “Well, you’re really old. You have wrinkles and stuff.” He fidgeted. “And Peter says you smell like poop.”
I leaned hard onto my elbow. You have to earnestly try to not get offended by little folk sometimes.
“So wrinkles make you dead, eh?” I asked.
He nodded quickly. “You have to be old to die, sir.”
I smiled. To be so ignorant is some kind of blessing. Life is so simple; if only it would stay that way.
I twisted my finger at the boy and beckoned him closer. He laid his bike gently on the sidewalk and tip-toed on the grass, giving glances to his backside. His knee pads let out a squeak with each step.
“It doesn’t bite, you know?” I told him as he took a place next to me, motioning toward the grass.
He eyed my bare feet and shifted his weight. “Dad says little boy’s feet will make the grass angry. It will get so angry that it will turn white and then it’s not pretty.”
“Ah, well don’t worry about my grass. It only gets mad at girls.” I winked.
I settled back in my chair and took another sip. “Now I had you on over here because my hearing’s not so good cause, well you know, I’m old. But I also had a special thing to tell you too, I had to make sure you were listenin’.”
The boy squatted closer to me, anticipation spreading across his face.
“I’m not dead. Very much alive in fact. My hearts a pumpin’ and my mind is going. Just like you. Just cause I got a funk to me and some grey don’t mean I’ve gone to the underground, understand? Some folk would find it rude from what you just said to me you know. You got to watch your words.”
“You are going to get old one day too. You’ll be out in your lawn watchin’ the neighbors, enjoyin’ your beverages.” I raised my can. “It’ll be good time, I promise.”
He smirked. “I’m never going to be old. I ate fairy dust.” He raised his eyebrows, waiting for a response.
I knew what I could say.
But I didn’t.
I let my jaw drop open. “All be darned, you’re one lucky boy. I searched for that same dust when I was your age. Never found it though. And just look at me,” I tossed my hands up.
He shook his head in pity. Suddenly, a wild look passed over his face and he bolted towards his scooter.
“Where you going so fast there?” I yelled.
“I just remembered that I have some left over. I mean, I can’t bring you back to where you were, but I can save you now, before you get really old.” He started pushing off toward the street.
I laughed, wondering what defined really old. I stood up and shouted, “You better hurry along then, who knows how much time I’ve got!”
He shot me back a thumbs up as his little legs pushed against the asphalt with a crazed excitement. I watched as he crept out of my sight, back from where he had came.
I nestled back into my chair and pulled out another cold one. I wondered if he would bring me sugar from his mother’s cooking jars or salt even. If only it could really save me.
He could never understand life the way I did now. With age comes more responsibility. More truth. More lies. People cherish you until you are a burden. Then they toss you aside like any used item. They don’t have time for you and your needs. It doesn’t matter how much of your life was spent tending to them. In the end, you’re just another carcass waiting to be buried underground. To be shared with dirt and worms.
I sighted recalling the similarity found in both him and me. By the time he gets home, he will forget why he even came.