Tony Rauch

and they pushed away their false myths
and were finally born unto god

          I notice a group of fellow suburbanites pushing their lawnmowers across my lawn. I step to the window and listen as their wheels gently squeak – squeak, squeak, squeak – a rhythmic, breathy hush – plastic turning, metal rattling. Their lawnmowers are square hunks of plastic and metal, some gleaming bright and new, others rusty, noisy and old. I study my neighbors. They seem to be pushing their lawnmowers with contempt, as if pushing false illusions, pushing away bad thoughts, bad vibes, out-dated expectations. Several of them have not shaved in days.
          I step outside as they pass, at first just watching, but soon find myself walking amongst them, initially out of child-like curiosity, but then basking in my own pride for them once their intentions are communicated to me.
          They tell me they want to salvage their lives, grow to a new purity, evolve into something special, unique, and undiscovered, finally breaking free into a lifestyle not sold out of glossy magazines from people in tall glass office towers in feudal kingdoms far off. They make a strong case for renouncing society, for shedding its pretenses and empty illusions. I explained that today is the day we mow our lawns. They say today is the day they say no. And soon I find myself holding my head high, proud that we agree on something, that we can connect and share something real and untainted – that I belonged in this new land we were going to forge.
          We walk under shadows and then into open sunlight, through the backs of expansive bright green lawns, under canopies of shade and then bright spots of sun, shadow and light, dark shadow and bright light, shadow and light, as we pass under tall trees and then back into open sunshine. We pass Bernie. Now Bernie, my dear fella, he sets his real low – like golf course level low. Yeah, you always had to wonder about a chap like that. Maybe it was the name, maybe that set him on the different path years ago and he could never find his way back. He went inside to call our wives. But we just continue on.
          We’re marching deliberately, walking to hide our lawnmowers, a bunch of us, this tribe in shiny nylon jogging suits, all colors and sizes. We are going to grow our grass out, as if growing out our hair in college. We are renouncing society’s conventions. Tease and ridicule all you want. What have you ever done? Go on, tell us. Let’s hear it. Watch my grass grow. Try and stop it. You can not. I know you’ll try, at first with your mockery and then with brute force. But we’ve got plans for your ridicule, your brute force, for your illusions. We’ll just ignore you. We’ve got better things to do. Go on, tell us what original thing you’ve ever done? Go vacation in a prison. Ask to volunteer at a morgue or funeral home. Death is beautiful – a place where we can all finally be complete – a finality, a commonality we can all share evenly. A place where we can all be the same, where we can all be together, where we can all be free. Death is beautiful. As beautiful as my growing grass. We can think for ourselves now. We don’t need any more crutches to lean on. Finally we have something in common to share - the grass, the long ragged, wild swaying grass – something that isn’t an empty illusion, a lie – something that isn’t confined, contrived, something finally wild and free, like out in the countryside, the way nature intended.
          They go on to spread their doctrine of organic nature and purity, preaching to me as we squeak squeak squeak along our determined march of beauty and freedom. They explain that the world is devoid of reliable answers – only half answers, guesses, and false reflections – everything a deal. Grow your lawn, let freedom reign. Suddenly I want to paint my house black. Inside and out. A shining, enduring, “forever” kind of black. Let the grass glow. Let’s get lost. Lost in our cool green world, the grass that we can share without limits or borders. We can use that time we wasted on our lawn care to lay in our hammocks and gaze up at the beautiful passing clouds, contemplating our spirits, like brave frontiersmen from a more pure era, fending off weekly bear attacks instead of complaining every time we break a shoelace – complaining about our coworkers, our roommates, our bosses, our significant others, our commutes, our tee times, our interest rates, our invisible numbers – whining, grumbling, gossiping, plotting, failing – cultivating a culture of complaint.
          But then there is trouble. We can not decide on which path to take to ditch our lawnmowers. Some of us want to go this way, others think it’s best to go that way. Pointing ensues. Factions form. “What difference does it make which way we go?” I cry, still pepped-up on the notion of casting off pretensions. “Let’s just go!”
          “We each must find our own place, our own way,” one of the cooler heads counsels. “Our own way to hide our lawnmowers on our own terms. Our own place which is comfortable to each one of us. It’s a personal thing after all.”
          “I’m tired. Will someone hide my lawn mower for me?”
          “I’d like to turn back and go home.”
          “I want some ice cream.”
          “I want to go to the park.”
          “Come on, we’re in this together.”
          “Are we all basically the same? Or are there subtle differences. Do we really have differences, or just subtle choices and manifestations.”
          “I’d say there are too many choices, so many temptations, so many ways to dump our mowers. I just can‘t decide. How will I know which way is best?”
          “I have nothing to say, but look at me, look at me – I’m a politician. I enjoy complaining and pointing out flaws, blaming others. I’m talking, so I must be important.”
          “Our frailties and weaknesses will drive us apart!” I warn. Little did these brave pioneers realize that what they are, in effect, actually revolting against is the human condition itself. For here we are, marooned down here, confined in situations to which they have not been consulted. I think about bringing this angle to the surface, but then I reconsider, realizing this issue is a torment best left for another day. For today is a celebration, a ritual of action against inaction, a recalibration, a celebration of freedom. “We are together on a mission. Each of us to grow out our lawns, grow out our lives, to grow into beautiful mysterious jungles of freedom and color.”
          “Yeah, really. It doesn’t matter who hides each lawnmower where. In the ravine. Down by the swamp. Over in the weeds up at the creek. Up behind the cemetery. Let’s just do it and be done with it. That’s the important thing – the end result – the abandoning of norms and shackles. Let the grass grow!”
          “Hooray!” we all rejoice, for we all care. “Hooray!” And we each go off in our own direction to hide our lawnmower in manners of our own choosing. And our grass grows, and our hair grows, and we all feel a little less constrained, a little more relaxed, a little more original, a little more free.

Tony Rauch has four books of short stories published – I’m right here (spout press), Laredo (Eraserhead Press), Eyeballs growing all over me . . . again (Eraserhead Press), and What if I got down on my knees? (Whistling Shade Press).

He has been interviewed and/or reviewed by the Prague Post, the Oxford Univ student paper in England, Rain Taxi, the University of Cambridge paper, MIT paper, Georgetown University paper, Iowa State paper, and the Savanna College of Art and Design paper, among many other publications.

He can be found at: http://trauch.wordpress.com/
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