This story is for a writing class that I just started. It was based on an exercise we did in class that used two prompts supplied by classmates. We were given about half an hour to come up with a story and then share those tales with small groups. The prompts I received were "Your friends will find you" and "A friend borrows your lawnmower". We weren't strictly held to using the topics - they merely provided a jumping off point. As you'll see if you read it, I took some liberties with the idea of friends and borrowing both. I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to critique the piece in the Comments section.
It really was a great lawnmower. He hoped they would let him cut the front yard. It really did need it.
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He had always admired the men on the street as a boy. He’d watched them pull into their driveways in their sparkling Buicks and Cadillacs, their suits well pressed, ties straight. They would stride into their fine homes, briefcases in hand, where their wives and children would be waiting for them, dinner on the table. It was on Saturday when the magic would begin. The morning would break with birdsong and the occasional barking dog but soon the silence would be punctured by the drone of small motors up and down the block as the men of Cherry Lane began the weekend ritual of trimming, raking, tidying.
As a boy he'd had no particular brand preference. In fact, as a boy he hadn’t known anything about makes or models - only colour. There were black and red, several hues of green, orange. He had loved the colours. Later, when he had grown older and inherited the responsibility for the yard work after his father had dropped dead in the driveway from a heart attack, he had come to appreciate the finer points of lawn care equipment. Things like baggers, mulching and separate tanks for oil and gas rather than the hassle of mixed fuel had become important.
But through the years the novelty had faded. He had tried to to find inspiration by carving profanity on the lawn as he cut, but the joy in that had passed quickly too. He had continued to push the envelope, striving for the pleasure he remembered from childhood. He modified his mower, adding knobby tires, strips of purple lights that glowed beneath the deck, hydraulics that raised and lowered the rig with the flip of a switch. He had it painted an iridescent gold with metallic flake and blazing red flames. The euphoria lasted a single season. He upgraded, buying a mower with more levers, switches and wires. No love.
So he began venturing out. It started with the boulevard. One Saturday after he finished his own lawn he pushed his mower out into the street and cut the centre strip of grass that divided the two lanes. When the people in the oranges vests from Public Works came by on Monday they seemed puzzled by the freshly shorn grass. The next week he decided to raise the stakes. On Friday when his neighbours climbed into their cars and headed off to work he phoned in sick. And then he began to cut.
At first everyone seemed to take it in stride. They were all neighbours, friends even, sharing laughs and Coronas over the barbecue in summer and swapping cards at Christmas, so the initial reaction was to receive his work as a gift. But as the weeks tumbled on, and the cutting continued, people began acting strangely towards him. Women would pull their children tight to their sides and hustle the other way when they saw him on the sidewalk. Men began to cross the street to avoid him on their way to the mailbox.
And then one day his mower was gone. In it’s place was a note.
— BORROWED YOUR LAWNMOWER, THANKS —
The note wasn't signed and there was no indication of just how long it would be gone. He thought of calling the police but the note had said it had been borrowed. Surely whomever had borrowed it would return it soon. Saturday came and went and the lawnmower had still not been returned nor had he seen anyone using it as he had stalked the street looking for it.
He waited another three days and then decided he would need to go find it. When the sun set he began prowling through the backyards and sheds of the neighbourhood. It was in the Tomlinson’s shed where he finally found it, tucked into the back corner and covered with an old sheet. He knew the outline immediately when the beam from his flashlight washed over it. He uncovered it and quickly checked for signs of abuse. Under the glow of his flashlight all seemed to be in good order but he would need to give it a more thorough inspection upon returning home. As he wheeled it out of the shed the strong spring on the door swung it shut with a bang that echoed like a gunshot in the still night.
A light came on in the Tomlinson house and as he made his way through the gate from the backyard to the driveway another light came on across the street. Soon he was running down the street, mower in front of him, moving as quickly as he could. He pulled up short in front of his house where a group of men from the block waited in his yard, standing on the much too long grass. He heard the pounding of feet on asphalt and looked back in the direction from which he had just come. Men were running down the sidewalk and the street, quickly closing on him.
He squatted beside his mower and pushed the rubber orb that primed the motor. Push and hold. Push and hold. Push and hold. Three times. It started on the second pull of the cord. He would need to change the spark plug soon. The hum of the motor eased the tightness he was feeling in his chest.
“There’s nowhere to go. We’ll find you,” came a voice over the whirr of the motor.