HOW THE HUMAN GOT HIS FREE WILL • by Deven D Atkinson

The droning roar of the lawnmower directly outside the window was not the source of Rudy’s irritation. Nevertheless he used it as a reason to lash out. He grabbed a crutch and knocked out the dowel rod support. The window closed with a crash.

He knew that Samuel David wasn’t mowing the lawn correctly. He just knew it. It being the boy’s first time doing the job was no excuse. The mower was moving north-south when it should have been moving east-west.  When he’d opened the window minutes before, the brick lined flowerbed in the corner of the front yard had grass clippings strewn over its rose bushes; evidence that Samuel David had mowed around it clockwise despite instructions to do the opposite. Rudy’s hands shook in anger as he grasped the TV remote and stabbed at the volume button in a vain attempt to drown out the northbound lawnmower.

***

Rudy stood at the patio doors looking out on the expansive backyard. The sound of the riding lawnmower had moved to the west side of the house nearest to the Baxters’. His leg inside the hip-high cast ached a bit. Sweat beaded on his forehead, his blond curls plastered down and looking very brown. His chest heaved as he surveyed the damage. Here and there the seed heads of the rye grass still stood. In spite of his careful counseling, Samuel David had driven too fast over the septic leach lines and the thicker, lusher grass had avoided — no, defied — the lawnmower’s sharp blades. The boy had also cut a few corners short and left entire swaths of grass, nearly an inch wide and over eighteen inches long, still standing. Rudy absently pounded a crutch against the door jam. Sweat poured down his neck and back, not from the exertion of standing and hobbling the few yards to the patio door, nor from the pain of his mending femur, but from the frustration, irritation and anger that consumed him.

***

The ice in the glass of tea jingled. Rudy again sat in the reclining chair, the TV volume at a reasonable level. His hands still shook. He knew that there had not been enough time between when Samuel David had turned off the mower and the garage door rumbled closed on its tracks for the boy to have properly cleaned the mower for storage. No way in hell had he hooked up the garden hose and washed it down.

He had never been close to Samuel David and was shocked to learn that the boy had insisted on staying with him during his recuperation from the car wreck. The boy’s mother had taken him away in the divorce, and Rudy had only seen him during the year-end holidays, sometimes during spring break, and just a few weekends each summer. The lonely intervening years since the divorce, and its court mandated counseling, had forced him to acknowledge the abusive bastard that he was. For the first time Rudy was confronted with realization that recognizing his bad behavior and controlling it were two completely different things. The iced tea jingled as he took another gulp.

“I’m done with the lawn.”

Rudy grunted, fingering the crutch on the right hand side of the chair. His boy stood there with a lopsided grin on his face. Sweat from the early summer heat wave had left tracks on his face and neck. His own blond curls were plastered to his forehead. It was obvious the boy had worked hard. But as Rudy’s own father use to say, “No amount of hard work can make up for sloppiness.” His father had finally beaten that lesson into him when he was about Samuel David’s age. It was part of the hard lessons on how to clean your bedroom properly, wash the car correctly, mow a lawn perfectly; and all the rest. Lessons on showing others the pride you took in your work. Lessons on how the work had to be done “Just So” to keep it from being a worthless embarrassment. Rudy increased his grip on the crutch and leaned forward so that the boy could not see the rage on his face. Only the white knuckles of his hand clutching the crutch betrayed him.

“You think you did a good job?” he asked.

The boy nodded, his attention drifting to the baseball game on the TV. “Well, the lawn sure doesn’t look as good as when you mow it, Dad. Want to take a look and give me some more pointers? Just so I can do better next time?”

“Just so… just so…” With the force of a lifetime’s worth of pent-up anger, Rudy let go.

He swallowed hard, twice, dropped the crutch and reached for the cell phone on the end table. “Just so that it’s done, Sam, just so that it is done. Now, take a shower, and I’ll order us a pizza for dinner.”

“No mushrooms?”

“No mushrooms.”


Deven D Atkinson is a computer programmer living in rural Southern Ohio.  Besides appearances at Every Day Fiction he has stories in “The Infinity Swords” anthology published by Carnivah House, and Abandoned Towers.


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 average 5 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • But I **LIKE** mushrooms on my pizza! Well, no, that’s not why I couldn’t give this a five.
    It was pretty good, well written, but I felt the ending fell kind of flat. No real climax, made the whole thing seem like more of a character sketch.

    (P.S. Rudy wouldn’t like the way I mow a lawn, either.)

  • Jen

    Heh heh, this one was cute. At first I didn’t get that it was his son mowing his lawn.

  • Excellent. Very well written, I could feel the building tension as the lawnmower traveled in the “wrong” direction.

    There was a very slight POV jolt with Rudy’s curls looking very brown, but I still give this five stars.

  • Insightful. Well written.
    Seems like it should have been an excerpt from either “Anger Management” or
    “As Good As It Gets”
    5 stars

  • Another unique Deven Atkinson piece. Very nice.

  • Alvin

    Kids now-a-days! #$&%^$# Doesn’t everyone know how to mow a lawn correctly! …. Oh … um … hi.

    Great piece. While I have to agree with Jim somewhat, about the ending, I didn’t mind so much. It’s a great snapshot at this point in the relationship. The writing kept me going till the end. I like that.

  • Tyrean

    I really liked that the ending didn’t go the way it seemed like it would – many stories just build up and release the tension in a standard “protanganist takes out his frustrations” kind of way. I’m thankful that this character actually let go of his anger differently. I don’t think that makes the piece flat . . . but maybe it convicts the readers who expect the usual.

  • Sharon

    I really like this. Apparently, something of Rudy’s counseling broke through just at the right time. I wish I hadn’t been such a control freak parent, too.

  • Thanks for the comments everyone. I like having stories published here because is the direct, insightful, comments.

  • J.C. Towler

    Kids mowing the grass? Being polite to their parents? What is this, some kind of twisted science fiction story? Time travel perhaps? 🙂

    Not bad. I actually liked it better the 2nd time through.

    –John

  • Enjoyed this piece, thanks.

  • The author’s son

    Some of you have it a little wrong. This was perhaps the biggest climax Rudy would ever have.

  • Ross

    Was Kipling really that anal retentive?

  • Darlett

    Wow, I agree with your son. I am glad that Rudy CHOSE to order Pizza.