Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wondered if maybe I was a little bonkers, but it wasn’t until the morning of April second, while I stood before my rose bushes with hands on hips, that I ever really considered the fact that I may be insane. A certain patch of grass in my yard, under which Dean Percel lay decomposing, had appeared brighter, greener and healthier, and it pleased me so much that I suddenly wondered if it was normal to consider a human being, even Dean, as fertilizer. Everyone always knew he was a piece of shit, anyway. Right?
I couldn’t even really be sure that the grass was greener and if it was, I had no way of knowing if it had anything to do with him.
Before we go any further, it’s important that you know Dean. He was a married man who cheated relentlessly on his wife, played golf at the country club, told sexist jokes, and referred to Mexicans as “wetbacks”. Because he was a professional man in a high ranking position at J. Sutton and Associates, he kept his colorful remarks to the confines of the office of Sutton and his associates, of which I am acquainted, although I’m certainly not J. Sutton. I’m not even one of his associates. I am an employee who worked on the same floor as Dean, and now, wearing my enormous straw gardening hat and oversized yellow gardening gloves, I stared off into the sunlight with the intention of giving serious thought to my moral code for having whacked him. As soon I looked up from my grass, however, I saw my neighbor, Helen the Baptist, waving wildly at me from the furthest corner of her yard, where she was snipping an unruly bush with a pair of shears.
“Good morning, Andrea!” Snip, snip, snip. “Sun’s shining bright!” Now playing the role of Captain Obvious: Helen. “God must be in a wonderful mood!” Snip.
It’s impossible for Helen to have any conversation without mentioning the Almighty. When she found out I didn’t go to church, she made sure to mention Him even more than usual. She figures if I see how fabulously kind and content she is, I’ll want to be fabulously kind and content too, which means I’ll find Jesus. When you live in the deep South and people find out you don’t go to church, you don’t get blacklisted. You get put on the Unsaved list, which is worse.
“Morning, Helen,” I said.
She knew nothing about Dean, of course. As far as she was concerned, the only things I had in my backyard were two rose bushes and a magnolia tree.
It’s bizarre. Week after week, I nod hello to the mailman and wave hello to the lawn boy, all while a dead man sits under eight feet of dirt in my backyard.
But for now he’s not our concern.
We’re concerned with Helen the Baptist, because she had now put her shears on her neatly mowed lawn in preparation to walk toward me at the fence line. She wanted to engage me in some friendly-neighbor conversation.
Helen is an older lady with gray hair. She has that old-lady-gray haircut–short, off her neck, curled back. I don’t think old ladies have seen a cultural trend since colonialism. Helen is married, naturally, and because she is a die-hard fundamentalist and believes all that malarkey about man being head of the household, she has never had a job until about six months ago, when she started working as secretary for the church. Now it’s all she talks about. Work this and work that. She figures we’re in the same boat now. Working women. The difference is, I’m a thirty-year-old unmarried woman with a career and she’s an old-lady-gray who has been married for five million years and, although she has a job, she is still in good graces because she works for Him. Everything Helen does is for Him. As I said before, she wants me to do a little work for Him. She believes me to be a heathen, although she is a good Christian woman and would never say so. Not to my face.
“How’s everything?” Helen said, shielding her eyes from the sun.
“Going great. Doing a little gardening.” Actually, I don’t so much garden as I fancy the thought of being a gardener. That’s why I bought the hat and the gloves. Truth be told, I’ve never resoiled a thing in my life. It’s only by happenstance that I have rose bushes. “I was just thinking about how great my fertilizer’s working.”
Helen nodded. “Good, good.” She doesn’t listen too much unless you’re talking about the Almighty. “You got any great Easter plans?”
Translate: Are you going to church, you Satan-loving heathen?
“You’re more than welcome to come over for dinner with me and Eldridge. We’re gonna have our children and grandchildren over. Eldridge is gonna hide some Easter eggs in our backyard.”
Make sure to tell them not to dig too close to my rose bushes, I thought.
“No, thank you. I’m sure I’ll drive up to Shreveport to see my folks.”
“You sure? After the Easter egg hunt we’re gonna sit around the table and have a great dinner. A feast, practically! I’m cooking a great big ham.” She indicated the size of it.
“No, thanks.” I’d rather be the ham. “I really gotta go see my folks.”
“Yes, you’re right. Family is a blessing.”
“Depends on the family.”
“Maybe. But God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes you can have blessings in disguise.”
With this parting cliche, Helen returned to her shears and I looked again at my certain patch of grass.
Yes, it was definitely greener.
“You know, Dean,” I said, “I should really go to church.”
E.K. Entrada lives in an apartment, so she doesn’t have a yard. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Story Philippines, Asians in America Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine and the Kartika Review. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in English at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, LA.