The grass turns brown in August. Actually, late July. Rain comes in the spring and everything’s green, vibrant. But, by the middle of summer everybody’s done given up on it. The blades burn in the sun and die. No more water. Place becomes a desert. Dirt’s hard. Almost clay like. Mom’s tomatoes start to rot on the vine; lack of attention. Rabbits and coyotes eat em in the middle of the night. Sometimes a groundhog will make his way up to the back porch. Halves and quarters of green tomatoes eaten and left behind. When you don’t tend to things they die.
The boy was asleep on the couch again. Came in late. Out all night. Drinking. Looking for women. That combination will eventually kill him, momma thought. All he does is stay drunk, she whispered over the voices on the television. Talk show people. Regis and Kathy Lee yaking it up. Talking foolishness. The audience laughed.
The old woman kicked the boy in the leg. There was no movement. Get up, she said. Wake up, she shouted. Boy looked at her and then placed his head between his arms; face down in the sofa. The plastic cover had sweat on it. You gonna look for a job today? she asked. Get up. Wipe your ass. Take a shower boy, mom yelled. He just laid there in a pool of salty water.
You want some coffee? she poked at his ribs. The boy shook his head. Asked what time it was? Time for you to get a watch, she said. Now come on. Get up, momma turned and walked into the kitchen. She saw squirrels out on the back porch munching on tomatoes. Rotting on the vines. Looking like grapes. You can never have anything nice, she said. Never.
Boy got up and buttoned his shirt. It smelled of perfume and sweat. His breath reeked of beer. He sat down at the kitchen table. You gonna mow the lawn? she asked. Boy began to laugh. I said, are you gonna mow the lawn? He pointed at the coffee pot.
That grass is dead mom. It’s brown. Hasn’t grown all month.
It’s summer time. You cut grass in the summer time.
Not if it’s dead you don’t. That grass is dead. We ought to give it a funeral. A proper send off, he went to the fridge and got some cream. You should’ve watered it, he stated. And continued to water it. Just like those tomatoes. They’re dead too mom.
I know they’re dead, she yelled. You don’t have to tell me. But, it’s summer time. And in the summer you cut grass. I’m tired of giving you money for nothing, she declared. Finish your coffee and go mow, she stormed off to her bedroom. The boy shook his head.
I’ll need gas, he raised his voice.
There’s a twenty on the counter. Go get some.
He walked over to the counter and eyed the bill. Boy put the twenty in his pocket and walked out the door. She heard it slam.
She got up and looked out the front window. Her boy was walking down the road. She watched him till he vanished.