The Old Man and the Leaf Blower

He was an old man who had gone eighty-four days without blowing the leaves
from his lawn.

“Why don’t you blow your leaves, old man!” someone would shout angrily from
across the street.

“Why don’t you shut your face! I will sue you and your children!” he would
scream back.

A boy stood behind him. “Old man!”

Irreverent words escaped the old man’s mouth and he wheeled around. “You
scared the hell out of me!”

“I want to help.”

“You are not yet a man. Tomorrow I will go far into the lawn and blow many
leaves—maybe a thousand pounds.”

“Are you strong enough?”

The old man stared at the crinkled leaves. A few fluttered in the wind. The old
man’s face was also crinkled but did not flutter. Only his ears, when excitement came.

“I will blow them,” he said quietly.

“I am riding my bike to the convenience store. Do you want something?”

“Bring me a beer. Better yet, bring three.”

“I cannot buy beer.”

“Tell that man at the store it is for me. He knows that I know his immigration

The old man surveyed the lawn. “Tomorrow will be lucky for leaf-blowing.”

The boy returned with beer, as well as many pastries and cookies.

“How did you get all this?”

“I told the man you know his secrets and he gave me everything.”

“That is very kind. I will give him a bushel of leaves. They make good mulch.”

At dawn the old man’s leaf blower was droning loudly. By late afternoon there
were many leaves in the street.

“You are supposed to bag those leaves!” yelled a neighbor.

“This is a free country and I will sue you and your children!” he shrieked.

Eventually his hand became cramped.

“That’s what you think, Mr. Hand,” he said, and with duct tape, he lashed the
blower firmly to his forearm.

But toward evening he felt dizzy. He picked up several leaves. With his
pocketknife he cut them into strips. He chewed each slowly. He stared. “Why am I
eating leaves?”

“A thunderstorm is coming! Come inside!” It was his wife in the doorway.

“Go back into your kitchen, old woman! I will sue you and your children!”

“Crazy bastard,” she muttered, and slammed the door.

The strengthening wind swirled leaves back into his yard, even into his neighbors’
yards. Raindrops struck his skin. Then he breathed a word which begins with “sh.”
Perhaps it is the only word for such moments.

Into the stormy night, by the dim street lights, he blew what leaves he could.
Then he staggered inside.

At daybreak there were great heaps of damp leaves in the street, but many more
on his lawn. Some had been blown there by the wind, but most had been deposited by
his neighbors.

The boy went into the old man’s bedroom. The old man opened one eye. “Go to
the store,” he mumbled. “Bring back as many beers as your bicycle’s basket will hold.”