At midnight I leveled my extension ladder against the west wall of his house and climbed to the roof, where I capped his chimney with a wooden board before taking a hammer to his satellite dish. After I clambered back down—no, I wasn’t quiet, why in the hell should I be quiet? —I rattled the ladder back to the garage and grabbed the channel locks. Then I walked in a straight line from my driveway to his backyard, slicing through the wedge of weak light cast by the crescent moon. Even reinforced steel cowers behind a three-dollar combination lock not fit to protect a tricycle. I cut like a barber, like a butcher, like someone in the business of serious division.

            Then I went at the yard, prying the stops off his glider swing and loosening the insect brigade—1000 white grubs that I bought online for a song—into his Kentucky bluegrass, which is drought, cold and disease resistant. Guess what it can’t resist? Me and 1000 grubs. So what if they destroyed my lawn after turning his into a wasteland; I was going down with the ship. Next I would research ash borers, leaf miners and Japanese beetles, gypsy moths, saw flies and small weevils. Unlike my wife, nature would be my ally, offsetting the injuries my neighbor has inflicted on me lo these many months.

As I stared at the moon in its feeble hangnail glory, I imagined I could hear those grub jaws working, sawing into the roots of that green, green grass, its masticated remains moving like dark shadows through a drove of tiny C-shaped colons. These little guys were my soldiers, each one an inch of pure determination with six spiny legs tearing into my neighbor’s realm. I smiled as I took a tally: Gas siphoned from his lawn mower? Check. Motion light aimed at his bedroom window? Check. Change of address to his ex’s house in Champaign? Check.

I am not an evil person, but that night as I thought about him—about them—drinking coffee on a swing that would sail off its unblocked rails onto ground being eaten from under them by a platoon of ravenous vermin, I slept as snugly as a Cyclocephala burrowed under a foot of Kentucky blue.

 Dorene O'Brien

Dorene O’Brien is a Detroit-based writer whose stories have won the Red Rock Review Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction, the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Prize, and the international Bridport Prize. She is also an NEA, a Vermont Studio Center and a Pfeiffer-Hemingway creative writing fellow. Her work has been nominated for three Pushcart prizes, has been published in special Kindle editions, and has appeared in the Baltimore Review, Madison Review, Best of Carve MagazineShort Story ReviewSouthern Humanities ReviewDetroit Noir, Montreal ReviewPassages North, and others. Voices of the Lost and Found, her first fiction collection, was a finalist for the Drake Emerging Writer Award and won the USA Best Book Award for Short Fiction. Her fiction chapbook, Ovenbirds and Other Stories, won the Wordrunner Chapbook Prize in 2018. Her second full-length collection, What It Might Feel Like to Hope, released in 2019, was named first runner-up in the Mary Roberts Rinehart Fiction Prize and won a 2019 gold medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY). She is currently writing a literary/Sci-Fi hybrid novel.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post