Issue 72, Winter 1977
The yard boy was a spiritual materialist. He lived in the Now. He was free from the karmic chain. Being enlightened wasn’t easy. It was very hard work. It was manual labor actually.
The enlightened being is free. He feels the sorrows and sadness of those around him but does not necessarily feel his own. The yard boy felt that he had been enlightened for about two months, at the most.
The yard boy had two possessions. One was a pick-up truck. The other was a plover he had stuffed and mounted when he thought he wanted to be an ornithologist, in the days before he had become a spiritual materialist. The bird was in the room he rented. The only other thing in the room was a bed. The landlady provided sheets and towels. Sometimes when he came back from work hot and sweaty with little bits of leaves and stuff caught in his hair, the landlady would give him a piece of key lime pie on a blue plate.
The yard boy was content. He had hard muscular arms and a tanned back. He had compassion. He had a girl friend. When he thought about it, he supposed that having a girl friend was a cop-out to the security which he had eschewed. This was a preconception however and a preconception was the worse form of all the forms of security. The yard boy believed he was in balance on this point. He tried to see things the way they were from the midst of nowhere, and he felt that he had worked out this difficulty about the girl friend satisfactorily. The important thing was to be able to see through the veils of preconception.
The yard boy was a handsome fellow. He seldom spoke. He was appealing. Once he had run over an old lady and had broken her leg, but no one had gotten mad at him about it. Now that he was a yard boy his hands smelled of 6-6-6. His jeans smelled of tangelos. He was honest and truthful, a straightforward person who did not distinguish between this and that. For the girl friend he always had a terrific silky business which was always at the ready.
The yard boy worked for several very wealthy people. In the morning of every day he got into his pick-up and drove over the causeways to the Keys where he mowed and clipped and cut and hauled. He talked to the plants. He always told them what he was going to do before he did it so that they would have a chance to prepare themselves. Plants have lived in the Now for a long time but they still have to have some things explained to them.
At the Wilson’s house the yard boy clips a sucker from an orange tree. It is February. Even so, the orange tree doesn’t like it much. Mrs. Wilson comes out and watches the yard boy while he works. She has her son with her. He is about three. He doesn’t talk yet. His name is Tao. Mrs. Wilson is wealthy and can afford to be wacky. What was she supposed to do after all, she asked the yard boy once, call her kid George? Bruce? For godssakes.
Her obstetrician had told her at the time that he had never seen a more perfectly shaped head.
The Wilsons’ surroundings are splendid. Mrs. Wilson has splendid clothes, a splendid figure. She has a wonderful Cuban cook. The house is worth three-quarters of a million dollars. The plantings are worth a hundred thousand dollars. Everything has a price. It is fantastic. A precise worth has been ascribed to everything. Every worm and aphid can be counted upon. It costs a certain amount of money to eradicate them. The sod is laid down fresh every year. For weeks after the lawn is installed, the seams are visible and then the squares of grass gather together and it becomes, everywhere, in sun or shade, a smooth, witty and improbable green like the color of a parrot.
Mrs. Wilson follows the yard boy around as he tends to the hibiscus, the bougainvillea, the jacaranda, the horse cassia, the Java flower, the flame vine. They stand beneath the mango, looking up.
“Isn’t it pagan,” Mrs. Wilson says.
Close the mouth, shut the doors, untie the tangles, soften the light, the yard boy thinks.
Mrs. Wilson says, “It’s a waste this place, don’t you think? I’ve never understood nature, all this effort. All this will...” She flaps her slender arms at the reeking of odors, the rioting colors. Still, she looks up at the mangos, hanging. Uuuuuh, she thinks.
Tao is standing between the yard boy and Mrs. Wilson with an oleander flower in his mouth. It is pink. Tao’s hair is golden. His eyes are blue.
The yard boy removes the flower from the little boy’s mouth. “Toxic,” the yard boy says.
“What is it!” Mrs. Wilson cries.
“Oleander,” the yard boy says.
“Cut it down, dig it out, get rid of it,” Mrs. Wilson cries. “My precious child!” She imagines Tao being kidnapped, held for an astronomical ransom by men with acne.
Mrs. Wilson goes into the house and makes herself a drink. The yard boy walks over to the oleander. The oleander shakes a little in the breeze. The yard boy stands in front of it for a few minutes, his clippers by his side.
Mrs. Wilson watches him from the house. She swallows her drink and rubs the glass over her hot nipples. The ice clinks. The yard boy raises the clippers and spreads them wide. The bolt connecting the two shears breaks. The yard boy walks over to the house, over to where Mrs. Wilson stands behind glass doors. The house weighs a ton with the glass. The house’s architect was the South’s most important architect, Mrs. Wilson once told the yard boy. Everything he made was designed to give a sense of freedom and space. Everything was designed to give the occupants the impression of being outside. His object was to break down definitions, the consciousness of boundaries. Mrs. Wilson told the yard boy the architect was an asshole.
Behind the glass, Mrs. Wilson understands the difficulty. Behind Mrs. Wilson’s teeth is a tongue that tastes of bourbon.
“I’ll drive you downtown and we can get a new whatever,’’ she says. She is determined.
She and he and Tao get into Mrs. Wilson’s Mercedes 350 SL. Mrs. Wilson is a splendid driver. She has taken the Mercedes up to 130, she tells the yard boy. It is 130 that the engine is capable of, nothing more. The engine stroked beautifully at 130, no sound of strain at all.
She drives past the beaches, over the causeways. She darts in and out of traffic with a fine sense of timing. Behind them, occasionally, old men in Gremlins jump the curb in fright. Mrs. Wilson glances at them in the rear-view mirror seeming neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. She puts her hand on the yard boy’s knee. She rubs his leg.
Tao scrambles from the back into the front seat. He gets on the other side of the yard boy. He bites him.
I am living in a spiritual junkyard, thinks the yard boy. I must make it into a simple room with one beautiful object.