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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2007 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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august 1, 2007

It got harder to mow our front lawn.

Ideally, you mow your front lawn when it's dry, and short.

But because we got so many rainstorms in Texas this Spring, the front grass was wet every day, growing taller.

Wet grass is hard to mow. Tall, wet grass is even worse.

When we finally went out to mow our lawn, during a break in the showers, Monday morning, we saw our next door neighbor had abandoned his mowing halfway through. The back of his lawn was low and neat. The front, tall with seed tops.

Positioning our lawnmower on the top slope of our driveway, I yanked back on the lawnmower's cord, to get the engine started. Adjusted the throttle to get it up to full rev.

I got about ten paces into the wet lawn before the mower engine choked, stalling, under the heavy burden of wet grass. Backed the mower off the unmowed path, to the swath already flattened, pulled up on that cord again.

And on and on.

Every minute or so, the mower's whirling four leaf clover blades would clog and stall under the heaviness of the blades it had cut, and I'd have to start the engine up again.

Behind me, at each spot where the engine had stalled, a whorl of wet green grass, dark as spinach. It looked like Popeye had thrown up all over our lawn.

Plus, the rain brought all the fire ants to the surface. Fire ants normally stay a few feet under the ground, but when there's a lot of rain, they burst through to the surface, so they don't drown.

There were fire ant mounds all over the lawn. And I mean, big mounds. We're not talking Boise, Idaho. We're talking Calcutta.

The hardest part was mowing under our redbud. It's a large tree, limbs low to the ground. I had to bend over to reach the mower under the limbs. I couldn't use the auto-propel feature. I had to push the mower back and forth, under the limbs, like vacuuming.

It was exhausting.

During a break in the rain, we called a roofer to come out and replace the shingles that had blown off our roof during a particularly violent storm.

We keep a file of repair people we were impressed with in the past. They got the job done, charged a low price, seemed to be honest.

We had a roofer on that list, George, a man in his sixties, who gamely got up on our roof a decade ago, red sealant gun jammed in the back pocket of his pants, solved our leak problem.

I called the number on his wrinkled card. Got a beauty parlor. "Is this such-and-such number?" "Yes, sir." "You don't happen to repair roofs, do you?" "No sir, we sure don't." "Do you know someone named George, who'd probably be in his seventies by now, who repairs leaky roofs?" "I'm sorry. We don't, Sir. This is a beauty parlor now."

So we tried another place, half-page ad in the Yellow Pages, We've been in business since 1951, No Job Too Big or Too Small, blah, blah, blah.

And I was impressed.

The woman who answered, after just the first ring, was professional. Asked all the pertinent information, and as I gave it, I could hear over the phone line her fingers efficiently tapping that information into her database. "I'll have one of our technicians call you back within twenty minutes with an arrival time."

I said goodbye, hung up the phone, turned around to Mary. "I'm impressed. This place is on the ball."

The only bad thing was, no one ever called us back.

After a day of waiting, we tried a third place. I got a guy on his cell phone, who told me he could be out in half an hour. There'd be a twenty percent surcharge if the slope of the roof was "steep." Was our roof steep?

"Well, I don't know. It's steep enough that I don't want to go up on it myself, but then again, I have a fear of heights. Whenever I get on a stepladder, I start saying the rosary."

While we waited for him, Mary and I played the typical husband and wife game of trying to guess how much the repair would cost.

Mary held up four fingers.

"Four hundred dollars?"

She shook her lovely head.

"Four thousand dollars?"

Strong nod.

Jesus! Four thousand dollars? That might be true. The roof was sixteen years old.

But when the guy did come out, and didn't need to be shown where the shingles had been blown off ("I saw it while I was parking"), he only charged us two hundred and fifty bucks.

And we haven't had a leak since.

The storms also knocked out our telephone service.

I picked up the receiver one morning, I forget why, and all I got was this eerie hollow sound, like someone dead was about to speak, or a voice was about to brag, All your base are belong to us.

So how do you call the telephone service for repair when your phone isn't working?

I got on the Internet, found their site. Went through all these screens to report the problem (you can't just email them.)

The next day, a guy showed up at nine in the morning.

I unlocked our back door, took him outside, into our garden, pointing at the phone terminal screwed against the red brick side of our home.

He waved his hand in front of his face.

I picked up a stick we use. "Yeah, there are a lot of spider webs. We use this stick to clear them."

He gave me a good-natured grin. "Hey, I walk through spider webs every day."

Making his way over to the terminal, he put his foot down into our lantana bushes, taking out a screwdriver to release the terminal's door.

Unbeknownst to him, his left shoulder was bending to the breaking point a large, and I mean large, spider web woven from the side of our home to our hose cart. A large, and I mean large, spider scuttled down the sunlit silk rectangles, towards his shoulder.

"There's a really big spider headed towards your shoulder, man."

He waved his screwdriver in a carefree fashion. "They don't mess with me."

As the spider got closer, I pawed my right hand into the web, pulled it sideways, away from the repair guy. The spider landed on top of a bright red zinnia, eight tall black legs trying to find purchase.

That evening, our phone rang. It was an automated message from AT&T. "Our records show this phone line is now working. If you are still unable to receive incoming calls on this phone line, please press one."

While we were in the city last week for a doctor's appointment, we decided to stop on the way back home and check out the Dallas Farmers Market.

We'd heard about it for years, but never been.

We had the usual problems trying to get unlost in the city, looking for signs. Eventually we came across the market, found a pretty good parking space.

The market consists of three streets of stalls, each stall about half a house wide on the sidewalk. Lots of open bins with produce.

The thing is, it's not like a regular supermarket, where you decide which particular avocado you want, or how many avocadoes you want. You have to buy an entire mini- basket of avocadoes, or apples, or tomatoes. Each basket holds about a dozen fruit.

We'd love to get some fresh avocadoes, but I don't know if we really want a dozen.

Plus, also unlike a supermarket, where you can shop undisturbed, at the farmers market you have people constantly coming up to you on the sidewalk, offering you free samples of peach slices, pear slices, orange sections. And being kind of aggressive about getting you to buy their product.

So we had a great time, experiencing something new together, holding hands, but I don't think we'll go back.

We woke up the other morning and talked about our dreams.

Mary had a dream where her dad, Joe, and an Asian man, who was apparently Joe's friend, were watching a football game together. A white cat with an unusually long body showed up, and after that, a zebra, but the zebra was small, about the size of a dog. As Mary looked at the zebra, she realized its striped skin was artificial, something it was wearing, a coat made of black and white striped fabric. Mary's mom, who died several years ago, showed up, offering Mary chocolates that were incredibly delicious. As Mary ate them, a tiny bear showed up, also the size of a dog. Mary's mom gave Mary a bowl of chicken soup, but the bowl was so small Mary could barely get a sip out of it.

Mary has terrific dreams.

My dream?

I dreamt about Stalin's daughter weeping. Isn't that so unfair? She had a head scarf tied under her chin, like she had been out harvesting beets. Her crying went on and on. At first I was sympathetic, here's this older woman crying, I mean really, fucking, crying her eyes out, but it went on for so long I started losing sympathy for her. Maybe there's a reason things haven't worked out for her. Maybe she's too much of a drama queen. You know? I kept hitting the dream button. I didn't order this dream!