The Second Driveway

By geary yonker

My mom peeling potatoesIt's an autumn afternoon and the block is vacant. Everybody's probably either at work or at school, except me. I'm suspended from school and I'm cleaning up the second driveway of my parents' house. The very thing that I had promised to do all summer. The second driveway runs the length of the lot. There used be a second garage in the back yard that deteriorated into a clubhouse before it was torn down.

The leaves have lost their crispness. Some have already turned to brown mush, impossible to burn. Still I pile them up and hope that I can defy the laws of chemistry. Maybe it'll work if I just let them dry in their piles for a few hours. I methodically form small mounds by revolving in one spot and raking toward my feet. Then I rake these small piles into larger regional piles, which I collect into a large plastic garbage can with wheels. My preferred way of doing this is to place the open mouth of can on the ground next to the pile and simply, elegantly, kick the pile. Then I wheel the freshly kicked leaves down the second driveway to the compost pile that stands where the second garage used to be.

"This would be so much easier if I could just throw them in the damn truck!" I shout to no one.

The dump truck has been sitting idle in the middle of the driveway for a while. You see, trucks aren't like cars. They aren't just a way to get to work, they are a tool of your work. You don't throw away good tools even if they need some work. If you have the space to store them, you keep them around. Even though I am forbidden to throw leaves into the back of the truck, our old living room couch has been in there… well, since we got the new one. It's now inhabited by a family of squirrels. If I throw the leaves into the truck, it'll cost more to get rid of the load at the dump. It costs money to throw things away.

My work progresses slowly as I listen to the radio playing from the window of my bedroom. My bedroom window falls out onto the second driveway. It doubles as a very convenient door at night. My favorite talk-show host blathers on incessantly about himself and the events of the day. I first befriended him when I was young and people made fun of him because he was fat. Lucky for him, I guess.

I decide to take a break and lie down in the grass that grows along and into the second driveway. Even though my dad and I have placed railroad ties along the edges, the grass creeps in. The weeds start small settlements in the cracks of the blacktop. Then the rain works into the cracks until chunks of the blacktop split off like the edges of a glacier into the grass. The grass always wins. I lie flat on my back staring up into the producer of all the leaves I am cleaning up—a large elm tree that shades much of the driveway. I stare through its bare limbs into the clear autumn sky. I worry about the tree getting Dutch Elm disease. The electric company came by this summer and mangled it. The side facing the street is now flat, shaved off in the name of power-line protection. Its wounds still look fresh.

A squirrel catches my attention as it jumps from out from the back of the dump truck and onto its roof. It then climbs onto a branch that brushes against the top of the truck. The squirrel moves lightly across the branches, then jumps onto the roof of our house. Defying gravity, it then crawls around the edge of the roof and disappears. Lying on my back, I can see the hole underneath the overhang.

"So that's how they've been getting in the attic," I say to the elm.

My heart skips a beat when I hear a car pull into the main driveway. Thank god. It's my mom.

I wonder if it's after five already. My dad would have shit if he found me lying in the grass when I should have been paying my penance for being suspended, again. My mom calls me over to help her take some groceries into the house.

"Not done yet, I see. You'd better get it done before your father gets home."

After I haul all of the bags inside, I turn to return to my chore outside in the driveway.

"Wait a minute. I have something for you."

That's my mom, giving me gifts when I'm suspended from school. She can never believe how it is always my fault. She is always convinced that the dean has it in for me.

She rummages through one of the bags and pulls out a red and black flannel shirt. She's always bringing me home clothes she sees on sale at the department store where she works. The crazy thing is, I usually really like what she picks out.

Me in another outfit my mom bought me "It's a large. I hope it fits you."

"Large? Mom you know I like extra-large shirts."

"Well, stop complaining and just try it on"

I slip the soft flannel over the t-shirt I'm wearing. It fits.

"Thanks Mom, I've need some new clothes. Come to think of it I haven't gotten any new clothes in quite some time. Since… since… since you…."

I realize I'm dreaming and that I'm standing before my late mother. I grab onto her like a child being dropped off on his first day of school. I hold onto her as tight as I can. Frantically I hug her and repeat how much I love her and miss her. I have to let her know before I wake up. She pulls me away and smiles.

"Don't worry. I know."

I find myself lying in bed with my eyes full of tears. I cry until I fall back to sleep.

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Copyright©2002 by geary yonker.

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