The incessant barking from the little yippy dogs is what alerted us. Two little shit-stain chihuahuas that strutted around the neighborhood, barking at everything to remind the world that they were some kind of hot shots. I hadn’t seen them, just heard them, which was odd. Hadn’t seen their owner either. Officially, the neighbor has been declared missing. He wasn’t in the house when the police went in. His car is still in the driveway. He being an older gentleman, not much in the way of family or friends, I expected them to be pulling him out of the house in a body bag.
The neighbor and I had a few arguments, over the years, about those dogs – shitting in our yard, running out in front of our cars as we traveled down our dead-end road. For the most part though, we stayed out of each other’s way. The only other argument we ever had was about the leaves. With the trees being on my property, but a large majority of the leaves falling onto his property, in his mind, they were my responsibility every autumn. Truth be told, I never cared about raking up the leaves. When the kids were little, we raked them up so they could jump and play in them. But now, I’d much rather let the wind carry them to the woods at the edge of our properties. Whatever was left come spring, I’d chop up with the lawn mower.
I felt bad when I saw him, rake in hand, surveying the leaves in his yard. He’s too old to be raking leaves. I yelled down to him, letting him know I just bought a small battery-operated leaf blower. Told him not to worry about the leaves, I’ll take care of them. He assures me it’s not an issue, it’s just something for him to do. I tell him to just rake them into the ditch, I’ll take them to the woods. That was two days ago. When the police asked, I let them know that was the last time I saw him.
There’s a small grade where our properties meet; the ditch I was referring to. I’d take the leaves from the ditch and rake them into a bedsheet, along with whatever was left in my yard. I decided to wait a few more days though, as not all the leaves had fallen yet, and I didn’t want to do this once, let alone twice.
I was surprised by how well the little battery-operated blower was able to jostle the leaves around. Once I started pushing them into piles, I loved the way the forced air made it seem as if something was burrowing underneath the pile. The leaves would billow up and ripple as one unit, me imagining some creature crawling under a blanket of leaves. The earth rippled like in the-so-bad-it’s-good early 90’s Kevin Bacon movie where they’re being chased by giant prehistoric earthworms.
As I pushed the leaves into bigger piles around the ditch, I noticed the rake handle first. Just the tip of it. It wasn’t odd to find wood under the leaves with the number of branches that often fall too. But to see the treated finished handle startled me. I continued to blow until I saw the fingers still wrapped around the handle. There was something under the leaves, but it wasn’t moving. I needed to call the police.
Jason Melvin received a gimmicky T-shirt from his teenage daughter on Christmas with a picture of one large fist fist-bumping a much smaller fist. The caption read, “Behind every smart-ass daughter is a truly asshole Dad”. His work has recently appeared in A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Roi Faineant, Outcast, Bullshit Lit andothers. He can be found on Twitter @jason5melvin and on his website at http://www.jasonmelvinwords.weebly.com.