Tyler Cooper had just cracked open his third beer, when his wife, Karen, stuck her head out the screen door and hollered at him for what would be the fourth and final time. “How many times do I have to ask you to clear out that brush down by the pond?” she demanded. She did not wait for a reply, but simply turned back into the house, allowing the screen door to slam shut against her generous backside.
With a grunt, Ty set his beer aside and heaved himself out of the porch swing. He walked the ten yards down the steps and into the backyard, where he found his son, Charlie, stretched out in the hammock, earbuds firmly in place, his thumbs dancing across the tiny, digital keyboard on his latest cell phone. “Charlie?” he said. His son did not look up. He gave the bottom of the hammock a shove with his foot. “Charlie!” With that, Charlie pulled the buds from his ears and looked up at his father. “How many times do I have to tell you to clear out that brush down by the pond?” Tyler demanded.
“The what?” Charlie asked.
“The brush,” his father repeated.
“What? Like a hairbrush?”
“No, don’t be stupid,” his father snapped.
Although his wife was out of sight, he heard her customary admonition float back to him through the open kitchen window, “Don’t call the boy stupid, Ty, you’ll hurt his self-esteem.”
Perhaps, Ty thought, his self-esteem could use a good kick in the pants, if he was dumb enough to believe there was a hairbrush growing down by the pond. “Sorry, son,” he said with exaggerated patience, “I didn’t mean to call you stupid, but I was talking about the weeds growing down by the pond.”
“The pond?” Charlie repeated. “What pond?”
“Our pond,” his father replied, his patience waning fast.
“We have a pond?”
“Of course we have a pond, it’s on the new property.” Tyler waved his hand in the direction of the vacant land just beyond his own fence.
Charlie glanced back down at his phone.
“So are you going to go clear it?” his father asked.
His father rubbed his eyes with such ferocity, it looked as though he wanted to gouge them out.
Almost, Charlie thought.
“The brush by the pond,” his father said again. “Are you going to clear it out like I asked?”
“Isn’t that the neighbor’s property?”
“No, it’s ours. We closed on it last week, remember?” Ty replied.
“Yes, and you need to go down there and clear away all that brush.”
“That what?” Charlie asked, without a trace of irony.
Tyler slapped his forehead. “Never mind! I’ll do it myself.” He turned and stalked off.
Charlie smiled to himself, popped his earbuds back into place, and stretched out in the hammock.
“Dumbass kid,” Tyler grumbled. He’d gone into the house and was in the process of pulling on his work trousers, when his wife entered the room. He glared at her, willing her to start an argument.
She did not. She collected the laundry and was nearly to the door when she called back, “Dinner’s at six. Be back by then.”
By the time he’d thought of a sufficiently rude come back, she’d gone. He pulled a ball cap low over his eyes, grabbed his leather gloves from the shed, and trudged his way down the hill with a brush cutter in one hand and a can of fuel in the other.
The sight of his father heading down to the pond brought a grin to Charlie’s face. It was a satisfied, victorious sort-of smile and one he’d come to regret, whenever he looked back on that final conversation with his dad.
Continue reading The Devil’s Paradise