Countin’ Squares

COUNTIN' SQUARES: A Short Story

 
 
 
 
 

I’m back mowin’ yards again, so what.  I don’t mind mowin’.  At least there’s no boss to get on my ass for nothin’.  Besides, it’s easy as hell: just walk up to a door and ask.  The slobs around here’re too lazy to mow their own yards anyways.  And it’s nothin’ to think about either.  Just count the steps and turn.  The houses and yards’re all the same so I don’t even hardly have to count anymore.  But I still do anyways.  Twenty-six steps, right turn—fifteen steps to the sidewalk, right turn—twenty-six steps to the driveway, right turn—fifteen steps, right turn, and so on and so on.  Steps get shorter as the squares get smaller.  Most days I turn to the right, but some days I turn to the left, dependin’ on how I feel.

I have my own mower and it needs some work.  The sonofabitch is so loud I couldn’t hear you screamin’ at me even if you was standin’ right next to me.  I can’t even hear myself think with the goddamn mower blarin’, so how the hell am I supposed to hear any screamin’ goin’ on anyways?  Besides, I ain’t listenin’ to nothin’ when I mow lawns—nothin’ but myself countin’ squares, that is.

You know, my ol’ man told me once that people’re strong as hell, only we don’t know it.  He said everybody has some kinda special power deep within’ ‘emselves.  Once he told me about a little kid that got pinned underneath a car.  He said this little sucker’s mom came home from grocery shoppin’, drove right up the goddamn driveway, and ran right square on top of the little sonofabitch while he was ridin’ his tricycle.  My ol’ man said the mother freaked the hell out and without even thinkin’, picked the goddamn car right up off him.  Saved his life.  He was a little banged up, though.  Still, pickin’ up a car all by yourself.  Damn.  Sometimes I think ‘bout that when I’m mowin’.

The other night my goddamned boss—well, my goddamned ex-boss, told me, right as I was walkin’ out the door to go home, that I had to work late again.  Now what kinda shit is that?  I think to myself, fuck that, I gots things to do.  You know what I told him?  I said, “Fuck you.  I gots things to do.”  Fuck him anyways, always trying to make me work late.  If he didn’t sit on his ass all day while I’m busy bustin’ mine there wouldn’t ever be no reason for me to work late anyways.  It ain’t like the whole world’s gonna stop spinnin’ if the shelves don’t get stocked.  It ain’t like his goddamned store ever sells a goddamned thing anyhow.

So it’s a good thing I still got this mower that I got when my ol’ man died.  You know, I bet if I’da been mowin’ left that day I’da never seen that crazy sonofabitch.  He yanked her hair so hard I saw rubber bands breakin’.  I thought, yep, she’s gonna get her ass whipped real good for sure.  She musta pissed him off right.  He threw her ass in the van and the sonofabitches took off just like that.  Left the goddamned bike just lyin’ there in the street, front wheel spinnin’ real slow-like.  Too bad it was a girl’s bike.  I don’t ride no girl’s bike.

When I saw him draggin’ her into his van I had to laugh ‘cause it reminded me of my boss after I told him to fuck off.  Him draggin’ stock from the storeroom and stackin’ it all by his weak-ass self.  His face all twisted and mouth locked up real tight like an asshole.  He looked so funny I stayed to watch.

Fuckin’ cops think they’re so tough askin’ their goddamned questions.  I told them I don’t know dick and to beat it ‘cause I gots things to do.  They shoulda been talkin’ to the fat bitch instead of me anyways.  She’ll talk.  She’ll talk so goddamn much they’ll have to put their guns to her head and threatin’ to blow it off just to make her shut up.  She’ll even make shit up.  Bitch’s always talkin’, addin’ at least thirty minutes to the time it takes me to mow her yard.  When she gets to goin’ real good at me it’s hard for me to understand what the hell she’s talkin’ about ‘cause she’s so goddamn fat.  I can’t concentrate on what she’s sayin’.  Her cheeks jigglin’ and eyes buggin’ out.  She’s got that blue crap all over ‘em, too.  The bitch is creepy I tell ya.

She don’t know this, but one time when I was mowin’ her back yard, I passed by her bedroom window and saw her sleepin’ on her bed all curled up like a baby.  I never saw her so still, you know, without movin’ or sayin’ somethin’.  Bitch didn’t look so fat then.

So they flashed their badge at me like it mattered, but they’re just hidin’ behind it like scared pussies.  I told them to mind their own fuckin’ business.  But they kept askin’ if I knew anything about some girl floatin’ in the river.  And then they tell me about me mowin’ the fat bitch’s lawn while some kid’s gettin’ kidnapped and ask if I seen anything strange.  Who the hell got kidnapped I asked and then told them to talk to the fat bitch ‘cause she’s nothin’ but a goddamned freak, peekin’ out from behind her curtains all the time.

 

#

 

You know, this was such a safe, peaceful neighborhood when my husband and I first moved here fourt—oh my, has it been fifteen years already?  Has it really been that long?  My, where has all the time…you know, I remember telling Stephen, that’s my husband’s name, Stephen—he prefers to be called Steve—I remember telling him when we decided to buy this house all those years ago that this neighborhood was just like the neighborhood in that one movie…you know the one…now, what’s its name?  It was my favorite.  Oh my…it’s funny, you’d think I’d remember something like that.  I used to just love it.  Isn’t it strange how you always remember all those little, unimportant things, but the things that you want to remember seem to just slip away?  Oh well, it was a beautiful movie anyway.

But now, this neighborhood is so bad.  The streets are so dirty…and, ah, the crime.  You just can’t believe it.  And the people that live around here now, they are so…they are just downright scary, that’s what they are.

When Stephen and I first got married we tried so hard to have children.  That’s all I could ever think about.  I would have been such a wonderful mother.  I used to imagine myself walking down our street, pushing my baby in a beautiful carriage, stopping to talk to neighbors, while they admired my baby so.  But now, the way things are I almost have to say that I’m glad we couldn’t have children.  Can you imagine?  I would be worried sick, day and night.  It’s bad enough I have to worry about Stephen delivering his mail.

Oh, that reminds me.  Just the other day, a day I’ll never forget I tell you, I was waiting for Stephen to return from his route when the most incredible thing happened.  You’ll never believe it.  A little girl was kidnapped right on my street.  I saw the whole thing.  Of course, at the time I didn’t know she was being kidnapped.  How was I to know?  It all happened so fast.  I thought he was her father.  I was concerned, though, that she was being mistreated.  I really was.  You know, I almost called the police, until that boy—well, he’s hardly a boy I guess—until that young man who mows my yard started making a scene.  Right while that little girl…poor, poor child, bless her soul…right while she was being abducted, that young man who mows my yard…I don’t believe I know his name…well, he started laughing as if he were about to have a fit.  It was very unsettling.  I swear to the Lord above that he was laughing at the fact that that poor, little girl was being abused.  He kept laughing and looking over at his shoulder at me.  Of course now I wish I had notified the police, but I was so upset I had to lie down.  Just think about all of the times that I actually tried to start up friendly conversations with that young man.

Imagine how I felt when the police showed up on my front doorstep the next day and began questioning me.  I had tried my hardest to put that awful scene out of my mind, but there they were asking me such intrusive questions and reminding me of all those horrible images.  Can you blame me for wanting to forget what happened?  It just breaks my heart thinking about how that poor child was dragged into that van the way she was.  Not to mention the other terrible things that happened to her.  This world is going mad.  And of course I tried to find someone else to maintain my yard after seeing that young man behave the way he did; but, well, you know how young people are these days.  Not a single neighborhood child was interested in making a little extra money.  And of course, with Stephen’s bad back he’s practically incapable of getting out of bed to even go to work, let alone mow the lawn.  I don’t know what we’re going to do when his condition gets so bad he has to quit his job.  But anyway, like I was saying, I was completely unprepared for the questions that those detectives asked me.  And I certainly didn’t appreciate the tone in their voice.  It seemed as if they felt that I was the one who did those terrible things to that poor little child.  Bless her soul.

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