Grass

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I edited this quite a bit, tying stuff together and tightening some screws. Of course, I’m still not 100% satisfied with it. But that goes for everything on this site, and maybe I’ll touch it up more after hearing some more responses.


Grass

There’s a bit of grass in downtown. It grows between some cracks in the sidewalk. I noticed it because I look down when I walk.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve walked to school, walked through downtown. My parents weren’t around because their jobs started early in the morning. My friends lived farther from school than I, and took the bus. So I walked alone, and kind of wanted to be alone. And because I wanted to be alone, I didn’t reciprocate friendly smiles from walking strangers. And because I felt horrible for that, I kept my eyes lowered, focused on the sidewalk before me. And one day, I noticed the patch of grass, just around the block from that cellphone store, a few yards down from the main street.

And though I knew it existed, I never really thought about it before. It was just something that I saw, and something that I saw all the time. It was a truth, not an observation worth pondering. But that day, when I saw the two guys against the black and white car with their hands up and all talking shit to the cops and damn. I looked down harder, and I saw the grass and it really jumped out at me, its green startlingly… green, compared to the swirl of black and white several feet away.

As I walked away from the scene of the arrest, I felt like I should turn around. Like I should go back there, and stop looking down. And ask the cops what these guys did. They were no older than I. They probably went to my school. No. They go to my school. I’d seen them before.

I’d seen them before, laughing with their friends. I’d seen them happy.

Happy people don’t get held up by cops, flung against cars. They don’t have guns pointed at them. What did these people do wrong? I wanted to scream. You stupid fucking cops. I wanted to join the chorus of those under arrest.

But either I couldn’t or I simply didn’t tear my eyes away from the pavement, and I kept walking. Thinking about the grass, and about online videos about police brutality. Thinking about how the wall between my world—school, a place where kids who are provided for by families congregate to be politically socialized—and the real world of people who commit crimes and those who take care of them, well, might not be so solid as I thought.

Ever since that day, whenever I would walk that block, which was every school day, I’d look for the grass. It was green, so it stood out well on sunny days, but it was small and shy, so it seemed to retreat into the pavement on those days there was a lot of trash tossing about in the wind, or when the air itself was thick with gray. Every day, though, I found it. Even if it hid from me, I found it. That grass became a staple of my daily routine. It became my daily routine.

One day, I found the grass looking more defeated than usual. It was brown, clearly the victim of a muddy shoe. The thought of a muddy shoe brought forth the image of those two guys with their hands in the air and their waists joined to the cop car. They always kept their shoes impeccably clean. Not a spot of dirt on them. I remembered: once tripping over someone’s shoe, and getting yelled at. Why did I need to scuff their shoes? I wondered: were those two guys still keeping their shoes clean? Were they still a beautiful, pure white? Or were they muddy, the kind of muddy that could do this to my dear grass?

If so… if so…

I clenched my fists and continued walking, stepping neatly over the broken grass. Poor thing, I thought to myself. Thinking, cops need to be more diligent. Thinking, they need to protect my grass.

It was the only thing I had, really. I never saw my parents, just notes and food packed in saran wrap and paper bags. For some reason I’d grown distant from my friends since that day I saw the arrest. All I had was school, which I didn’t like too much—the teachers were so patronizing, and they weren’t even that smart—and the walk to and from school, which led me through downtown, where I found the grass. Cops are supposed to enforce the law. And the law is that we get happiness. If my happiness—my only happiness—is this piece of grass, how can they be so negligent?

So I came by the next day, this time with a can of spray paint. It hadn’t been hard to pilfer from the art department; tagging is actually taught at my garbage school. I make big, black letters on the ground: don’t disturb the grass. I caress the little blades softly. They’re still brown, they’re still bent. But they’ll grow back nicely. I noticed an old lady all in baby blue coat and long black skirt hurry by, sparing my handiwork nothing more than a horrified glance. Why did she look so unhappy? I was merely playing my part in… in what, exactly? The world outside of my world, the world which wasn’t my school. Yes. I was doing my part in the real world, that world in which people commit crimes and are taken care of by others. I was … protecting.

I was protecting the grass, which is a product of the Earth itself. I was protecting the Earth. I was protecting my Earth, my little corner of the world, the little blades of grass I had inherited from the universe.

The next day I walked by, only to find that my message had been half washed away. A mop lay propped against the nearest wall; clearly, whoever was “cleaning up” was not done. They wanted to finish the job, to crush my attempt at protecting the grass. I wouldn’t let them. I looked around, made sure no one was watching. Didn’t the heroes in all the stories of… all time… do their deeds in secret? Were not the best heroes unsung?

I grabbed the mop and disappeared down the street.

The next day, I noticed that the grass had been further trampled. I walked away with a heavy sigh. I would need to take some more drastic measure, I knew. Something: . Something… something that would work, such as: .

I drew a blank. And then I had it. If I couldn’t protect my corner of the Earth where it lay, I sure as summer fog was going to move it to a place where I’d be able to protect it. That was it. I would move the grass. I would move it to a more comfortable place, where it would be able to flourish.

The next day I arrived at the spot with an array of tools for breaking up the sidewalk.

Next thing I knew, it was me in the middle of the street, me against the black and white car, me with my hands in the air. I looked down at my white shoes, blackened with small grains of cement. I looked over my shoulder at the cop in his black shades. I saw fat lips moving under a bristly black mustache, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying to me. I thought of opening my mouth, of saying something to him, of protesting what he was doing in some manner, but I had nothing to say to him. The planet had failed me.

No parents, no friends, and now, no more grass. And I couldn’t even tell a police officer to fuck off.

"Grass" was posted by on Sunday, February 24th 2008. This post is categorized Shorts.

3 thoughts on “Grass

  1. Haha, oh wow. I saw this a couple of days back when you posted it but didn’t want to read it in a hurry. Now that I’ve gotten down to reading it seriously, here’s my thoughts:

    The sentence “For some reason I"d grown distant (…)and they weren"t even that smart—” could do with a lot more elaboration to do the entire paragraph justice. “notes and food packed in saran wrap and paper bags” tells me something, but what do phrases like “distant” and “patronizing” do for me? Absolutely nothing.

    So those two sentences felt like summarised filler in what could’ve been two epic paragraphs. You’ve seen Byousoku 5cm and Beyond the Clouds — think of the epic monologues the protagonists have when they realise how ronery they are in the wide gloomy expanse of the cityscape. I felt that the sentence had potential, yet you made it into obligatory backstory as if to gloss it over.

    The rest of the story has a solid narrative voice, a lot of character, something like an parallel world Shinji who’s cynical and world-weary with all of the shortsightedness of a angst-filled teen. The contrast of the depth of existential insight and the shallowness of his actions in excavating the sidewalk. Style reminded me of Louis Sachar just a little. 85/100.

  2. Hmm, I get what you’re saying. I’ll touch it up one more time, this time narrowing in on that specific part. Hopefully it’ll ‘do the entire paragraph justice’ when I turn those two sentences into epic angsty paragraphs of their own XD
     
    Thanks as always for the comments, Owen.

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