By Richard C. McPherson
I own a push mower of the old-fashioned style. The machine itself is nearly new; I’m the one who’s slightly antique. Its polished, dark green handle, the slow, steady blades and stodgy black wheels are not some sort of protest against progress, but a belief from my youth: the incessant snarling of a gas mower shatters the serene sendoff I believe tender, lush, newly cut grass deserves. (And an electric mower always seemed like a toy, unworthy of such a solemn process.)
I mowed today, and for a few moments – fleeting but outside of time – I inhabited the hot, Oklahoma summers of my childhood, when there was meaning in everything. The relentless noon heat meant the popsicle truck was on its way and would soon stop under the massive, hide-and-seek oak next door. I could almost taste the icy coconut or banana. The blue summer sky was so vast it meant the afternoon might last forever (it had been known to happen, after all). There’d be plenty of time to visit the Bookmobile waiting around the corner. The heat rising from the pavement meant I’d soon be in the sanctuary of my room, breathing the comforting smell of thick, aging pages in a library adventure book. The peaches in the back yard didn’t smell quite ready (why did it seem they were never quite ready?). But that meant that the thicket of honeysuckle and creamy white magnolia blossoms would be perfect for lingering. I learned something every day, and it didn’t matter whether the lesson was practical or mythical, because when you’re ten, they are the same.
There were certainly other, darker summers as I grew older, with disappointments, even tragedies – an older brother would leave home to begin a life-long estrangement, parents would battle health and financial woes, and the stabbing heartbreak of first love would find me. But the past is like my big backyard storage shed: the things you’re unable to discard can be put in the back, out of reach until those rare occasions you need them. So those darker summers are subjects for another day; today I cut the lawn and traveled in time.
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Richard C McPherson’s short stories have been featured in Bright Flash Literary Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Twelve Winters Journal, The Write Launch, and the 2022 Anthology “Conversations.” His debut novel, Man Wanted in Cheyenne, has been called “smart, funny and tender,” and was just released by Unleash Press. Mr. McPherson taught digital communications at UCLA, Columbia, and New York University. His website is richardcmcpherson.com.