The Old Man and the Leaf Blower
An imitation of Benchley imitating his friend, Old Ernie.
He was an old man who had gone eighty-four days without blowing the leaves from his lawn.
“Why don’t you blow away those leaves, old man!” someone would scream from across the street.
“Why don’t you shut your face! I will sue you!” he would scream back.
A boy stood quietly behind him. “Old man.”
Irreverent words rang from the old man’s mouth and he turned. “You scared the hell out of me!”
“I want to help.”
“You are not yet a man. Tomorrow I will go far into the lawn and blow many leaves—maybe a thousand. Well…at least more than three.”
“Are you strong enough?”
The old man stared at the crinkled leaves. Some fluttered in the breeze. The old man’s face was crinkled but did not flutter. Only his left ear when excitement came.
“I will blow them,” he said calmly. “I know many tricks.”
“I am riding my bike to the convenience store. Do you want something?”
“Bring me a beer. Better yet, bring three.”
“I cannot buy beer.”
“Tell that man at the store I know his immigration secrets. He will sell them.”
The boy left. The old man gazed skyward. “Tomorrow will be lucky for leaf blowing."
The boy returned with beer, and many pastries and sandwiches.
“How did you get all this?”
“I told him you know his secrets.”
“That is very kind. I will give him a bushel of leaves. They make good mulch.”
At dawn the old man’s blower was droning. By late afternoon there were many leaves in the street.
“You are supposed to bag those leaves!” yelled a neighbor.
“This is a free country and I will sue you!” he shrieked back.
Eventually his hand became cramped.
“That’s what you think, Mr. Hand." And with duct tape, he lashed the blower to his forearm.
Toward evening he felt dizzy. He leaned against a tree and pulled a leaf from a branch. With his pocketknife he cut it into strips and chewed each slowly. “I need lime or salt,” he thought. He stopped chewing. “Why am I eating leaves?”
“A thunderstorm is coming! Come inside!” It was his wife.
“Go back into your kitchen, old woman or I will sue you!”
“Crazy bastard,” she muttered, and slammed the door.
The wind swirled leaves back into his yard, even into his neighbors’ yards. Cold raindrops pelted his skin. Then he breathed a word beginning with “sh.” Perhaps it is the best word for these moments.
Into the stormy night, under the street lights, he blew and blew. Then he staggered inside.
At daybreak there were heaps of damp leaves in the street, but many more on his lawn. Some had been blown there by the wind, but most had been angrily dumped by his neighbors.
The boy went into the old man’s bedroom. The old man slowly opened one eye. “Go to the store,” he mumbled. “Bring back as many beers as you can carry.”