The Slow-Cooked Sentence

The letter H sponsors a second post

Rachael Conlin Levy

He mowed the lawn weekly, shaving the face of the grass with the same tenderness that he brought to his own broad cheeks and weak chin. His work in the yard was a series of imperceptible acts that went unnoticed by his wife, who could not point to what had been done although she sensed the change upon her return because the house would look sharper, clearer, the way the world looked through an updated eyeglass prescription. In the beginning the yard work had been a game of guessing what small change had been worked that day. He would stand behind her at the window, kissing her neck and whispering hints, until she gave up and he would point out the sidewalk cracks freed of weeds or the mint that had moved. Of course! she would reply and turn in his arms, smiling and stroking his rough cheeks. That was long ago, yet the game continued, he with his question and she with her response. Can you guess what I did today, he asked, and she would shake her head and turn toward the liquor cabinet.

In the morning a wind had blown the cherry blossoms from the trees, leaving the lawn looking as if a giant bottle of Pepto Bismol had spilled across the grass and trickled into the gutter. His wife’s footprints had made tracks in the yard as she left that morning, but he waited until evening, when the air was still and quiet, sweet with the smell of crushed petals, before he pulled out the lawn mower for a second straight day and ran it over the freshly mowed grass to chew up the flowers. It was then that the woman returned, walking the same direction along the street, around the same hour.

He was wearing large yellow headphones that protected his ears, and his eyes focused on the grass ahead of him as he concentrated on making smooth circles around the trees, so he saw her shoes first — black, scuffed, a sole peeling away from the toe to resemble an open, smiling mouth. His gaze jumped to her tan face, to hair graying, a thick stripe of pink braided through the silver and brown, to loose jeans tightly cinched around her waist, the ends caked with dirt, dragging and frayed, to her jacket with a sticker that he squinted to read, paying no attention to the drifts of petals he was mowing: We are Trayvon Martin. She looked ahead, not at him, and carried the two plastic bags.

The lawn mower ran into the hydrangea bush and stalled. He pulled off the headphones and could hear her — humming? As she passed, he could see that the letter H was still there, taped, yes, definitely taped, to her jacket. Harmonize, hypnotize, hallelujah.

He was happy she had returned.

2 responses to “The letter H sponsors a second post”

  1. anno says:

    Halcyon days.

    It’s not exactly right, but those are the words that keep coming to mind. Beautiful.

  2. Rachael says:

    Thanks, Anno. I’m enjoying this process, this discovery of a character, of making him come to life, of learning who he is and what he does.

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