Sunday, February 22, 2009


Eventually, I ran out of excuses to avoid the Saturday chores and announced to my internal colleagues that we were heading outside to repair the bricks around the flowerbeds, mow the lawn, pick up after Sally (what Bagman calls the brown Easter Egg Hunt), lay down pine straw, and clean and refill the bird feeder.

Pulling on an old sweater and work shoes, I watched Bagman grunt in disgust, escape to his room and shut the door. I expected to lose Bagman’s help since he hates yardwork, but just as I was about to go through the porch, I noticed Butler had stopped and turned back.

This worried me because I need Butler’s suggestion for efficiency. He’s the one who can map out the most efficient course for the lawnmower to take so I have the longest straights, the fewest turns, and no need to backtrack over what has already been mowed. He is the one who has worked out, over time, the most effective Sally poop-scoop which he modeled on a golfer’s technique for getting out of a sand trap, striking just behind the little round object so that it lifts up with a little backspin rather than being mashed deeper in the grass…or sand…depending on what object we are talking about.

In any case, I needed Butler. Starting back to get him, I heard his voice yelling through Bagman’s closed door, more pleading than angry.

BUTLER: “Come on, Baggie, just give it a chance for once! I know you think you hate yardwork but some people love it! If the protoplasm-we-call-Mark had you with us, he might notice things when he is outside. With your zest for passion, he would see catch the bongo beat of the woodpecker in the gum tree instead of just noticing the irritating spiny things that fall from it. He might enjoy the smell and feel of the rich soil around the flower beds and delight in patterns made by circling turkey vultures and wheeling crows. With your eye for beauty he might see the reflections of the sunlight clouds in the pond. He could live in the present and feel the edges and heft of each brick he replaces. Come out with us, Baggie, old chap. The yard can be just as creatively satisfying as any old photograph or poem!”

Then I heard the crash of some small piece of furniture as Bagman must have thrown it against the door, followed by a string of unrepeatable adjectives followed by the word “yardwork.” Then Butler turned, left Bagman to whatever fantasies he was going to indulge in behind his door, and returned to join me in the yard.

Together, Butler and I toiled all afternoon in the back yard. We picked up dog crap, slammed bricks into place in nasty dirt, sweated and complained about the cold at the same time. When my wife got home after staffing her booth at the teachers conference, she looked at yard and exclaimed, “Wow! It looks so much better!”

“Right,” I muttered. I hadn’t really noticed. It was work, it was done, and I never looked back at the results. Dragging my sore back inside to take a shower, I also did not notice the birds swooping down in graceful arcs to twitter their grateful, soprano chorus around the feeder.


  1. Yardwork, I had never heard that expression before the internet ...we would always call it gardening.
    We might ...say tidying up the garden but no ..never yardwork.
    We did it yesterday. I say we because I have two gorgeous sons, one lives with me and the other (older one) lives around the corner with his girlfriend, came around to supervise the younger one doing it.
    I get to smile, dispense lemonade, it being late summer here and perhaps water the pot plants.


    I like the way you write.

  2. Perhaps Butler could come and give my lawn the once-over some time!

  3. How much do those two charge per hour?

  4. Sounds like Butler has a smidgen of the poet about him after all-- or at least can appreciate the benefit of poetry. Lovely last line.

  5. Sorry, Miles...Butler's obsessive compulsive disorder fills up his mind so much he doesn't have room for any other yards. And Bagman, of course won't work in the yard at all, except maybe if an abundance of ladies are around to massage his over-active ego.

  6. I work in a Garden Center and absolutely love working in my yard! Do you think B&B are looking for work? :)


  7. Yardwork. That reminded me of my Dad, who reminded me all the time that I had yardwork to do, growing up.

    I desperately need some of that done now. Would you still like me if I told you the leaves from the fall are still in my front yard?

  8. Good morning Mark. I'm Delwyn and I've come to you via Mr Kinder aka Dan.
    I loved your story. It rolled along like a wheel barrow, stopping here and there as it hit an uneven brick....

    I'm not familiar with your 'inner community' so will have to read further. Thankyou very much.

  9. I would rather help you with yardwork than shovel the snow out of my driveway. :) Love your stories and your unique voice. :)

  10. Thank you all for your support and for your kind offers to let Bagman and Butler come and do your yards. Butler says that he already has a full time job trying to contain Bagman. Bagman replies that he has never worked a day in his life and doensn't intend to start now.

  11. Job well done. Your backyard very much resembles my nephew's who also live in Charleston.