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A lawn-care crew that carries in the groceries 

A sinister lawn-care customerDuring the summer before I started college, I worked as a laborer for a lawn-cutting service. There were five guys on the crew — including me — and my boss was a guy named Crew Leader Carl. He had hair down to his shoulders and always had a cigarette sticking out the side of his mouth.

We mostly tended to ritzy golf-course homes and the occasional shopping center. I recall one day early in my lawn-cutting career as we drove through a rich neighborhood and pulled to a stop in front of our next account. 

“Oh no,” Crew Leader Carl said, killing the engine. “Mrs. Beale is waiting for us.”

I looked and saw a little old lady standing on the sidewalk, her hands planted on her hips.

“I need your help,” she barked, as we all climbed out of the truck. 

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said.

She pointed to the car parked in the open garage. The trunk was propped open.

“I just got back from the store,” Mrs. Beale said. “Carry all of the groceries into the house!”

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said. 

The five us grabbed an armload of groceries and paraded into the house.

“Each of you kick off your shoes before coming in,” Mrs. Beale said. “You’re all filthy. I don’t want you tracking mud on my carpet.”

We all kicked off our boots in the washroom before marching through the house with our sacks.

“Put the refrigerated items away,” she said. “The other things go in the pantry. Hurry up – my ice cream’s melting.”

She glared at the guy next to me, whose name was Francisco. “Comprehend-o, Pedro?”

Francisco nodded and started unpacking bags. When her back was turned, he rolled his eyes at me.

When we were done, Mrs. Beale led us back out to the garage. While we were tying our boots, she barked, “I’m having a get-together on Saturday night. Carry all of this patio furniture to the backyard!” 

“Yes, ma’am,” Crew Leader Carl said. 

Francisco and I grabbed the end of a heavy table and lumbered out the side door. The other guys followed us carrying chairs and an umbrella.

“Set up the furniture,” Mrs. Beale barked when we got to the back patio. “Put the table over there. And I want those chairs by the house!”

We scurried around setting up the furniture. When we were done, Mrs. Beale put a finger to her lips and frowned. 

“I don’t like it,” she said. “Put the table over there, and the chairs over there.”

We rearranged the furniture over and over until she was satisfied.

“Thank you very much for your help,” she said.

Crew Leader Carl checked his watch. “Well, our half-hour’s up, Mrs. Beale. We have to go to our next account now.”

She balled her hands into fists. “But you didn’t even touch my yard! You lazy bastards! What kind of a maintenance crew are you?”

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