During 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 corner of his mouth.
This is a story from one of my many lawn-cutting crew adventures:
It was a gorgeous Friday morning. We pulled to a stop in front of the Schultz residence.
Mr. and Mrs. Schultz were an elderly couple who lived in a small house in an older neighborhood. Mr. Schwartz was sickly and often in bed, so we never saw him much.
However, the last time we’d maintained their yard, he’d been sitting on the front porch. He told me that he believed he was sick because somebody was poisoning him.
“I used to be a political activist, so I made a lot of enemies,” he’d said. “I’m positive that somebody is poisoning me, so I told my wife that I would never eat another morsel of food unless she herself prepared it.”
We all unloaded our tools and fanned out across the yard.
As I approached the front porch holding my pruners in one hand and lugging a trashcan with the other, I saw Mrs. Schultz sweeping the front stairs. Just as she finished the bottom step, Juan walked by with the leaf-blower, gusting a bunch of dust and pollen all over the freshly swept stairs.
Mrs. Schultz screamed, waving her broom at him. Juan jumped, startled, then scurried off.
“Stupid moron!” the old woman said, frantically sweeping the bottom step. She was short and wrinkled, with long, gray hair and a dirty apron. The broom she was clutching was taller than she was.
“Good morning, Mrs. Schultz,” I said, approaching her.
“What do you want?” she snapped, glaring at me. “You looking to track mud all over my stairs with your filthy clodhoppers?”
“No ma’am,” I said. “I just wanted to ask about Mr. Schultz. Has he been feeling any better?”
“Mr. Schultz is where he always is: lying in bed like a useless sack of potatoes.” The old lady turned her back and continued to sweep.
“Well,” I said, “I’m concerned because the last time I saw him, he made this peculiar claim that someone was poisoning him, and that he was counting on you to prepare all his meals.”
“No one’s poisoning the wretched bastard!” Mrs. Schultz said, twisting her broom handle as if to teat it apart. “He’s just using that excuse to lie in bed all day. And now I’m supposed to prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the miserable son of a bitch? You know what kind of a wrench that throws in my day? There goes my afternoon bridge games with the gals, and my evening meetings with the historical society! Besides, he’s an 80-year-old codger living in a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere! He’s a nobody — a nothing! He’s not IMPORTANT enough to poison!”
I stood there, blinking. “So … I take it you don’t subscribe to his poisoning theory?”
“I do not!” Mts. Schultz screamed. “And if *I* were poisoning the geriatric scumbag, then trust me, I’d be doing it a lot more quickly!”