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Dead Leaves MAG
This morning I spoke with my neighbor, Joseph. I was raking leaves off my driveway and patio, and he was pulling weeds in his garden. We waved and said hello, and exchanged the usual niceties and neighborly greetings. He did not look very well, so I asked if he was feeling sick.
“No,” he said, “I feel all right. I was in the emergency room last night, though.”
“Oh! What happened?” I was both concerned and surprised by his nonchalance.
“Nothing terrible; I had a bit of a stomach ache. You've met my wife, right?”
“Yes,” I said. “What does she have to do with it?”
“Well, she made spaghetti last night, and it made me a little sick because she ground up a bottle of aspirin and mixed it in with my tomato sauce,” he said, watering his petunias contentedly.
I was speechless. I stood with my rake in a loosening grip and mouth wide open and stared at him. For several moments there was silence in the warm late morning air, but I seemed to consider it more awkward than he did, for he made small talk.
“Are you still working on that logo for the Canadian snowboard company?”
“Uh … yeah. I'm drafting designs right now,” I sputtered.
“That must be a fun job. I don't get nearly enough time to finish my projects down at the plant,” he said, sighing. He sat back on his heels, resting for a moment to wipe the sweat from his reddened forehead. I tried to detect any sign of emotion over the subject of his wife poisoning him.
“Yep,” I said. “It's nice to be able to relax during the week.” I glanced down and began again to rake the leaves into a neat pile.
Joseph's wife's voice rang out from the house: “Joe? Did you take a look at the dishwasher? I think it needs some oil in its gears or something.”
She stepped out their front door, toting their toddler in one arm.
“Oh, hi, Amos,” she said, smiling and waving at me across the low bushes that separated our lawns. She pointed the baby at me and made him wave as well. He babbled and smiled, his face covered with applesauce.
“Hi, Carol,” I said warily.
“How are you? I like your new car, by the way.” She chatted for a while about the weather and how her son, Todd, was learning to walk and how she wanted to buy a video camera to record his first steps. I nodded, taking it all in without smiling or laughing as I normally would.
I couldn't stop thinking that this woman had tried to kill her husband the previous night, and neither of them seemed to think anything of it. I found myself wondering whether it was polite or insane of me not to mention it. I guess I decided that it was polite.
She turned back to her husband, setting Todd down to crawl around the yard. I picked up the trash bag and began to rake leaves into it. I tried not to listen to them, but it was impossible to ignore their voices.
“Joe, did you plant those roses we bought last week?” she asked, walking slowly toward him.
“I think they're still in the pots in the garage. I'll do that when I'm finished here. Where do you want them?” He squinted up at her, shielding his eyes from the sun. He was very sweaty and looked quite small as she stood over him.
“How about the side of the house next to the blueberry bushes?”
“All right. I hope I can finish before noon. What's for lunch?” he asked, standing.
“I'm making roast beef sandwiches,” she replied. She still seemed taller than him.
“Mmm,” he said, “my favorite.”