Dead Leaves This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 17, 2008
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.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 17 comments. Post your own now!

oliviajocson said...
Jul. 5, 2013 at 1:27 am
Awesome! Eerie but well written!
Jun. 24, 2013 at 10:24 am
When you are in the corner and have no cash to move out from that point, you will have to take the mortgage loans. Just because that should help you emphatically. I take term loan every time I need and feel fine because of that.
nocommentisacomment said...
Nov. 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm
confused by the story but the creepy feel of the family was explained well. maybe give more detail of the day and describe more of what happens in the story.
HollerGirl26 said...
Sept. 10, 2011 at 9:53 am
Puzzling and creepy..but I like it!!
SarahShi said...
Jun. 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

This is just like Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradberry...


HollerGirl26 said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm
Alright it was good but creepy...does the wife kill someone for the beef? Is he her slave?I'M CONFUSED :) in a good way!? Please untangle my thoughts!!!
laurelli said...
Feb. 24, 2011 at 8:56 am
wow that was great. it had a creepy kind of upbeat to it. totally interesting and leaves you wanting more. not many people could do a light creepy feel like that. yay you!
MMartin said...
Nov. 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm
Oh Geez...That poor kid I dont even want to know whats gonna happen to him if he gets in trouble.
MadisonReneeJane said...
Oct. 15, 2010 at 8:11 pm
That was amazingly funny! I loved the freshness of the plot.
faeriesdescending44 said...
Sept. 1, 2010 at 5:21 pm

i loved the way this is written, its so good. its its really funny, in a quirky way. and does she try 2 poison him regularly?  

could u please read my work, comment and rate? thanks!

coly33 said...
Aug. 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

i dont get it y would you marry someone and then try to poien them and y didnt she go to jail or something or he didnt move out

but i really like it and the ending left me puzzled it was short but it somed it all up i liked it


DeadPeopleKinndaGrl said...
Aug. 4, 2010 at 11:51 am
This was really good! Plzzz comment on my work and give me some feedback!! Thanx! (:
kate-the-shrew said...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 8:53 pm
That was...a little creepy. I liked it, though.
Oliviaw said...
May 17, 2010 at 6:43 pm
I really liked how you left the reader hooked and wanting more towards the end. You did a great job at keeping the flow of the story. One the things I have trouble most with in my writing is that I describe way too much, and it doesn't flow very clearly. Maybe you could help me with this, because you are obviously an expert at not doing my mistake.
Sam_Arnold said...
May 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm
Creepy. That gave me chills.
SilverSnowflakes said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm
HeartlessHeroine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm
Oh man, this is Probably my Favorite from this September Issue.
You've gone to the graphic side, but stayed safe enough to pass through TeenInk's editors.
I'd like to know you better-
See what makes You Tick.
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