Psychopomp Magazine Winter 2015 - Page 6

Stefanie Freele

Out on the Lawn, They Growl

Often on Mondays, when the parents drive exactly five miles over the speed limit, park haphazardly to drop off grade-schoolers, there is something different: a new calendar, a swept-clean walkway, trimmed bushes, a bake-sale announcement, rearranged picnic tables. As always, the kids detect these minor adjustments and point with that enviable innocent mixture of enthusiasm and astonishment, Look, they painted the curb!

This precise Monday, as the children round the corner, nimbly joining in on the overstuffed bustling backpack race, to view the latest improvement, the excitementevident by more-than-significant wows and ohs—rapidly escalates.

The lawn, an acre or two of crab-grassy, gopher-mounded, half-muddy dirt, utilized mostly for soccer, racing, and childish pandemonium has been replaced with a flat expanse of imitation turf.

Immediate commotion and disorder.

Parents, the type to park and walk their wee-ones to class, comment only on this subject. No, a plastic lawn! It is so clean! So stifling! So germ-filled. So unhealthy! So same! So safe!

The children—no hesitancy or reservation in their nature—bend down to touch, to rub their hands, to somersault. The bell rings, but few run toward class; there is the newfangled green element to explore.

The teachers sternly call in students. The second grade teacher’s aide, Mrs. Rutkowski, hadn’t even seen the yard yet and she plants herself at the edge of the green synthetic sea with hands on hips and mouth frozen. Where did this come from? She calls out.

Everyone begins to question, who, how, where, why. No one can answer. Parents argue, kids scrape knees as they skid, asthmatics fight for air. Someone—no one specific, but someone in fifth grade—hisses like a territorial feline. Others hiss back, spit, emit low and frightening snarls, the kind cornered dogs might. Using her bandana, the garden teacher, who knows she should say something but cannot, covers her eyes.

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