Little House on the Heide
Plants vs. Zombies

Like many people these days, I’m frustrated and sad. I’m also lucky enough to be bored. But I’m too lazy to exercise, too unfocussed to read (or write the novel I imagine I should be writing), too antsy for yet more mindless scrolling.

What I really want is to exert some physical control over this nebulous state. When will it end? Will there ever be school again?

My plan was to have O reading or working in his math book while I did yard work. But he only wants to play a game on my phone. It’s called Plants vs. Zombies and I say no again. He wails I hate you, you’re so unfair and I go to the garage to get the rake.

Soon the full dimension of the undertaking becomes apparent. This can’t be the way you do it, can it? Actually rake every single individual leaf?

A blister begins to form between my thumb and forefinger. Sandy soil settles into my boots. My thoughts lift and swirl as I surrender to the monotony.Soon I’m thinking of A, my BFF for nearly 48 years. She always had to rake or mow her parents’ vast back yard before she was allowed to go out. She complained about it at the time but I suspect she might have secretly enjoyed it.

A lives in Ireland now, where she and her husband run what I would call a gardening empire. As if by magic a text arrives from her.

How goes it?

Just thinking of you. Raking! 


What’s your technique? Small piles or big piles?

Have to figure that one out for yourself.

I can’t seem to figure anything out. O is driving me crazy,

only wants to play games on my phone.

Teach him how to build a leaf house.

A what?

You don’t remember??

Then I do.

A and I wear patched corduroys and striped turtlenecks. Everything is rust colored and faded because this is a memory of autumn in the 1970’s. My parents are still married. I still live a block away from A, in the house with the cherry tree. We are five or six.

There are crushed leaves in our tangled hair. Using our hands, we form lines from the piles of garden debris my dad has raked. These lines are the walls of houses. We are making blueprints, envisioning the future.

My dad is annoyed because he will have to rake it all up again, but we don’t worry about dead leaves. They don’t smell like the past. Not yet.O yanks me back to the present with more begging. I finally give up and let him play Plants vs. Zombies, failing at home schooling yet again.

The wind is picking up, scattering the leaves as I attempt to shovel them into the wheelbarrow. And the trees are all budding with new growth now, but soon enough more leaves will drop. It’s nature, after all; how can I expect to win?

The futility of my action is obvious, but it gives me a sense of purpose anyway. And at least for today, I’ve given up on the illusion of control.