Prose

Fat of the Land

by Jonson Kuhn

 

Once upon a time there was this house, right smack dab in the middle of America; it
could have been anywhere and everywhere, and it was both. Nestled in the neighborhoods with
the perfect lawns and holiday decorations displayed with military timing; crammed in with every
other cookie cutter home and they all looked alike…except for this one. It didn’t look drastically
different from all the rest, just slightly off. This particular home was fastened to the ground with
a rare exotic brick, as if to insure the home’s permanent placement. At first glance you could
swear the brick was yellow, but then the longer you’d stare at it, you’d swear it was white but
then maybe altogether beige, almost as though the house didn’t want anyone to remember it.
There was a quaint yard in front with grass that grew at a considerable rate, along with a
brightly colored garden gnome, no taller than six or seven inches, that never seemed to be found
in the same place twice. In the back was a larger yard full of lush green grass that, much like the
front yard, seemed to grow unusually fast, to the point that it required mowing nearly every day
in the warmer months.
The attached garage was to the right of the home and perhaps among the strangest of
details was the small patch of land sandwiched between the garage and the neighbor’s fence that
grew weeds nearly as tall as the home itself. Just one small, narrow patch of land, no more than
five feet by ten, closed off in the front and concealed by a tall wooden weathered fence. The
patch was only visible from the backyard and when in direct view it was like being transported to
another world; the grass was so exotic and grew so tall that it was much too thick to see through.
Like staring off into the ocean, the patch of tall grass took on a sort of mesmerizing, hypnotic
quality when stared at for lengths of time. On the surface it was hard to argue that despite a few
oddities, the home itself certainly appeared to be like a Norman Rockwell depiction of the
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American Dream, yet it was entirely forgettable all at the exact same time…and it was everything
Dick Callous had ever wanted, yet it was entirely nothing he wanted all at the exact same time.
Who was Dick Callous? He was just your average middle-aged Red Blooded, Caucasian,
American male who had recently added Homeowner to his title of things that he was. Was he
privileged? Absolutely. Was he grateful? Not at all. In fact, if you were to ask Dick Callous
how he felt about it personally, he’d be likely to respond, “Personally? I don’t care for it at all,
thank you very much. Doesn’t seem fair, what’s in it for me?” That was a typical response for
Dick Callous, it didn’t even matter the particular question that was posed to him, you could ask
how he was doing or what time it was and more often than not he’d wanna know, “what’s in it
for me?”
Dick had recently purchased the home of exotic brick, but he wasn’t alone, he had Mrs.
Callous or if you asked her, just Peggy. Peggy and Dick had met in college and stayed together
out of spite, but as the years passed, they both had forgotten whom they were collectively trying
to spite. They had been together for the better part of a decade; there were days they were in
love or felt comfortable enough saying it out loud, but there was a distance there and they both
knew it. Confronting that issue always, to them, felt like the right thing to do, but ignoring it
entirely felt pretty good, too. They had an unspoken agreement to not address the “void” and
instead they filled that space with things, expensive things meant to replace a happy feeling they
once shared together. Once upon a time it made more sense to purchase household items
together, in person, in a store, both interested parties speaking their minds and giving their input.
But in the more recent days of their relationship it made far more sense to sit at opposite ends of
the couch and purchase things privately and silently from respective Iphones.
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“I never said I wanted a purple couch!” He’d exclaim, to which she would often reply
something to the effect of, “well, I never wanted a crossbow!” And on and on and on they’d go.
Were they going through the motions? Probably, but they were traveling at such a rate through
those motions that it was difficult to ever fully acknowledge or land on a solid answer. Which
brings us back to the house. They had bought the home together more out of an obligation to
family or society, they weren’t entirely sure; they bought it because it was just what came next in
the natural progression of things: you live with your parents until you’re old enough to do your
best impression of them and part of that impression, for Dick and Peggy, was buying a home and
immediately filling it with children they didn’t want.
The purchase of the property had been odd to say the least. The original owners had gone
missing some years back and ownership had been passed around from various remaining family
members like a curse they all kept trying to avoid. There were talks of maintaining ownership
while keeping it empty and there were talks of tarring it down, but there were never talks of
living in it themselves; none of the remaining family would have anything to do with it.
Eventually, the decision was made to try and wash their hands of it by putting it on the market
quickly and for a generous price. The home was never shown publicly, however, and no realtors
of any kind; the family of the estate simply handled all matters and inquiries over the phone and
far away within the borders of another country entirely.
There were a couple good reasons not to show the home before trying to sell it. Aside
from the strange issue of the quickly growing grass, there was the even stranger issue of all the
rabbits; for seemingly no reason at all, at any given time of day, an unusual number of morbidly
obese rabbits could be found lounging about the property, eating continuously along the
overgrown lawn. The family of the estate was never hard pressed to find ways of explaining the
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grass, but those rabbits, they weren’t quite so easy to explain. It wasn’t as though they were
bothersome or caused trouble, they were just simply there and in large numbers and no one
seemed to know why or if someone knew they certainly weren’t telling.
Though there were many calls that initially came in, most potential buyers were
immediately turned off by the collection of unconventional circumstances that accompanied the
listing. By the time Dick and Peggy had discovered the home, it was well within winter, when
all the lush grass in the yards had died, and the obese rabbits were assumed to be hibernating.
One peculiar note, however, was that the single patch along the side of the house was still
consumed with tall weeds and grass as green as emeralds, still as healthy and lively as in the
spring and summer.
Over the phone, the family of the estate had specifically told Dick not to mind the
overgrowing grass along the side of the house, for it was an exotic strain smuggled into the
States by a great grandfather, supposedly from the deep jungles of Africa, but details of the story
seemed to slightly change every time it was told. The grass had been grown on the property as
an experiment of sorts, just to see if it could actually survive outside of its natural environment,
and survive did it ever, year-round to be exact. Given its rare and exotic nature, the family of the
estate had asked Dick if he could kindly see to not cutting it because it was very important to
them, however, their mere words fell deaf on Dick’s ears like buffalo being herded off a cliff; he
had no intentions of honoring their request once the property was legally his own.
None of the peculiar details surrounding the home seemed to faze Dick and Peggy at all.
Borrowing heavily upon Peggy’s well-to-do family, there were only so many homes available
within their price range and within the upper class neighborhood they rightly felt they belonged,
so, once they finally discovered the property in a dream of a neighborhood for a dream of a price,
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they were just as eager to close the deal as the family was. Sure, the asking price was a steal, but
for the family of the estate, they were just pleased to have avoided mentioning the previous
owners’ sudden and unexplained disappearances. Had they tried selling the home to others in the
past? Had they, too, disappeared? These were all details easy enough to circumvent when
conducting business solely over the phone within the borders of another country entirely.
For Dick, the initial concerns regarding the home were such things as which nearby
houses had the loudest barking dogs or which of the neighborhood children were riding their
bicycles too closely to what was now His driveway. Dick walked around the home preparing in
his mind for all the things he was going to complain about and for Dick, this was happiness, or it
would do in the absence of happiness. Peggy walked around the home with different matters on
the mind entirely. She couldn’t help but walk into every room and immediately picture it as an
IKEA sponsored nursery for the children she had yet to bear. It was like the college degree she
had yet to acquire, she knew it was going to happen eventually, so, it was perfectly fine to plan
for what comes after it happens, even if it never happens. It wasn’t so much that she was ready
to have a child, but she was certain she was ready to take a lot of pictures of one.
Their move-in day had been nearly four months ago, and the new home was losing its
new home smell more and more with each passing day. It was summer now and still they had no
IKEA sponsored nursey and no children to fill it with. When the two weren’t busy working,
their days consisted primarily of sitting around the house and aimlessly staring at things. For
Peggy, it was usually blank spaces on the walls, and she would feverishly scroll through her
phone in search of items to buy to fill those spaces. For Dick, it was the next-door neighbor
Steve. Dick loved to hate the next-door neighbor Steve and this particular Saturday morning was
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no exception, with Dick standing at the kitchen window, staring daggers at the neighbor Steve
while Peggy quietly sat nearby, tending to her phone at the kitchen table.
“Look at this lazy asshole, look at him, lookit, lookit, lookit, lookit, look at
him…asshole.”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“You see this so-called neighbor over here just lounging around on a Saturday?”
“Who, Steve? He’s just sitting in his backyard drinking a Fresca.”
“Yeah, and you see his tree?!”
“What about it?”
“What do you mean, what about it?! It’s got all those branches hanging over into
my
yard. You mean to tell me that’s not driving you out of your fucking mind right now?”
“No, not at all.”
“Well, it’s making my skin crawl, Peggy. And, I’m telling you right now, that prick has
until tomorrow morning to cut those branches…or I swear to God, I’m going over there in the
middle of the night…and I’m gonna leave an anonymous note on his door.”
“Dick, calm down…”
“An anonymous note, Peggy! The nerve of this guy! ‘Oh, I guess I’ll just let my tree
branches grow into my neighbor’s yard because nothing in the whole God forsaken world
matters anymore!’”
“Calm down. He hasn’t been living there much longer than we have. Is it possible
maybe he just hasn’t thought of it yet?”
“If he was any kind of decent human being, let me tell ya, he’d’a thought of it.”
“He’s a nice guy. Let it go…
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“He thinks he’s such hot shit…drinking a Fresca; they don’t even make that shit
anymore, where the fuck is he getting all of this Fresca from?!”
“You really don’t like him, do you?”
“No, no, I don’t. And it’s not because he’s black! And it’s not because he’s gay! It’s
because of that…”
“It’s because of that fucking tree, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know a hundred times already. And
so, what? Say he blew the tree up with a stick of dynamite, then you’d invite him over for
dinner?”
“If he blew the tree up with dynamite, Peggy, I’d have no choice but to call the police.”
“I rest my case.”
The truth was, Dick didn’t know why he didn’t like Steve. He was pretty sure it wasn’t
because he was black and he was pretty sure it wasn’t because he was gay, but he wasn’t sure if
it was because he was black and gay
and
successful, more importantly,
more
successful. Sure,
Dick was “cool” with minorities, provided they remained as minorities, but if truly being “cool”
with minorities meant occasionally having to personally experience second place or last place or
no place at all, then Dick wasn’t sure how he felt, nor was he sure he wanted to. Steve the next-
door neighbor was a happening guy, very popular in the community and elsewhere and he gained
that popularity through being charitable and neighborly. Dick wasn’t charitable or neighborly in
the slightest because after all, “what’s in it for me?” Steve had a Lexus and paid for that Lexus
with a job as a project supervisor at an architect firm downtown, whereas Dick, not so much.
Dick had a Honda and a job in sales, yelling at people over the phone for eight hours a day in a
cubicle.
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People didn’t respect Dick, but the truth was Dick gave people little reason to respect
him. To Dick, he didn’t earn respect, it was just given to him, simply because there had never
been a time in his life when it hadn’t been. He had gotten through most of his life by the means
of a privilege he was never aware he even had, thus never appreciated it. But that magic had
long since started to wear off and he could sense it, just not accept it. Though he’d never admit it
and he barely allowed the thought to enter his mind privately, Dick couldn’t shake a certain
feeling of the world passing him by. Like the end of an era, a shift in the tides had come and he
wasn’t ready for it nor could he entirely understand it. Steve the next-door neighbor understood
it. Steve was It, the very face of it and This is why Dick didn’t like Steve, whether he knew it or
not.
“Don’t forget, Dick, my sister comes into town later today, so, you need to go like I keep
telling you to the gas station and take that little gas can with you from the garage.”
“For the mower?”
“Yes, the last owners left that mower in the garage, you gotta take it out, put gas in it and
make sure it still works because the grass is absolutely outta control.”
“Whatever.”
“And when you do mow, be careful of the rabbits, too, okay?”
With Peggy’s final command, Dick momentarily lifted his gaze from Steve and
transferred it to the rabbits in the backyard. They appeared as they always did with half shut
bloodshot eyes, mouths and guts full of vegetation, tipped over like sleeping cows, rendering
them useless and incapable of exercising any muscles beyond their jaws and bowels. Each with
a face of eerie discontent, they all looked to be literally suffering from too much of a good thing
and the excess of wealth and shelter had left them lethargic and apathetic to say the least.
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“Speaking of these rabbits, why don’t we just let them keep eating the grass and then I
won’t have to mow? They need to earn their keep anyway, fat fucks.”
“Yeah, they look really unhealthy, huh?”
“I wonder how much it would cost to have them exterminated.”
“Dick, that’s terrible.”
“That’s life, Peggy. Worthless people can’t expect to live off the fat of the land and
never lift a finger at the same time.”
“They’re not people, they’re animals.”
“Same thing. They’re always looking at me…staring right at me. I go to leave in the
morning for work and two or three of them are sprawled out in the front yard…like they’re
watching me.”
“I doubt very much that the rabbits are watching you, Dick. You’re just trying to change
the subject away from the mower.”
“Damnit, why do I have to mow, Peggy?! I’ve never done anything like that before.
Can’t we just hire somebody?
“Steve doesn’t hire anybody, Steve mows his own yard.”
“Yeah, just so he can turn around and brag about it.”
“I’m serious, Dick. I have to clean the house, so, you have to mow the yard.”
“Yeah, fine.”
“What are you going to do about that grass on the side of the house?”
“It’s
my
side of the house, Peggy; the whole house is mine and the ground underneath it,
too. If I wanna cut these people’s stupid
exotic
grass, I have every right to.”