On my way to Atlanta to deliver a new Chevy Impala sedan, I kept on trying to call my old girlfriend Karen at her new Café in Richmond. But no luck. Each time I called, an overly efficient employee answered and said she was out running errands. So I just continued to leave messages.
I had spoken briefly to a Mrs. Detriech in Atlanta that I was set to deliver to the next day. Actually it was in Alpharetta, just north of the city. I slept in the back seat of the car while parked at a nearby Wal Mart, so that I could be up and ready to deliver first thing in the morning. I had printed out my directions from Mapquest, and it was easy getting to the house. I drove up the grassy driveway, and was immediately overwhelmed by the growth of vegetation in the front yard.
A man came bustling out the front door and marched up to me purposefully. I got out of the car and said “Good morning.”
“Look at this yard, just look at it.”
I looked around. “Very nice.”
“Really? Is that what you’d call it? I don’t think it has been well taken care of at all.”
I shrugged. “Who am I to judge?”
The man looked hurt. “Very funny. My Father took pride in making his yard the prettiest one on the block. But look at it, all overgrown and out of control. Doesn’t it bother you?”
“Not really,” I said.
“What’s your name again?”
I smiled. “Bill Thomas sir, nice to meet you.”
“The feeling is not mutual, Bill. I am a very dissatisfied customer.”
I was taken aback. “Why are you not satisfied?”
“Because the situation is unacceptable.”
I had run into spouses before who gave me trouble about the car I was delivering to their husband/wife. “Is your wife here, sir?”
“Now don’t drag her into it. This is between you and me.”
“What is between you and me?”
“There is a big difference between mowing the lawn and cutting the grass. Do you know what that difference is?”
“I don’t see how this—“
“Let me explain,” he interrupted. “Cutting the grass means taking a lawn mower and cutting the grass. Mowing the lawn means that plus edging, weeding, trimming the hedges, sweeping.”
“Trimming the hedges?”
“Yes, which brings us to another matter.” He led me over to his azalea bushes. “Did you use hedge clippers on these azalea bushes?”
“No sir, I—“
“Now don’t you lie to me, I can see that they’ve been hacked up.”
“Sir, there’s been some kind of mistake.”
“Yes my boy, and you made it.” Suddenly, the man jerked his head towards the heavens attentively. “Yes Father. I’m taking care of it now.” The man turned his attention back to me. “That was my Father, he was telling me that he is very unhappy with how you are treating his yard.”
“Where is he?”
“In Heaven, where else? He died in this house, and I’ll be damned if I let you besmirch his memory.”
“I have no intention of—“
The man jerked his head upward again. “Yes, yes I know Father.” He looked at me. “Did you know that back in the day, people used to call this place the Azalea palace? It was really something special. But look at it now. Just look at it!”
“What does this—“
“The front yard is bad enough, but the back yard looks like Jurrassic Park. Are you proud of yourself?”
“Yes, I mean no, I mean… I don’t know what’s going on here.”
“The spirit of my Father still abides in this house, at night I can still hear him bumping around inside. God bless him.”
“That’s nice, but—“
“No buts about it!
“So you and your wife live here?”
“Oh God no, we have a place across town. I have preserved this house, it still has all the furnishings and fixtures it did when it was built in 1955. I like to keep it as a living memorial to my Father. And he—“ The man interrupted himself as he looked up towards the sky. “Yes Father, I know, don’t you worry.”
I looked at my paperwork. “This is 6430 Winston St., isn’t it?”
“Of course it is. You know it is.”
At this moment, the man’s wife came out the front door. She spoke to her husband. “Dear, you didn’t tell me we had company.”
“Mrs. Detriech?” I inquired.
“No,” she said.
“The lawn boy came by to grovel about the bad job he’s been doing, and Father has a few choice words he’d like me to share with the lad.”
“This isn’t the lawn boy, Gerald,” the woman said.
“Then who is it, Gwen?”
“This isn’t the Detriech household?” I asked.
“No, I’m afraid not,” Gwen told me. “They are two houses down, at 6434.”
“Guess I had the wrong address, sorry.”
Gerald looked up at the sky. “Wrong address, Father. Wrong guy.” I started for the car, and Gerald came up behind me. “Listen, I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.”
“No problem, no harm done.”
“But Father wanted me to tell you that you should remember never to usehedge clippers on the azalea bushes.” He looked up at the sky. “Yes, I told him.”
I got into the car and drove down to deliver to Mrs. Detriech. Riff had printed the wrong address, but I should have confirmed it with the customer before I tried to deliver. My mistake. As I rode the bus to catch the Marta train, I passed a billboard with a picture of Gerald on it, and apparently he was running for Mayor. I think his Father would be proud.