Reading Time: 7 minutes
An intriguing story about wind, the leaf blower and his desire, by Michele, for the Special Feature. A Different Truths exclusive.
The wind blew hard all night, bringing a party of clatter and cleaning to the cobwebs of days. It blew past the twilight; it blew past the cloud-shrouded midnight; it blew straight through to the pull between darkness and dawn. It was the kind of wind that, if you ran, most times, it followed. Or it stayed, somewhere, waiting until it could breathe, and run, cry, laugh, and shout, free, again.
His shoes were where they always were, clean socks on top, waiting for him by the foot of the bed.
His alarm rang at 4 am, like it always did, and the rushing of the wind was like a song, calling him outdoors, to work, to be. His shoes were where they always were, clean socks on top, waiting for him by the foot of the bed. On the chair, clean pants, shirt, all his clothes, folded, ready for the day.
He got up, and stretched, and moved to the window, to look through the darkness lingering outside. The wind approved, thrumming like a heartbeat, all around the house, rattling a hello on the window. There were few surprises, a few tricks with the wind. Storms, yes. But no surprises. No tests with smiles. No teaching.
Learning from the wind was fun. Safe.
Learning from the wind was fun. Safe. He hummed a windy song to himself, dressing, brushing his teeth, hand-combing his hair. His lips moved with the windy song, baa-buh-baa-baa-bshhhh, his hand grabbing breakfast from the counter, shoving it into his pocket as he ran down the steps to the truck his boss drove, idling, lights shining, in the blustering pre-dawn darkness.
Leaning across, checking the door and his seatbelt, his boss nodded, like he always did, and turned back to the steering wheel. The truck growled to life, rolling down the road. He watched the wind pushing the branches and whipping off winter-bleached leaves, snatching up plastic bags and rattling the loose boards and windows of the ramshackle houses on this side of town.
The wind would have had some fun in those places, he knew.
Sometimes they went to the fancy houses, where yards were larger than a short run, and people liked everything picture perfect. The wind would have had some fun in those places, he knew. And they would have fun too, setting everything to rights again, as if nothing ever happened.
He settled into the corner by the truck’s passenger door, humming with the thrum of the engine and the click of the road, watching the wind as it blew all around them. But his boss did not slow at the turn for those houses. Instead, they drove on, out to the big compound, where they had worked all year, mowing grass, trimming trees, blowing leaves.
He had the best job, if anyone were to ask. Nobody did, but he knew, just the same.
They did not let him run the big mowers, with their loud motors and sharp blades; not the smoke-belching trimmers and saws, either. But that was okay with him. He had the best job, if anyone were to ask. Nobody did, but he knew, just the same. And when the truck slowed, and stopped, he was already unbuckled, fingers gripping the door handle, waiting for his boss to release the door lock.
His dark mustard-colored coverall was right where it should be, clean, folded, waiting, and he pulled it on over his clothes. Goggles, ball-cap, ear-muffs, gloves, on in a flash, and he stood, rocking a little on the balls of his feet, impatient, while his boss gave the day’s notes to the other workers in the crew, the trimmers and the cutters and the other leaf blowers. He worried the wind would stop dancing with the leaves before his boss ran out of words.
The wind was calmer, but still blowing, and soon he could add his own chorus to its symphony.
Finally, his boss clapped once, twice; the men turned to their work. Shrugging into his bright reflective vest, he followed while the boss walked with him around the perimeter of his work-zone. Finally, they were ready, and he sighed happily. The wind was calmer, but still blowing, and soon he could add his own chorus to its symphony.
Rocking slightly, he waited while the boss checked the back harness, the fuel-tank seal-cap, the blower’s flexible hose and nozzle, and controls, and pulled the starter cord. His pulse quickened with the tempo of the motor, nodding when his boss grinned at him as they checked his harness straps. Time to begin.
He thought of his father, who used to use a rake, collecting big piles of leaves, where they could jump, and rummage, and toss them into the wind, and pack them, finally, into big bags for great green trucks to remove.
Walking with big, sure steps, wielding the blower, he felt like an explorer, an artist, cleaning fallen leaves, and all sorts of debris, with sweeps and flourishes as he walked. He worked with the wind, clearing the pathways, between the trees, alongside the buildings. He thought of his father, who used to use a rake, collecting big piles of leaves, where they could jump, and rummage, and toss them into the wind, and pack them, finally, into big bags for great green trucks to remove.
The leaf blower spluttered, and he quickly hit the red off switch, there by his thumb. It was not good to run the engine dry. He walked back to the boss’ truck; time for hot coffee from the thermos, while the leaf blower cooled and could be refueled. He rocked slightly, sitting on the tailgate in the warming sun of early morning. Cars were crowding the roads, now, substituting their voices for the hushed whisper of the retreating wind. There would not be much more to do, here.
Feeling his gaze, his boss told the other leaf-blower to switch to piling wind-downed branches and sticks into the refuse-truck.
Feeling his gaze, his boss told the other leaf-blower to switch to piling wind-downed branches and sticks into the refuse-truck. Relief flooded him as the boss refueled his leaf-blower, started it, and gestured him over, pointing out one last stretch of grounds that needed clearing. Quickly strapping on the harness, and pulling goggles and gloves back on, he gave the boss a thumb’s up, and strode determinedly over to the leaf-strewn area.
When the crew was finished clearing debris from the wind storm, they all climbed back into the trucks. He sat in the boss’ truck, like always, leaning into the sun beating down on the window, absorbing the noise and rhythm of the wheels on the road.
Cleanup at a construction zone was next.
Cleanup at a construction zone was next. His boss handed him a big broom and a small pocket player; he could hear one of his favorite songs, dimly, through the dangling earphones. Sliding the player into the pocket of his coverall, he made sure the earphones were secure and comfortable. The handle of the broom felt good in his grip, as he and the boss walked out the grids of the floor he would clean, collecting the little orange cone markers into ever-taller stacks as he progressed, square by square.
The boss brought lunch, and later a snack, like always, and, before the songs ran out, it was time to go. He took off the coverall and handed it to the boss. He’d get a clean one in the morning. The seatbelt closed with a satisfying click. The cool of the truck window welcomed his forehead, as he blended into the sounds of the roads once more.
The truck slowed, and his boss pulled into the driveway they’d left before dawn that day. Getting out, and closing the door carefully, he looked back in through the window the boss had opened.
“Good work today. See you tomorrow,” the boss said, and waved briefly.
He removed his shoes when he’d entered, like always, relishing the smooth of hard floor and squelch of colorful carpet beneath his sock-clad feet.
As the truck departed, he nodded, and turned to enter the house. He removed his shoes when he’d entered, like always, relishing the smooth of hard floor and squelch of colorful carpet beneath his sock-clad feet.
Climbing the stairs, he entered his room and set his shoes side by side at the foot of the bed, laces neat, clean socks laid on top. He put tomorrow’s clothes carefully on the chair nearby. Going into the bathroom, he scrubbed his face and hands, and went downstairs.
Conversation rose and fell around him like waves, and he settled into the colours of it until dinner was finished, the places cleared, and everyone moved to get ready for bed.
The others were already bustling about, helping prepare dinner, setting plates on the table, talking about their days. The counselors moved around, blending in effortlessly. He grabbed silverware and put it around, alongside the plates, and then glasses, some of which he filled with water, leaving others empty for milk. Conversation rose and fell around him like waves, and he settled into the colours of it until dinner was finished, the places cleared, and everyone moved to get ready for bed.
After his shower, his favorite counselor knocked, and entered slowly, checking that he was settled for sleep, night light on, alarm clock set.
The wind blew a bit, rustling tree limbs outside.
The wind blew a bit, rustling tree limbs outside. He smiled, snatches of memories of playing in leaves with his father intertwined with remembrances of the wind storm which had wuthered when they laid his father to rest, and reminiscences of the thrumming of the leaf blower and the push of the broom, as he’d set his corners of the world aright once more today.
“Good night,” the counselor said, leaving the door ajar precisely one finger’s width, so he would know he wasn’t alone, if he woke up in the night.
Tomorrow the boss would bring him to the day’s work again.
He nodded; eyelids already heavy. Tomorrow the boss would bring him to the day’s work again. One day he would fly away, light and free as a leaf on the wind.
But tonight, he would sleep.
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