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Matthew Medendorp


In some states, cutting grass is essential. I learn this by cutting grass. It’s a new job, “a uniform job” as one of my family members likes to declare with obvious delight. I think my other jobs have not been uniform jobs and have been harder to understand. Now when I go into work I follow a red Ford F-350 towing a trailer of lawn adjacent power tools and engines, socially distanced in my own car. I put on gloves and engage the choke on the weed-whipper. Things look different when I finish a day’s work, the grass is shorter and sometime the weeds are whipped. Ideally things look better when I finish a day’s work. I don’t work when it rains. In the morning, I fill an old dented Stanley thermos with drip coffee. The thermos belonged to my grandfather, who gave it to me when he moved out of his house by the river and into a retirement community. This is not the grandfather who was a mechanic and now mows lawns for his own version of a retirement community, a double-wide park in Florida, but rather the grandfather who was a pastor, and now meets with other retired pastors on Wednesday mornings to debate the finer points of the Reformed theological tradition. Though they probably don’t meet anymore, because no one can meet anymore, at least right now.

We all have at least two legacies to trace, maybe more. Currently, my wife and I are growing our own. Really, it’s just my wife doing the growing, but I like to use contributing verbs. Our tadpole is the size of a baseball mitt—according to a phone app’s weekly update, and, as of this week, can be startled. Our future baby grows whether it rains or not, but when it rains, I stay home and try to startle the little pollywog. Our baby doesn’t have a tail anymore, but it still feels alien. Soon we’ll be able to see a foot or a hand through the taut epidermis that stretches across my wife’s belly. The belly is really there now, and it’s easy to know when I look at her that something is happening.

Last week I helped cut a lawn where the grass was 16 inches tall. I felt like Indiana Jones. I wanted a machete. I wanted to dive down and explore the seeded tops of unknown ecosystems, to burrow. Instead we spent two hours there and cut it three times, a wall of grass clippings marking our progress in solidarity with the timestamp on my bad audiobook. While we mowed, two small girls pressed their noses against the window, watching our red truck, our red mowers, or red uniform shirts against the undulating sea of green. This lawn was the field of memory Russel Crowe touches in Gladiator, Elysium waiting. For now it feels good to start at one end of the house and end at the other, always moving clockwise to keep the clippings from the flower beds. For now it feels good to pull a starting chord on a backpack blower and feel something hum, shoulder a whirring machine, blow a driveaway into a clean slate. For now it feels good to get a paycheck. For now it feels good to open my car door, douse my hands in commercial sanitizer—old country music on the radio— drive the forty minutes back home and open a Modelo. For now it feels good to be in motion while the world gestates, waiting for what is next.

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020