“Marilyn, this yard is going to look greener than the pastures of heaven,” my brother-in-law promised. He always knew how to say the right thing.

“Mom, if you let him run his chickens and dogs on our lawn, it’ll kill the grass,” I said. But my mom wasn’t listening. She was mesmerized by his lies. Soon their mobile chicken coop was on the lawn and chickens were shitting everywhere. My sister was reading books on how to manage a small farm while they converted our backyard into one. They had 3 dogs; a poodle, a lab, and a husky. I walked into the backyard to read my book and instantly stepped in poo. I was barefoot. I broke the crust on the shit and the smell lingered to my nose. Then I washed it off with the hose and started reading under the young oak tree. There was a squirrel up there eating nuts and hiding food for winter. I watched it and it watched me, for a time. Its girlfriend was in the adjacent tree looking after their 3 babies. One day, their nest flipped out of the tree and the husky ate them all. Afterwards, he buried their bodies in the lawn. “It’s nature,” you might say, but I would say, “It’s my brother-in-law.”

The husky started digging holes, randomly. They looked like mortar-shells. My dad stretched barbed wire across the hedge to keep the animals in. My weights got scattered on the lawn so my brother-in-law could make room for his shit on our front porch. It had only been 6 months and our lawn looked like a prison yard or a concentration camp. Half of the grass was dead.

“Oh, don’t worry, it’ll grow back,” my brother-in-law said. “Chicken guano looks bad and smells bad, but it’s necessary for a healthy lawn. Next summer, it’ll be the greenest yard in the neighborhood. We’ll be gone then, and you’ll have your beautiful lawn.” Next summer they were still there and only weeds grew in the dirt. My mom kept taking in dogs that were about to die from her friends who had died. We fed them, took them to the vet, and buried them in a graveyard in the farthest corner of the garden.

Our septic tank was overflowing and the foam was leaking out of the ground. My dad was reading science fiction in his chair for hours during the summertime heat. “Alan, when are you going to call the septic man?” My mother asked.

“Shortly,” my dad said. He kept reading and the foam got bigger and bigger. My brother-in-law was playing ball with his dogs in the lawn. He threw it and the husky ran through the sewage foam, covering its face with shit bubbles. The dog looked disgusted.

Our house simply wouldn’t hold everybody. The bathrooms were always in use. I’d wake up and have to pee, but my brother-in-law was showering. I’d have to walk outside and pee on the yard. On weekdays, I needed to shower to get ready for work, but my brother-in-law was always taking a crap. I went to work without brushing my teeth. After work, I checked myself into the YMCA and did my business there. If this was my parents’ way of telling me I needed to get out of the house, it was working.

My brother-in-law decided to remodel our kitchen and my mother started putting things in my bedroom. “It’ll only be for a short time,” she said. But then they started to store paint, and siding, and electrical wires in there. I couldn’t get out of bed without tripping over something. Then my brother-in-law turned off the water and I couldn’t do my laundry.

He was cooking on his gas stove. I was eating protein bars and fruit. This was going on for 3 weeks. I was the frog boiling alive. “I’m looking for an apartment,” I said. I called the manager.

“What kind of amenities do you want?” She asked.

“I need a stove, a sink, a bathroom, and a washer and dryer.”

She laughed. “Of course, we have those things.” Renting was half my paycheck, but it was worth it. My brother-in-law continued to live in my house. In less than a week, he filled my childhood bedroom with all of his shit. He sweet-talked and schmoozed my parents and lived there for a further 3 years. The lawn has never recovered. It looks like a monument to war. And my brother-in-law still returns, even though he lives in California with my sister. He buys Junkers and fixes them in my parents’ driveway. Whenever I visit, there’s always 2 wrecked cars under construction. “Why do you put up with him?” I asked.

“It’s only temporary,” my mother says.

“Mom, he said he would only be living here for 6 months; he said the lawn would be the greenest in the neighborhood; he pushed me out of the house!”

“Andy, you chose to leave.”

And I know there is no reasoning with her. My brother-in-law is the devil. He lives on his wiles. He hasn’t worked a job in over 7 years. He sweet talks and gets people to do what he wants. I’ve never met anybody like him. If there’s someone who has Beaten the System, it’s him. My sister makes over 100,000 dollars a year while he plots his schemes. What a world. There is no justice. And there never will be!

7 thoughts on “WWII Backyard

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