We were coming out of a long winter; things were more dead than usual, and it seemed they would never be alive again. My dad was retired, five years, and he looked at his lawn that had died. It was killed last summer, trampled by my sister’s dogs. There were four of them, and they liked to dig holes. My dad looked at the dead lawn; most of the grass was missing, like a bald man’s head. It would take a transplant, but he was too depressed to buy sod. He just sat in his rocking chair and looked at the dirt.
“Dad, why don’t we go and buy some grass?”
“Thanks son, but no thanks. I gave that up in the 70s.”
“No, I mean, let’s go buy some sod.”
“I just don’t have the energy to lay-down sod.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Would you really?”
“Sure! The old hardware store has some.”
“Is that O’Neil’s?
“Irish. I don’t know if I can trust the Irish.”
“It’s a green lawn. The Irish are good at green things. Why don’t you trust them?”
“They are intertwined with the forces of darkness—leprechauns, and such.”
“Oh, come on—you don’t really believe that?”
“But I do, and you should too. Let’s go to O’Neil’s.”
We hopped into his truck and drove to downtown Renton. O’Neil’s had been there before Renton became a town. There was a going-out-of-business sign on the window.
“Bummer, this place is closing down,” my dad said.
We found O’Neil drinking a black beer and petting his terrier while lounging in a rocking chair.
“How are you, O’Neil?” My dad asked.
“Been better—my leg’s been acting up, and Scotty here, can’t catch the leprechaun that’s been wreaking havoc on my store and giving me loads of bad luck.”
“You say, a leprechaun?”
“Yeah. He’s always been around, and he promised me some gold in retirement, but the son-of-a-bitch skipped town. He still pops in, occasionally, and steals my beer.”
“Not to change the subject, but do you have any sod?” My dad asked.
“Oh, no. We got rid of anything alive, six months ago. Best I can do, is some Nitro fertilizer I have in the back.”
“Can we see it?”
“Sure. It’s the last can. Sensitive stuff. It’s been hanging around for a while now.”
“What do you mean, it’s sensitive stuff?”
“It’s got glycerin. It’ll blow you right up. Be careful not to walk on it too soon. It’ll sure make the grass grow, though. It’s a quick-grow fertilizer— the Irish swear by it. Some say, it’s got magical properties. There it is—only $14.95. Now, where is that blasted leprechaun. Scotty! Earn your keep!”
My dad and I paid for the fertilizer. I was a bit uneasy, with it wedged between my legs on the ride home. If we got into a car accident, the stuff might blow us sky high. When we got home, we poured it into a sprayer, carefully. The stuff gave-off heat, and I was careful not to pour it in direct sunlight. Then I walked into the backyard that looked like a war zone, with craters and holes and dead dirt everywhere, and I began spraying. I was careful not to walk on the ground I had already sprayed.
“Well, dad. I got to go home, but let me know how the fertilizer works out.”
“Will do, son. Thanks for your help today.”
I waved. I didn’t expect a call from him for at least a week, but that evening, I got a call.
“Son, the grass is growing. It’s out of control. I’ve already mowed it twice this afternoon. If it doesn’t stop, I’ll have to do a controlled burn.”
“What do you mean, you’ve mowed it twice?”
“Come over and see.” It had only been a few hours since I fertilized.
The lawn was waste-high. It was threatening to become a jungle. In the Congo, the jungle swallows houses overnight. My dad was worried.
“Why don’t you call Bob,” I said.
“Are you sure?”
“Sure, I’m sure.”
“But last time we hung-out, the fire department was called.”
“Well, maybe that’s what you need—a controlled burn.”
“I’m going to call O’Neil.”
This is O’Neil; I’ve left the country for Ireland. Leave a message, but I won’t get back to you.
“I got his answering machine.”
“Okay. The lawn is our problem, now. You need to call Bob.”
Bob was a Vietnam vet— terribly eccentric and effective at doing things most people don’t know how to do. His neighbor had complained about his lawn; it was too tall and scraggly. So, one day, Bob set a match to it. The neighbor called the police, but by the time they got there, Bob didn’t have a lawn, and the evidence was destroyed.
“How do you like my lawn, now?” Bob asked. He chuckled through yellow teeth and his pot-belly laughed. He was loved and hated—a man of unusual talents who was always there for his friends, if they called.
“Bob, I’ve got a situation over here with my lawn. Can you help?”
“Welllll, let me get a couple of gas cans and a shovel, and I’ll be right over.”
I heard his whiney voice coming over the phone. It was ecstatic, like static electricity, and I knew something BIG was about to happen, probably illegal. Bob lost his wife two years ago, and she was the one who reigned him in. The fourth of July was fun, and every year the police were called.
Now, the 5 AM spring sunshine was rising. Bob hopped out of his big-rig, chewing tobacco.
“Show me your grass.”
“It’s this way, Bob.” I led him to the backyard that was half as tall as our house.
“What’ve you guys been messing with?” He asked.
“Oh, there’s no way I’m going to set fire to that. We might blow the neighborhood up. What we need, is a parks and rec mower, or a god-damn tank! You have a problem on your hands—I don’t know if it can be solved. What you clearly need is a magician or a shaman. This is magical grass. Have you walked inside?”
“No, I haven’t walked inside. Are you crazy?”
“There’s something in there. Hold on a second. Bob was back with his double-barrel shotgun. Alan, get your gun. We got to find whatever is causing this grass to grow. My dad grabbed his rifle, and I took-up the rear with a 9mm. The grass was humming and the noise grew louder, as we entered the heart of the lawn. At the center, the grass was transparent. We walked through, under blue skies, that weren’t quite blue. They were purple. It was an open field, where a leprechaun was lounging in a lawn chair.
“O’Neil, is that you?” The leprechaun asked. He was drinking a black beer. Clearly drunk, which is saying something for a leprechaun.
“No, O’Neil went back to Ireland, and pawned his curse off on us.”
“That old fool is trickier than me. Can’t take a joke. Takes everything personal. I was even going to give him this pot of gold here, but since he went back to the home-country, I guess I’ll be giving it to you.”
He handed me the pot of gold next to his chair, with a mischievous grin.
“I just want my lawn back, you son-of-a-bitch,” my dad said.
“Granted,” the leprechaun replied. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m working on my tan; the way back is the way you came.” He put on his sunglasses and resumed his sunbathing. We walked back through the portal onto our perfect lawn.
My dad has never needed to water it. It remains green, all year long. The neighbors stop by and admire it. My dad tells them the story of the leprechaun, which no one believes, but everyone enjoys. And my dad and Bob are more than taken-care-of in retirement with their pot of gold.