It’s rare that I get home before sundown these days, and I decided to take up the opportunity to mow the front lawn while I had daylight and it wouldn’t piss off the neighbours.
When I was driving in, I narrowly avoided running down a neighbour kid who was tooling around the roads on his bike. This happens infrequently. There are a lot of kids in my neighbourhood and they spend a lot of time just hanging out in my cul de sac avoiding cars and being bored. It’s what kids do.
Having gotten in and changed out of work clothes, I got something quick to eat and went out to start mowing. I didn’t make it halfway down the lawn before I noticed the self-same neighbour kid tentatively pedalling up towards my house.
He parked his bike in the road, dropped his helmet down beside it and started trudging up the lawn towards me. I stopped the mower.
“Can I help?”
“Huh?” I replied. I’ve never really considered myself good with kids. I wouldn’t have expected that that would be the sort of question that they’d ask.
“Can I help? I can use the ‘lectric lawnmowers, but I’m not allowed to use the gas ones.” He paused. “I’m bored.”
“Ah,” I said. I thought about it. I figured at worst he was probably going to try to extort $10 out of me, which I could deal with. It wasn’t going to take me long, but occupying bored kids with productive if mundane tasks is practically a community service these days, and if I kept and eye on him and kept him in the front yard I doubted anyone would start accusing me of luring kids for unsavoury purposes, as seems to be so much the fashion.
So I let him go at it. He didn’t do a half-bad job, either. A bit slow, maybe, and didn’t seem to grasp the finer points of cord management, which is always the trick with electric mowers. But he got the job done. I took the opportunity to pull up some weeds I’d been neglecting.
The only trouble was getting him to stop. “I’ll do anything you need,” he would say, “I’m a good worker.”
I had to let him start into the back yard, because I couldn’t tell him to go away and I’d run out of front yard for him to do. Eventually he just got bored and decided to go home. Which I was fine with. He’d done far more than I’d wanted to do tonight.
I thanked him for his help and off he went. As inexplicably as he came.
He didn’t even ask for money.