Mr. Polanski hated October 31st more than any other day of the year. It was the day the hooligans came from all corners of the town to ravage and defile his absolutely perfect lawn. He knew this year’s Halloween would be no different. He watched uneasily through his window as the teenagers came with their eggs, their toilet paper, and their cans of silly string. He watched them smash a pumpkin into pieces on his clean, trim, spotless lawn. It was spotless no more.
Mr. Polanski could ignore them no longer. He went into his garage, retrieved his shovel, and stormed out his front door. He never could remember the rest.
His neighbors said he was losing his mind. He was 82 years old, he had lived through the most terrible thing to happen to humanity, and so his mental state was understandable. But Mr. Polanski felt fine. He didn’t understand why they complained, why they wanted him out of the neighborhood.
They called him Mr. Perfect, and he liked that very much. He prided himself on his well-kept lawn, the nicest one in the neighborhood. Mr. Polanski had to work hard to maintain it, of course. He mowed it once a week, never in the afternoon (too hot) or in the morning (too wet), but in the evening, when the sun had just set. He knew the perfect technique to cut his lawn straight and to the perfect length.
The sprinklers went off every night unless it rained. Mr. Polanski hated when it rained because what that happened nature was taking care of his lawn for him, and he wanted to take care of it himself.
He knew all about fertilizer. He talked to a lot of people about dethatching and aeration and when they were needed. Several times a day, Mr. Polanski would head out with a rake and shovel and rid his yard of unwanted leaves and sticks. Sometimes, when Mr. Polanski was feeling particularly ambitious, he would sit out by his porch, watch the wind blow, and be ready before any object intruded upon his perfect lawn.
Mr. Polanski’s lawn was the greenest and cleanest in the neighborhood. He inspected it daily for weeds and plucked them out before they could spread. Pests never dared to approach his lawn because they had already learned of the consequences.
Yes, they called him Mr. Perfect. Nobody’s lawn could compete with his. Before Lilly had died, maybe, but that had been a different time.
A few hours before the teenagers murdered his lawn, Mr. Polanski had just finished cleaning the grass of debris and was now in his living room watching television. He needed his thick glasses to watch his programs now. This hadn’t always been so.
He kept a picture of Lilly on the table beside his armchair. Not a recent picture of her, but one directly following their wedding, when she was younger and livelier. He missed that Lilly.
Maybe he was getting old, too. Wasn’t that what they had said at the factory? Mr. Polanski couldn’t remember anymore. He couldn’t remember much of anything.
But he did remember this: when they had fired him, Mr. Polanski had fought back. He’d said they couldn’t do this to him, they couldn’t take away his job just because he was getting old. Mr. Polanski had fought, but Mr. Polanski had lost.
“You’re not fit to work anymore, Mr. Polanski,” someone had told him; he couldn’t remember who. “You need to go home. You need to rest.”
Mr. Polanski had gone home, but he hadn’t rested. Who were they to tell him what he could and couldn’t do? He had lived through more terrible times than these, and he was still here, his heart was still beating. He was 82 years old, and he was stronger than any of them.
“My lawn couldn’t be any more perfect,” Mr. Polanski said, grinning to himself before getting up to fix himself dinner. He had to blend his food now; he couldn’t chew many things anymore. His doctor had told him once that he needed dentures, and Mr. Polanski had told his doctor to go to hell.
With the blender on, he couldn’t hear the start of Halloween, when the children went out in their hideous costumes and demanded candy from him. The doorbell rang eight times before Mr. Polanski was done with his dinner, and he didn’t get up once to answer it.
When Mr. Polanski was finished eating, he went outside to inspect his lawn again. He cursed aloud when he saw the footprints on his once-flawless grass. He would have to take care of that tomorrow. In the meantime, Mr. Polanski picked up all of the candy wrappers the children had carelessly scattered across his lawn (and their parents had neglected to clean up) and went back inside to watch television.
Irritable, they had called him. Forgetful. Washed up. Useless.
Mr. Polanski laughed at these insults and thought about his lawn, which was perfect and would always be perfect.
By the time the teenagers surfaced, Mr. Polanski was tired and wanted to go to bed. He couldn’t sleep just yet, though. He had to make sure his lawn was left alone.
It wasn’t, of course. And while the teenagers destroyed it, Mr. Polanski tightened his hands into fists and tried to control his rage. His pulse was racing (bad for his heart, his doctor would say), and beads of sweat were dripping down his nearly bald head. Mr. Polanski pushed down one of the blinds and looked through the opening.
In the darkness, he could barely distinguish the teenagers as human. Dark shapes danced and paraded, hurling grenades at the side of his house, spraying colorful bullets into the grass. They brought out their greatest weapon last, a bomb larger than Mr. Polanski’s head that they finally hurled into the middle of the lawn, incinerating it in gooey orange chunks.
Mr. Polanski could watch no more. Everything in his life, everything had been taken from him, and now his lawn, too. He didn’t see the teenagers as people anymore; he saw them as demons who had come to torment him. Mr. Polanski would dispel the demons as he had in Europe, as he had when he had lost Lilly, and then everything would be okay.
Mr. Perfect went outside with a shovel in his hand, and he couldn’t remember the rest.