30 Days, 30 Stories: The Sound of Flowers to a Boy
The Sound of Flowers to a Boy By Emily Simmons
Kyle strutted out of his house, knowing full well that the all the girls’ eyes were on him. His swagger was feigned; his stomach churned at the thought of talking to Talia in front of all
her friends. The girls clustered on the front porch of the house next door were gossiping and giggling the way 13-year-olds do. They ignored him so pointedly that he knew it was his name
they were whispering behind cupped hands. No one ignored him more than Talia, his next-door neighbor.
Kyle ducked into his garage and fired up the riding lawn mower his dad bought at a yard sale. The Snapper’s 12 horsepower motor was loud even without the blades engaged, but he refused to be seen wearing the protective earmuffs his dad wore. Today he was driving a lawn mower, but in only eight short months he’d have his learner’s permit and would be taking the old man’s Corolla out for a spin. Imagining that the Snapper was really a Lamborghini, he expertly maneuvered the mower out of the garage and over the shared side yard between the two houses. The giggling and ignoring stopped as he pulled the lawn mower in front of the porch where the flock of girls was roosting. Don’t say something stupid, he thought. Please, voice, don’t crack. “Hey Talia—does your dad want me to mow the side yard for him this week?”
Talia blushed. “Um, I don’t know. Do you want me to ask him?”
If she went inside to ask his dad, he’d be stuck in the front yard on a lawn mower with four teenage girls staring at him. No way, Jose. “That’s all right. I’ll just do it, it’s no big deal.”
“No problem.” He drove away and engaged the blades, the roar of the mower silencing the girls’ chatter. They were probably dissecting every word he said to determine if he was coolor not. Whatever, he thought.
But as he drove back and forth through the side yard, he saw Talia watching him.
Up his side of the yard, he caught her eye.
Down her side of the yard, she smiled.
Up his side, he smiled back.
Down her side, he saw her mouth move—she was saying something to him.
Up his side, he said back, “What? I can’t hear you!” He swung the mower wide and drove up close to the porch so he could decipher her words. The smooth buzz of the blades became a grinding chunk-chunk-chunk sound and the mower bucked, nearly throwing him off. He looked at Talia’s horrified face and cut the motor.
“What was that?” he asked, panic making his voice jump an octave.
She pointed. “I was trying to say, watch out for the hydrangeas.” The bush was destroyed beyond recognition. All that remained was a rough stump poking out of the ground. Purple petals fanned on the cut grass like confetti, but this was no celebration. The Greek chorus of gigglers was mercifully silent, but he could see one girl sneaking her cell phone out to take a picture of the carnage. Not Facebook, he thought. I will never live this down if the guys see it. Kyle looked at Talia, then at the flowers.
“Tell your dad I’ll, uh, talk to him tonight.” He cranked the motor and once again the roar of the engine covered the gales of laughter coming from the porch.
Kyle turned the wheel but instead of heading back to the garage, he aimed his Snapper down the street and took off. He didn’t know how far he could get on a two-gallon tank, but he vowed to drive until the laughter in his head was as silent as a field of shredded flowers.