The house that once stood next to ours
was often empty and the lawn overgrown.
We were ever so pleased to have new
neighbors, though they shied away and
wished to be left alone.

A stranger would think there was a dispute
between us so distant and removed were they.
We guessed that they hadn’t planned to stay
long. No one ever did; the house was in such
a state of disarray.

Speckled with junk—cans, bottles, and yellowed
newspapers here and there, the man and his mower
went to work on the tall grass. The motor would
bog down and then catch and growl and growl
some more.

His boy was watching him, waiting for his turn
at the chore, when the engine suddenly snarled and
out from the chute like a quarrel from a crossbow
shot a discarded wire from a coat hanger. It plunged
into the boy’s side.

He let out a cry so bloodcurdling we thought that he
would die. Someone summoned an ambulance. We
heard the siren scream. By the time it arrived, the
boy’s pallor was ghostly white. The medics didn’t
hesitate. It was clear he was nearly gone.

Quickly they loaded the boy in, and the ambulance
shrieked away. We offered up a prayer for him,
asked that he would live. But we never saw
the family again, and to this day, we’re unsure if
he survived.

Robert James Cone’, author of Still Life Over Coffee, published by Red Ferret Press, lives in Kewanee, Illinois.