It was just patch of tall prairie grasses and a couple of thin, spindly trees, but you could hardly see through it. The sunlight came racing along and stopped dead in its tracks when it hit the vegetation.
“Hell,” said Schmiechowski, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, “when I bought this prime little piece of real estate over fifty years ago, there wasn't a damn thing anywhere around. It was all just a rolling prairie with a couple of patches of trees here and there.”
A little prairie wind blew gently across where we were standing.
“I wanted a little place to retire to,” he continued. “A little spot of land where I could put my rocking chair and watch the earth crumble away to dust. I could only afford this little patch.” He motioned to the four foot square patch of vegetation.
Schmiechowski shifted a little, moving his hands nervously on the handgrips of his aluminum walker. The hiss from his oxygen tank reminded me of a serpent. Serpents get their heads crushed, though, you know.
“Well, the damned place grew up around it, as it turned out,” he said. “This whole area got developed. It used to be pristine public lands. Now its a strip mall.”
“And a movie theater,” I added.
“And a movie theater,” he agreed, nodding his head. “Now this little patch of vegetation is so overgrown, standing here by itself in the middle of this parking lot, I can't even set my lawn chair down in it. You see what I mean?”
I nodded to show that I understood.
“Get to it then,” he ordered.
I started up the Bobcat and had the job done in less than three minutes. In the middle of the asphalt parking lot there was now a four foot square muddy scar on the earth, where tall prairie grasses and a couple of thin, spindly trees had just formerly grown.
Schmiechowski opened his lawn chair with one hand and threw it into the center of his little patch of land. He plopped himself down in the chair, knocking over his walker as he did so.
“I guess I don't need that damn thing anymore,” he said.
Schmiechowski looked around at what had been a beautiful forest just fifteen years ago. He breathed in what had been pure, clean air just fifteen years ago. What a crock, he thought.
Schmiechowski took a last breath and died right there. And crumbled away to dust.
And crumbled away to dust.