Leaves of Grass
Sycamore County, Mississippi.
Mammalian quadrupeds moo.
Some bipedal ones hoof and bark, too.
But the real sight lies in late-spring, when crickets sing sweet love songs.
Frogs open swampy lungs and sing horror soundtracks in the warm, wet twilight.
Birds and backyard cats sing the love songs of lovemaking in the early AM fuzz.
When things are renewed.
When nature splits open like the chest of a Xenomorph host and spreads love all over everybody.
Scenes of wonder.
Scenes of chaos.
Scenes of grandma making pies to sit in the windowsill, hot like Dante's hellfire.
Waiting for them to cool down like Zeus' anger against all them women and animals he screwed but never got love back from.
But the real beauty of Sycamore County happens by a small field in the pastoral aura of a pollen-induced dreamscape.
People gather around the bonfires.
Dressed in Sunday best and weekend worst.
Parading around like a beer-swilling Narcissus.
Prideful and wanton:
A plebeian pantheon of flannelled fury and desire.
This is the hell they have created.
The wanderlust of petroleum and adrenaline.
A Mad-Maxian Thunderdome built on straw and grass.
And unwarranted blood lust.
The 23rd Annual Memorial Tri-County Lawnmower Invitational.
These faces in the crowd; like petals on a wet, black bough.
A wet, black bough of mob mentality thick, like molasses.
Thick like a gut after a Thanksgiving feast of regret and familial obligations.
And their jeers are fueled with that Thanksgiving mob molasses.
You see, the riders are taking to their lanes.
They've put their quarter in the Wal-Mart horsey machine to ride their steel stallions into battle.
But the other racers are nervous.
Shaking like a gorilla staring down the throat of a black hole set upon a rose.
A deathly, galaxy-crushing rose.
That rose's name?
Willard looks at the field with feline disgust and prairie dog pride.
Old time friends, longtime enemies.
Even when Troy was besieged, soldiers respected one another.
They trade looks, but the competition fades, like oranges in the Mississippi heat.
But no vitamin C will help them here.
People like Willard Slocomb live and breathe for the chance to be the creators of their own immortality.
To hear their machines roar to life, surge under them.
Power overwhelming like angry honeybees, and you, a scared child holding the comb.
And so, the racers line up like prison workers getting checked for shanks, cell phones, and contraband ramen noodles.
The greatest ramen noodle, Willard Slocomb, takes the front of the line.
But victory will be the thing to top his noodle bowl.
He pulls up with his mower:
A once-former child star 17-horsepower Sears and Roebuck twin blade.
But like a Cyclops with a homesick sailor, he's picked the meat off of the bones.
Sent the soul of that virgin mower back to its homeland.
Left a gaping maw where a 2-stroke was and replaced it with a twin carbureted abomination.
Four hundred horsepower of red-blooded Bud Light and gunpowder.
It's Paradise Lost, and he's riding the grasscutting manifestation of his sin clean into the hellfire.
It's The Hobbit, and he's Peter Jackson riding on a wave of excitement he can't contain into the angst-burdened life of a reckless race driver.
It's the feathered wings of Icarus, but Willard don't fly close enough to the sun of his own hubris to plummet.
His steed: more like fire and fury than yard tool.
Sets off car alarms.
Makes babies hush in awe and men cry over their impotence.
Generates a noise you can hear three counties over,
Unholy utterances and reverberations.
Runs on Four Locos and gas station dick pills.
"Ain't natural," some say.
"Heaven help us," say others.
And then, in a mushroom cloud of generational curses—off they go around the track.
Men whip their mowers like living room rugs filled with years of grandmother's cigarette ashes.
There's a smell of grass being frothed in Faustian blenders powered by Mephistopheles himself.
Burning rubber and men's sweat mix to make a moist, white haze over the arena.
Yet, like eagles tasting the sweet flesh of Prometheus' fatted liver, the crowd will not turn back.
They will watch, unblinking, eyes filled with a ganache of ancestral curiosity.
But then the clippings settle; the haze clears.
Chili dogs fall like they're storming the beaches of Normandy.
Crickets fall silent.
Willard rides across the finish line.
He stands atop his red-hot, steaming monster.
A Beowulfian rube atop his Grendel gas-guzzling freak.
The crowd frozen in awe, terrified of the spectacle just witnessed.
They know they'll be back next year.
To fill their fetid bosoms with the glut of their shame.
To see how far humanity has wandered from their God.
To worship at the altar of sin and sinus infections.
To hear the rumble of the bleachers.
To hear the hellhound baying of Willard Slocomb's sanctimonious harlot.
The hubris and pride of man:
The 24th Annual Memorial Tri-County Lawnmower Invitational.