I thought my neighbor's house was on fire. Yellow smoke twisted up in a violent, angry spiral. My heart sank, imagining these poor people homeless on Thanksgiving. I imagined the irony: it was probably their holiday cooking that started the blaze.
But no fire. I got closer and saw three fat guys with leaf blowers in the front yard, triangulating their screaming bazookas, trying to herd terrified leaves into a submissive pile. They were raising so much dust they could barely see each other, and their beady eyes were twisted shut like little sphincters against the raging dust.
It was a small yard. I could have raked it by hand in ten minutes. But nothing says IM Professional like a shrieking, 30-pound, two-cycle motor strapped to your back, pumping your nose full of exhaust and spitting unburned gas and oil on your shirt.
There is an unwritten rule in my neighborhood: no one can fire up his leaf blower until there is a moment of peace and quiet. Even the bagpipe guy has moved inside. You would think if anyone could stand the shrillness of a leaf-blower, it would be him.
I should shut up. I don't rake much by hand either. I mow up my leaves and dump the mealy results into my garden. Judging by their reaction, worms consider this mix to be our equivalent of German chocolate cake. Worms cannot smile or wave, so when they hear my footsteps coming they just poke their greasy bodies out of the dirt, beckon me closer and point to where the party is. I deliver. Whump.
I passed another neighbor who actually had a leaf vacuum. It sucked, in every sense. She had a dead look on her face as she erased a knee-high pile of leaves. Two young children watched silently from a safe distance. My hope was that she was cleaning up for the second time after their jump-fest into the original pile, but I could tell from their nice clean jackets that these kids had a substandard education.
But how long since I jumped in a pile of leaves? I couldn't remember, and felt a little hypocritical. And that was when I came upon it: a pile of leaves easily six feet high. Its sculptor was still standing there, marveling at his work, his rake still in gloved hand. It was mountainous, magnificent, begging to be destroyed.
I pulled over, and prepared to introduce myself.