Trimming Hedges
Margaret Foley

From my second-storey window, I watch Angela's preparations. She yells at her kids to stay put while she drags a gray trash can with a yellow sticker that says Yard Debris out of her garage and places it in front of a tall row of azalea hedges, full of pink, red, and white blooms. She runs back into the garage and comes out with a pair of pruning shears, a tall three-legged stool, and a blue rubber ball, stuck in the crook of her arm. She calls for her kids. A boy about four and a girl about six come outside. As she climbs onto the stool to begin trimming the bushes, she gives the ball to her children, who begin to play catch.

As Angela pulls leaves, pinches off dead flowers, cuts back branches and drops them into the trash can, she turns back and forth--from the bushes to her children, from her children to the bushes, constantly reminding them not to run into the street. Sometimes, she tosses them an especially pretty bloom. During one rotation, Angela almost loses her balance, saving herself by jumping off the stool.

The silence behind her makes her turn to look at her children. They have stopped playing ball, and her son points under a red dented Ford, not hers, parked in front of the house. Sighing, Angela walks over to the car and bends down to look. The ball is too far under the car for her to reach, and she is tempted to leave it there. She stands up, and her children look at her expectantly. Drawing a long breath, Angela walks into the garage to get a long-handled broom, which she uses to bring the ball within reach. She scratches her hand as she pulls the ball out, wipes the blood on her khaki shorts, and rolls the ball back to her children.

She climbs back on the stool and continues to pinch and pull and cut. Her youngest child begins to cry. His sister has hit him in the head with the ball but claims it was an accident. Exasperated, Angela leaps off the stool and grabs a kid with each arm and marches them into the house. She will comfort her son and put his sister in a time-out.

Moments later, the day's gray clouds release rain that will last the rest of the day. The hedges are unfinished, and the sprawled, already rusty pruning shears lie haphazardly on the grass. The trashcan has no lid. By tomorrow, it will be too heavy with water and wet leaves, petals, and branches for Angela to drag it to the curb.

First published: May, 2004
comments to the writer: Knob'