Backyard Obituary

"The hot dog truck stayed in the backyard for almost 5 years."
By Al Bedell

My formative years were spent in a town called Hyde Park, New York where I cohabited with my father and my cat Whiskers in a small house. Ten Kristi Lane. Pine trees that lined our long, winding driveway eventually grew large enough to scratch the roof of my dad’s Ford Explorer every time we’d drive up. We would quietly laugh about it every time because we both knew neither one of us were ever going to trim them. What did a few scratches matter anyway?

Our massive backyard changed constantly. When we first moved there, it was covered in dead or dying trees and brush. My dad deemed it “unsightly” and decided to hire a landscaper, who cleared the brush and reduced our backyard to four crabapple trees, one red oak, and some type of willow. Beautifully manicured grass was planted, with a hue of green that only exists on suburban lawns. Behind the polished lawn was a thick forest that seemed too scary to ever venture into. Where the woods ended, the mountains began.

The second summer we lived at Ten Kristi Lane, my dad decided to install an in-ground pool. He had very few friends (zero to be exact) and worked from home, so it made sense at the time. For an entire summer, the backyard was filled with contractors, building equipment, and something like dynamite that left a gaping hole in the lawn. The lawn turned brown and was mostly covered in gravel. The pool was finished just in time for winter when it was ready to be closed. Snow covered the pool and the dirt that was once grass.

The next summer was the first summer we were able to use the pool. We were pleased with the pool but my dad thought it would be a good idea to buy a palm tree on eBay. He bought a very small potted palm tree. I don’t think he ever watered it, to be honest. Neither of us did. Once the palm tree was there, my dad decided to order 500 pounds of sand from eBay to distribute in a tiny corner of the lawn, then bought a hammock and tiki torches to go beside the palm tree. The backyard was filled with neighborhood kids that summer. The palm tree died in late October and we threw it into the woods.

In December my dad got an excellent deal on a hot dog truck and thought it would be a smart and fun investment for us to sell hot dogs on the weekend. The hot dog truck stayed in the backyard for almost 5 years. We never sold any hot dogs. I had some sleepovers in there but we always ended up going back into the house.

For my 11th birthday, my dad surprised me with a trampoline in the backyard. My birthday is in February so it was a strange gift to buy but I didn’t mind at all. Jumping on my huge trampoline, I’d look out into the woods and wonder why I hadn’t ever ventured into them. Spring arrived and a family of deer chose our backyard to make their home. Whiskers would watch them from the window and hiss. I also watched from the window and took photos of them with a disposable camera from CVS.

That spring, I spent a lot of time in the woods behind our ever-changing lawn. I’d walk as far as I could until I got too scared and would go back to my house. The woods held the sounds of birds and animals scampering away from me. Crow’s nests sat above trees marked specifically with bright orange tags. Deer hunting is a popular sport in upstate rural towns. Sometimes I’d hear gunshots in the distance and run back home.

One day after school, I walked farther into the woods than I’d ever been before. I found an open field of wildflowers and a water tower. I sat there all day and made wishes on a few flowers. At the time I had the biggest crush on a boy named Andrew. I wished for Andrew to like me back. The next day, Andrew asked to borrow a pencil and I let him keep it. I don’t think Andrew ever liked me back because he switched schools the next fall.

I went away to college in Connecticut and then moved to New York City. During that time my dad bought another house in Newport, RI to be closer to the beach. I visit my dad as often as I can but he is usually in Rhode Island and it’s a long commute from the City.

About a month ago, I went home (my former home, his former home) to pick up a late birthday package my friend had sent me from California. I went out onto the porch and saw that the pool was empty and the grass was still brown. My dad said he didn’t really see the point in opening the pool.Behind the brown lawn stood four large modular homes where the woods had been. Pine trees have eroded the driveway.

From Sex Magazine #6 Winter 2014
Labelled Life