One night while standing on her porch watching for meteors, Gladdis noticed the boy from next door standing on her lawn. She asked him what he was doing. He had always seemed bitter and cruel, and so she was certain bitter and cruel was what he must be deep down and all around. It only confirmed her suspicions when he didn’t answer her. But maybe he hadn’t heard her. He stared at the ground and swayed on his heels.
“What are you doing on my lawn?” she repeated.
He finally looked up. It seemed as if he’d been crying.
“Nothing,” he said.
“You’re on my lawn,” she said.
“You have a lot of plants and stuff out here.”
“So plants are living beings,” he said. “They breathe and reproduce and communicate with each other. Don’t you think they should have rights and not be enslaved by people like you? Your grass is like basically a whole metropolis of oppression.”
“So why are you stepping on it?” Just as she suspected, he was bitter and cruel.
He narrowed his eyes as if trying to get her face in focus. She met his stare relentlessly and he looked away first. He said something under his breath. What he said was, It likes it. What she heard was, You old cow and your dumb plants.
She told him she’d call the police.
“I don’t have anywhere to go,” he screamed.
“Well,” she said.
Then all the bitterness and the cruelty kind of disappeared from his face, like he’d sucked it all up his nose and was holding it in his sinuses or in his brain. Or maybe he just let go and it had fallen onto the ground and was seeping into the soil. He told her they finally arrested his father for beating his step mother and that she had given him twenty bucks and run off with the burly biker lady who worked at the post office and she’d taken most of their stuff and told him he was a man now, but he didn’t want to be alone in that empty house that still smelled like paint thinner and cigarettes.