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  • Griffin Hamilton

When One Door Closes

For almost everything in my life, I have used the kitchen door. From exits to entrances, greetings to farewells, slammings to sneakings, I have traveled through the chef’s corridor more times than I can count. Lately however, my most common departure, the one that begins my trek to school, is conducted through a different door. A door that was once used exclusively by a former house tenant, the same one that Amazon and UPS drivers drop the packages off at, because it sticks out the furthest and has a roof which covers the door and surrounding steps. A door that has one of those older handles, where to open it the handle has to be grabbed, and a little latch has to be pressed down with your thumb. This mostly neglected door now opens, authorizing the blistering gusts’ access into my home, only to shut, forbidding their path into warmth, and leaving me stranded within these wintry squalls.

And so, alone I stand, at 6:30 am, with my backpack on and my ambitions high. The chilled air nipping at my exposed face, I put my hood up to shield myself from the villainously cold world that surrounds me. Gazing out before making my move, internally pretending like I’m Batman, searching for any predators that may threaten my walk to the bus stop. It is neither early enough nor late enough into the year for the sun to still be asleep at this time, yet the clouds are reluctant to let it sing, leaving me a gray sky that mixes with the road and creates a dull set for this episode of suburbia. But before I face the path of colorless concrete, I must conquer the ocean of green.

Lush, groomed, and sleek, from spring through fall, my front lawn is typically a spectacle to behold. Spending my summer as a groundskeeper for the most exclusive, utterly prestigious school district and tasked with maintaining the beauty of all landscapes hard and soft therein, I honed my skill and here before me is that more evident than anything else. Professional landscapers pursue my advice, ladies and men alike swoon for my favor and young children/domestic pets seek me out because of my ability to turn a plane of grass into a work of art. I am only human, and a very humble one at that, but to play down the state of my yard would be a crime to yards everywhere. I stripe the lawn according to the direction of the sun. With laser focus and a deft eye for detail I stripe alternating light and dark lines to the delight of neighbors and passersby alike. I can’t not do it, it’s who I am.

Yet despite my best attempts at artistry, my time is rendered superfluous. The stripes that I have etched into the earth have been coated by a thin layer of frost. The grass is rigid and the grounds look unstyled. This would be a tragedy, if not for the secret benefit that comes with a frosty yard. The crunching of the icy grass is truly something to die for. Like stepping on the perfect leaf, or taking the first bite into a good, fresh sandwich, the mixture of feel and sound that comes with frost-covered grass, warrants me trespassing on to my neighbor’s lawn, just to be spared of the road for a little longer.

Before I can reach the property line, I find myself fraught with sensations of danger. My quick, Batmanesque scan of the land only consisted of the right side of my domain, because that is where I cross. But to the left corner of the driveway, closest to the house where the garbage can and wheeled recycling container are kept, I see a disturbance. The garbage can is knocked over on its side and garbage is strewn all over my neighbor's lawn. Now these neighbors are nice; they give out full-sized candy bars on Halloween, but we’re not too close of friends. We once burned a section of their brand new cedar stockade fence when our fire pit blew away, and even though they accepted our apology, the air between our houses reeks of mild tension, and escalating that is at the bottom of my to-do list. To say the least, I did not want our garbage on their lawn.

I approach the scene with caution, unsure of what to expect, and as I get closer, I realize that the state of affairs is more dire than anticipated. Coffee grinds, banana peels, egg/milk containers, and more. Garbage is everywhere. But before I could gripe about the circumstance to the point of demotivation, the root of my problem reveals itself. Out of our toppled can, a beady-eyed, fluffy little raccoon emerges, in its full, adorably vicious nature.

“AH!” I yelped, more than bemused to see this nocturnal creature out during the day.

Yet apparently, I am just as frightening to see, because once the raccoon and I make eye contact, it scurries away, leaving me alone with its destruction.

“Not cool man,” I mutter to myself while looking around, trying to get a feel for the damage.

I prod at the trash can with my foot, attempting to draw out anymore beasts taking refuge in this junk receptacle. Luckily this one was a rogue. Some part of me is disappointed and hurt that the raccoon doesn’t care for what it did, and ran away at the first sight of me. But then I remember it's a raccoon and so I move on.

I pick up the trash can and put it back next to the recycling can, the trash bags that were once inside the can were ripped open and their innards displayed for the whole neighborhood to see. Extending my sleeve past the length of my fingers, and then closing my hand to stop it from going back up, I use my sweatshirt as a glove and begin picking up garbage. Even though it's mostly my stuff, it still feels gross touching things that were thrown away, never intended to be felt again.

As I’m hunched over, picking up an emaciated Capri-Sun, I hear a truck go by. While standing up to bring this drink pouch back to its rightful home, I catch a glimpse of the dreaded yellow rectangle passing me, realizing that the “truck” I heard pass by, was instead the school bus that I had intended to board at the outset of my journey this morning.

Shocked, stunned, and heart-broken, I watch my hopes and dreams round the corner without a fleeting thought about one of its missing passengers. I consider attempting to run to the next bus stop in hopes of beating the bus there, but I rationalize that the effort would be for naught. Despite the skill that I gained in the Northport Running Club in 7th grade, even I doubt that I could best an automobile in a game of speed. And so, I am left dismayed and once again stranded. I finish cleaning up the wreckage, and routedly hang my head in shame.

Despite defending my home from a furry foe and avoiding a neighborly feud that would’ve been rivaled only by the Capulets and Montagues, I find myself defeated and conquered. Without a thought as to how I will get to school, I head back inside, reluctantly entering through the kitchen door.


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