Ours was a quiet town, where folks could do no wrong. Even Evelyn Meachem’s boy Ralph, who never did have a real job, was always a good boy. He just mowed folks’ lawns for a dollar. And even though he mowed crooked, those folks that hired him wore those uneven yards as a badge of zig-zagged pride. It showed they were charitable people, see. Only the rich folks could even afford a nice slow boy like Ralph Meachem to mow their yard; most folks had their own kids, mowing straight lines for free. So there wasn’t any trouble in town at all. Until one day, and anthropomorphic Macy’s Parade float of a moustache named Ben Harpe bust open the double doors of Darcy’s Gay Tavern, and establishment that had stood what these seventy years. The player piano stopped it’s racist (probably) tune and every sorry excuse for lip fuzz in the place looked Ben’s way. He strode past their stares like a whore taking communion with Lutherans; “sure, my sins are louder, but that doesn’t make yours any less bad”. Her grammar wasn’t excellent, but she was a proud whore. There’s no real correlation there. Ben Harpe, though, correlated two purposeful slaps on the bar into a Jim Beam neat with a Jim Beam on the rocks chaser. Folks round here were real scared. That sentence isn’t quite in place, but that part of the story isn’t going to be told. Focus a bit, will you? The bar stood (and/or sat) in silence as Ben Harpe surveyed the room. “There ain’t a man here that knows what a man is made of” he said. “Not that really knows.” And all them boys at the bar bowed their heads, because in their dumb big hearts they knew it was true, and decided for once to listen to their hearts and not Fox News. But Ralph Meachem stood up, downed his Grape soda and slammed the glass on the bar, spilling it into a jar of olives that, hey, who left these olives on the bar? “I know what a man is made of” he said. “You dumb dumbhead!” said Thad Puringame, the unofficial mouthpiece of the town. “You can’t even mow in a straight line!” “I can’t”, said Ralph, “or I won’t?” And he ran out of the bar without telling anyone his plan. Opinions were split. “He can’t!” one group exclaimed. “Lawn mowing is a strange arena in which to assert your rejection of symmetry as an aesthetic concept”, shouted another. But Ben’s brain was bewitched by this bemusing boy, and he befollwed him baway bfrom bthe bbar. Ralph was already mowing the nearby van der Wald place – which everyone knew was the biggest lawn in town. Ralph mowed circles around the place, and if you’d have seen it, even you would have been impressed. As much as a jaded hipster can be. Ralph was making corners as sharp as razor blades. The edge of the field looked like a beveled mirror; the center, an untamed bed of merciless crabgrass waiting to be tamed. Like a lion. Oh, or a lion’s mane. Yeah, that’s better. At this point, of course, a crowd had gathered ’round. They had never seen Ralph mow straight lines before. They’d never seen anyone mow so straight. “He’s working so hard”, Thad said, “he’s going to die out there!”. “That’s ridiculous” said another man, who was a doctor, making Thad feel pretty dumb. Suddenly, Ralph took off down the middle of the field. “Oh, there’s that old crooked mow again” said that jerk Thad, trying to recover. No one fell for it though. They just watched as Ralph knocked the mower down an inch shallower and MOWED BACK OVER THE SAME SPOT. At first the crowd didn’t know what to think. Then someone – probably a nerd – saw it. Ralph had mowed a perfect double helix into the van der Wald yard. The townsfolk realized that this was the pattern he’d been making all along. The basic building block of man’s existence. “That’s exactly what I was looking for when I threw down that challenge in the bar” said Ben. “Even though I didn’t know it. Son, you’ve shown me what a man’s really made of.” “He didn’t even come close to dying” said the doctor to a Thad Puringame who was really rethinking his life choices. And Ben liked the way Ralph cut so well, he let him shave his face. And that’s the story of how Ben Harpe lost his moustache (which I like to spell with the extra ‘o’. But that’s a story for a different time).

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