It was fairly quiet on my Western Front for a while, but that wasn’t to last. It was in late February or early March when Frank again appeared at my door.
I know it was that time of year because the black olive trees were dropping leaves. I had four of them, two of which were later lost in Hurricane Wilma, and Frank had two. They are huge trees, thirty to forty feet tall, which spread out to produce great shade from the Florida Sun. They don’t produce olives, just hard little kernels.
In late February they start to drop leaves in great quantity, but they continue to produce baby leaves so that they always look fully leaved. For about three weeks I have to rake and bag leaves almost daily. This is what they look like. Mine are as tall, but not quite so wide.
So, there was Frank at my door, red in the face – and before I could say a word he screamed: “I want you to tell your fucking yard man to stop blowing your fucking leaves against my fence!”
I know it wasn’t smart of me – Frank truly frightened me – but every time we ever had a confrontation I couldn’t help but smile and had to exercise self control to avoid laughing. He was so funny when he was enraged, almost like a cartoon character. This time I couldn’t help it – I laughed.
I said: “Frank, he doesn’t do that.” I tried to explain to him that there are lots of leaves falling from these trees every day; that he had two of the trees in his swale right by the fence; that the leaves fall and get blown by the wind against his fence and they accumulate like a snow drift because they have nowhere else to go. I admitted that it was likely that some leaves from my trees were ending up against his fence, and I probably got some of his. I said that we just had to rake them up, but I wasn’t going to rake leaves by his property and I didn’t expect him to do mine – but in any event my yard man was not blowing my leaves against his fence.
I was real pleased with myself – with my calm rational explanation – until Frank again reminded me that I was full of feces. He then revealed the real reason for his anger. He had just been fined by the city for not clearing his sidewalk and creating a hazard to pedestrians. The drifts had accumulated well into the sidewalk and after rain the leaves had begun to decompose in the heat, getting all slimy and slippery.
Obviously, in his mind it followed that it was all the fault of my yard man. Apparently, it had not occurred to him that it was his responsibility to rake and bag the leaves before they became a hazard.
I explained to him that my yard man has a mulching mower which practically pulverizes the grass clippings and any leaves on the lawn. He does then use a blower to push whatever had spread out horizontally onto the sidewalk or driveway. He maneuvers it all into one neat pile in the street in front of the driveway, then sweeps everything into leaf bags.
Frank would not accept my explanation. He insisted that he had watched the guy do it. I knew that was unlikely because he only came during the daytime on weekdays when Frank was at work, and I had often watched the bagging process. But in exasperation I told Frank that if it would make him feel better I would talk to the yard man. He shouted: “OK!” and stormed off.
I actually did as I promised. After explaining why, I asked the yard man to please not do again what he had never done.
I knew exactly how King Henry felt when he said, referring to Thomas Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”