Joseph Johnson stood in his backyard facing the ground. The grass was green where he stood. But where he stood was not the problem. The problem was a twenty foot circle of Bedford County red clay located in the corner of the yard.
Joe lifted his John-Deere cap (which he wore because he liked it and not because some punk kid on MTV said it was the thing to do.) He scratched the back of his clean cut head and thought about how to repair his distressed lawn.
He knew why his yard looked the way it did. It was those damn neighbors. They were the ones who convinced his wife that the dog belonged on a chain and shouldn’t be able to run free. Joe had lived on this land all his life and had never had to put his dogs on chains. And since his father had given them this two acre lot to build their lives on, Joe expected to keep his dogs just they way he always had. He just didn’t think it was right. Why should the dog have to be tied down in one place? Why shouldn’t he have the freedom to go where he wanted as long as he came home (which he always did.) That’s the way Joe always thought it should be, but that was not how it was. Thinking that he would need to buy grass seed, Joe removed his tattered wallet from the pocket of his Wrangler jeans. He opened it to see how much cash he had (the checkbook was his wife’s job and he didn’t need any of those damn credit cards.) There were a few twenties and a couple singles mixed in with several Wal-Mart receipts.
While checking his financial situation, Joe took a moment to look at a picture of him and his wife. The picture was taken the day before their wedding. They were standing in front of their newly arrived double wide. She showed obvious signs of her pregnancy and he had the expression of a happy man. That was two years ago. Joe realized that was also about the time his lovely neighbors had moved into their newly constructed home in the subdivision that had sprung up next to his father’s land. These were people who had not lived in the area all their lives. These were people who had moved here for a change from the busy lifestyle that they had grown tired of. That was a constant point of discussion between Joe, his wife and their new neighbors. The neighbors would often talk of how they loved the solitude and picturesque quality of the area. It was so unlike the crowded streets and noisy neighbors they were accustomed to. In the same breath, Joe often noted, the neighbors would complain about the distance from their house to the nearest shopping center.
Joe hated that subdivision.
It was that subdivision that forced Joe to tie his dog down in one spot after years of freedom. That was two years ago. Two weeks ago Brutus had died. The vet had said it was of old age, but Joe secretly thought he had just gotten tired of being stuck in one spot all time. Now all that was left was an old wooden dog house and a worn out lawn.