Sunday, January 13, 2013

Who Killed the Grass?--A Mystery


“Morning, Harold,” I said waving to our 86 year-old neighbor as he stood in his driveway.
“Hello,” he said running a hand over his bald head.
“Your lawn is looking… special,” I said gazing at the sterile brown earth in front of his house. 
“I don't need a green yard.”
“Then why are you watering your grass?”


It sounded crazy and it looked insane but Harold’s high-tech, built-in sprinkler system was dousing his dead turf with tsunami-sized amounts of water.  Forget “rotten in Denmark”, something was indeed rotten in the state of my neighbor’s lawn.   

Water was supposed to help grass grow but that wasn’t the case for Harold’s.  In fact viewing his dead lawn was so sad for plant lovers, Shakespeare could have written a tragic play about it.  Its death was so horrific for suburbanites, Stephen King could have written a horror story about it.  Its cause of death was so M is for Mysterious, Sue Grafton could have written a Kinsey Millhone alphabet mystery about it.  But since all those writers were dead, busy or otherwise occupied, I wrote this blog post about it.  Yes, I would get to the bottom of the (duhn-duhn) Mystery of Who Killed the Grass.

“Harold,” I said putting a hand on his shoulder.  “Turn off your sprinklers, your lawn is dead.”
“It’s not,” he said shrugging me off.
“It’s brown.”
“It’s winter!  Everything’s brown in the winter.”
“My lawn is green—” before I could finish he'd turned on his heel and disappeared into his garage.

When death happened to your own lawn, it was hard to accept.  Harold was in a state of denial but that would not stop my investigation.

Just then a black pickup truck arrived hauling a rake, a lawn mower and countless kitchen sinks.  Out of the cab slid a mustachioed man in a plaid shirt and straw hat.  Ah-hah!  I clapped my hands.  I’d found the killer! 
“Excuse me,” I said sprinting toward the mustachioed man.  “But I’ve seen you loitering around these parts.”
“I’m the gardener for Mr. Harold,” he said unloading a trash bin.
“You’re also responsible for… killing his grass!”
“No,” he gasped.
“Yes!"  I said peering at his face.  “Because killers always have mustaches!"  
“Not Hercule Poirot,” said the Gardener.  “Or Tom Selleck as Magnum P.I. or Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone or Tom Selleck as anything actual—”
“Stop!” I said.  This clever killer was trying to throw me off his tail by appealing to my love of Agatha Christie and classic TV shows of the 1980s.  Well I wasn't born yesterday. 
“All those men were good guy investigators and,” the Gardener continued, “had mustaches.” 
Hmmm.  He had made an astute point; astute enough to make me think I had been born yesterday.

I returned to my own property to examine the facts and drink a latte.  Not necessarily in that order.  Fact: Harold’s lawn was dead.  Fact: The Gardener didn’t do it.  Fact: What was that rotten smell?

I rushed outside to see Harold’s lawn covered in a layer of dark brown.
“Your grass stinks, Harold!”
“Bull crap,” he said.
“Then your nose is broken because—”
“What you smell is bull crap.  Bull crap mulch.  I use it every year,” he said pointing to his yard.
“That’s what killed your lawn!” I shrieked.

Harold shook his head then proceeded to tell me that mulch made from bull crap was often used in Los Angeles because 1) It was organic; 2) A fertilizer rich in nitrogen, potassium, calcium and zinc; and 3) Hollywood was full of it.  

I checked with other long-term Angelenos and their annual fertilizer of choice was… bull crap. 

If B.S. couldn’t kill Harold’s grass, who or what did?  Leaning against my car I stared at his dead lawn.  I was still there when I saw Harold partake in the common water conservation practice embraced by L.A.'s hippies: he parked his car on the lawn, soaped his vehicle and washed it clean. 

“That's what killed your lawn!” 
“I always wash my car like this,” Harold huffed.  
“But have you always used this soap that's biodegradable and phosphate-free?”  I said stabbing the label with my index finger. 
“I changed soaps this year.”
“When did your lawn die?”
“Last year—”
Ah-hah!  Ah-HAH!  "Being half-green killed your lawn!”

His head drooped to contemplate his formerly green patch of suburban idyll.
 “… My lawn is dead,” he sniffed. 
“I know,” I nodded.
“I killed it—by accident.”
“I know.”
“I tried so hard to make it grow.”
“I know,” I put my hand on his shoulder.  This time Harold didn’t shrug me off but accepted my sympathy.  We stood in silence over the corpse.  A good murder investigator never gloats. 

Back at my office, I closed the file then… did a little dance.  I did it, uh-huh, I figured it out!  I solved the Mystery of Who Killed the Grass!  Yes!  Uh-huh, I rock, oh yeah!