L.B. is hunkered down to the ground, predator-like, about 30 feet from me with his head propped immobile on his precisely aligned front paws and is absolutely still but for the occasional nose twitch and the constant quick flicker of his brown eyes back and forth from my face to the slobber-coated soccer ball glistening in the grass halfway between us.
“Stupid dog,” I mumble, well under Love-Weasel’s superhuman, dog-mom auditory range, and then sigh as I walk over and, for the 987th time since we’ve been outside working this morning, gingerly pluck the sopping, dog-cootie-infested ball off the ground and throw it across the yard.
L.B. explodes up in an 18-pound tornado of black and white and tan fur and tears after the ball, dodging the bluebird house and the side-yard maple with the dexterity of a canine Olympian skier, and snatches it out of the air on the second bounce, fulfilling, for the 987th time that day, his fondest wish; his greatest fantasy.
He plops down and grins at me from behind the slobber-coated soccer ball, his tail sending up a flurry of dried leaves and bits of grass, then rolls over on his back, his belly to the sun, and thrashes around blissfully, still grinning, with his paws flapping and his tongue flopping.
I shake my head and turn back to the patch of bare ground I’d been raking smooth for re-seeding and begin my own mindless-chore fantasy of me standing in a weedless, mole-free yard of vibrant green, organically grown Kentucky-31 fescue, cut precisely to 3 inches, and sipping from a cup of coffee as I am embraced by a warm breeze while the sunlight filters its way through the trees and dapples the ground around me with an ever-changing pattern of leaf-shadow.
A late model sedan glides into view and stops in the street in front of our house, and a man who looks as if he could easily play the part of a doctor in an ad for a new depression or prostate medication emerges. He has a head full of immaculately coiffed dark hair, gray at the temples, and he is wearing razor-creased khakis and new work boots, and the sleeves of his denim shirt are rolled precisely halfway up his forearms.
“Hello, sir,” he addresses me. “I am the president of the World Wide Lawn Institute and have heard so many good things about your yard that I, busy though I am, chose to leave our capitol, Washington, D.C., and judge for myself. It seems the reports have all been true. Well done, sir, your lawn is beautiful; a true work of art. Please accept this solid gold medal of Outstanding Lawn Care for your truly remarkable turf maintenance abilities. You have set a high bar indeed, sir, for every other home owner who strives to present an immaculate lawn.”
I nod bashfully, acknowledging his praise as well as the applause from all of the other people who weren’t there before but now, mysteriously, are.
Then I blink, and shudder myself out of the horror that was playing through my mind.
What was that all about?!? What the hell has happened to my fantasies?!?
There used to be a time in my younger days where I fantasized about hopping around on stage playing lead guitar for AC/DC, bare-chested and wearing Spandex britches, furiously banging my head as a filled front row of scantily clad, bouncy-breasted screaming girls damn near beat each other to death for the opportunity to catch a droplet of perspiration showering off my sweat-drenched, waist-length hair.
Nowadays, though, hopping around anywhere requires three days preparation with emergency medical help on standby and a chiropractic appointment for the next day. I don’t have hair to get sweat-drenched anymore, either, and haven’t for a long time now. Musically, I am also painfully aware I couldn’t name a current top-40 hit at gunpoint and am not ashamed to admit the radio in my truck is perpetually tuned to an oldies station where they don’t play any of that scary stuff recorded after 1984.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of traveling to exotic places filled with exotic people and facing the dangers of unexplored, hidden rivers and going where no man has gone before. Now, it just tickles the hell out of me if I can make to Home Depot without catching a red light, or I get through the self-check-out lane at the grocery store without having to call a cashier over.
I used to fantasize about finishing a marathon in under three hours but am now happier than hell with nine-minute — well … 11-minute — miles, and sometimes these days I consider walking upstairs more than four times in a 12-hour period to be a workout.
Fantasies of wealth? Does getting excited about a dollar off coupon on a box of cat treats count?
Oh, one fantasy fulfilled was that I did get the girl.
There’s an impatient huff and sigh behind me, and I turn to find L.B. hunkered down again, eyeing the ball and sending telepathic commands my way.
For the 988th time that day I pick it up and throw it, and for the 988th time, L.B. is blissful again.
I can’t help but smile.
Fantasies, I suppose, are sometimes no bigger than a slobber-coated soccer ball.