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Coming of Age Creative Nonfiction

Hello, I am Corey Dansworth, but around Fairview, New York, I am known as Lawn Boy.  Located north of Poughkeepsie on the Hudson River, I grew up in this scenic town where there are more red oaks than people. That’s what my Uncle Troy says all the time.

I used to be smart. 

I used to be a football star.

But that was before my accident.  

That happened ten years ago before I became Lawn  Boy.

I am twenty seven now and I live at home with mom and dad.  

I work at St. James, mowing two acres of lawns.  I also tend to the garden and cemetery where Dora is buried.  I talk to her when I’m tending the cemetery.  I tell her I’m sorry.

Dad told me that I could drive our Celica to the prom.  My girlfriend was Dora Eubanks.  She was the prettiest girl in the senior class as far as I was concerned.  We had been going together for over ten months.  She was in my first period chemistry class and we were laboratory partners. She had big blue eyes, curly red hair and this turned up nose that drove me crazy.  

I got my driver’s license in October during the football season and I started driving myself to home games. After the season I went to get a pizza at Buddy’s down on Main Street every Friday night with some of my teammates.  

Prom was in April.  I asked Dora and she said yes as soon as I asked.  Got my tuxedo and a wrist corsage.  Mom and dad took a load of pictures in front of the garage. It was a warm late spring night.  It was a perfect evening…

Father McNaulty hired me, because he knew mom and dad. He told me that I needed to use the riding mower to cut the grass on the church grounds and then make sure I swept off the sidewalk so the congregation wouldn’t get grass all over their shoes as they walked to and from the church.  I had to make sure that the cemetery was kept nice and clean for all the people who came there to visit their loved ones who went to Heaven, like Dora.  I like to talk to her while I am cutting the grass with the hand mower.  There are red oak and spruce trees on the half acre.  Father McNaulty told me the cemetery is almost full, but I know mom and dad have already bought three of the last remaining plots. 

I like mowing the lawns.  I am in charge.  Father McNaulty said so.  He gave me the keys to the shed. I am supposed to come twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays.  On Fridays I get paid by Mrs. Owens, Father McNaulty’s assistant.  On Fridays, before I get pain, I have to clean out the shed and make sure the lawn mowers are ready to go.  

Corey Dansworth was rushed to the hospital after the head on collision with a semi on River Road. According to the state police report, the driver of the semi had fallen asleep and crossed the double white line.  Corey was driving the 2004 Celica with a single passenger who was dead on scene (DOS) at seven pm local time.  

Sometimes I get mad and sit on the floor and kick my legs.  It’s something Dr. Lathrop said is part of my injury.  He told mom and dad a lot of things I do not understand about how my brain got hurt forever. All I know is I lost Dora and my athletic scholarship to Penn State. Some of my old teammates from Fairview Union High School come by to chat when I am mowing.  We talk about some of the games we played.  I hate to tell them I don’t remember the games and sometimes I don’t remember their names. 

Uncle Troy was a quarterback for Fairview Union six years before I came along.  He has trophies and team pictures.  But his left knee is covered with scars from where the doctors operated on his knee.  He never played another game, just like me.

Sometimes I dream about the headlights coming straight at me...I hear the horn...there is glass everywhere...my dad is there...he is hugging me...saying, “Corey, it’s alright, it’s alright.”  He gives me some of my pills that help calm me down. 

When Grandma comes to visit, she says, “It’s a damn shame, it sure is.” as she runs her fingers through my hair. “You had such a bright future.” Grandma Hefner is my mother’s mother and Uncle Troy, too.  Dad’s family lives in Boston, Massachusetts, but they don’t visit very often.  His brother Daryl is a lawyer with season tickets at Fenway. Once we went to see him and got to go to a Red Sox game.

Mr. Knox, our neighbor, got me a Walkman for my birthday so I can listen to music when I’m working.  I like to listen to Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.  Sometimes I have to take it off, because of my headaches, though.

Corey Dansworth spent over three months in recovery that included a medically induced coma to assist with brain swelling for three weeks.  Normally a medically induced coma is only supposed to have a duration of two weeks, but due to the condition of his injury, the medical team decided to extend it to an extra week due to the blood saturation of the cortex. Once the coma was terminated, the patient was monitored closely for sustained brain activity.  The injury was extensive, but after the third week the brain began to resume automatic involuntary functioning that included homeostasis and he was removed from life support.  

It was determined early that he had sustained some permanent brain damage that would affect and interfere with cognitive  functioning.  In the final month of his hospitalization, he was given a battery of cognitive tests that estimated his intelligence quotient (IQ) to be around 50 using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC).  Due to his low cognitive functioning, it is advisable that Corey is placed in an residential assisted living facility.

NOTE:  Parents Mona and Victor Dansworth have accepted responsibility for the care of their son.  They will have access to professional health care services as Corey who will be living at home. 

I have medical people come to my house.  They are nice, but they like to stick things in me that hurt. They tell me it’s for my own good.  Jesse is my favorite.  He is one of Uncle Troy’s friends. They both have long hair which does not please dad, but they listen to cool music and talk to me like I’m one of them.  Jesse calls me Lawn Boy Dude. 

Nurse Burrow likes to chat with mom when she comes over to give me a vitamin shot.  She calls me Coreyman which I did not like at first. She is almost as old as my grandma and sneaks me hard candy after she gives me my shot.

Mason is the third person on Dr. Lathrop’s team, but he doesn’t say a lot and sometimes he’s not too friendly.  He calls me dummy , which I do not like.  I tell him that, but he still calls me dummy. 

When I show up at St. James, Mr. Wexley meets me in the shed.  He makes sure everything is ready for me to mow the lawn.  Even though I work alone, Mr. Wexley sits in his lawn chair next to the shed reading the newspaper as I run the riding lawn mower.  When I finish, I drive the mower into the open door of the shed.  When I turn off the motor, he gives it a quick go-over to check the oil and gas and clods of grass that may get stuck and choke  the motor.  He is as old as my grandpa, if my grandpa was still alive and just like my grandpa, he was a soldier in the war.  Sometimes he talks about the war just like my grandpa did before he died.  

“Lawn Boy.” He greets me, “Let’s take a look at the machine, eh?” 

Dr. Lathrop:  Patient is being considered for discharge.  We have done a thorough examination that included an EKG.  He will be on blood thinners to prevent clotting.  There will be three at-home health providers who will provide weekly welfare checks.  Mr. and Mrs. Dansworth has signed the consent forms.

My biggest concern is with his reduced cognitive functioning.  Before the accident, Corey was one of the top students in his class and now he will need assistance for daily subsistence and functioning. 

Father McNaulty told me about a special church fall festival. He wanted to know if I’d help out.  I told him I would be happy to.  So I helped Mrs. Cozier make some of the decorations for the festival and dance.

“This is one of the biggest money makers we have.” She explained as we painted witches and skeletons on poster board. Some of them were kind of creepy, but she said it was all in good fun.

In my dreams, Dora comes to me to let me know that she’s alright, but ghosts are scary even if they look like Dora...I miss her so much...it doesn’t matter to me if she wants to come back as a ghost.

“Corey, I went to the bank to get some money for change at the festival.” Father McNaulty told me holding a metal box, “I want you to keep track of this.  I am locking it in this safe.”

“Okay.” I nodded.

“Here is the key.  Do not give it to anyone else but me.” He instructed me, placing the key in my palm.  It felt heavy as I put it in my pocket.

“I know you can do it.” He patted me on the back.  I wish I could be so sure.

When I got home, dad gave me a keychain to make sure I would not lose it. I thought about it and decided to put my key for the shed on the key chain, too.  

Memory is a problem for Corey as his concentration has been severely impaired by his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).  He will need memory clues and some visualizations to help him.  

“Hey Lawn Boy, you got the keys to the shed?  I can’t find mine.” Mr. Wexley had his hands in his pants pockets.

“Yes sir.” I answered proudly, taking my keychain out of my pocket and handing it to him. I was proud that I was able to help him.  Once the barn door was open, I drove the riding mower out of the shed.  It usually took me about an hour to complete the job.  When I was finished, I would drive the mower back to the shed.  Then I would take the walking mower to the cemetery to mow the lawn there and have a brief conversation with Dora.  By the time I was completely finished, I would say so long to Mr. Wexley and walk home.

When I reached into my pocket, my heart stopped when I did not have my key chain.  I forgot to get it back from Mr. Wexley.  My first thought was to go back and get it, but I knew it would be dark by the time I walked home, so I decided to get it from him in the morning.  I did not tell anyone about forgetting the keychain, because of the hurt of my brain.  I was ashamed of my brain.  Once I was a smart student, but now I was a dummy just like Mason said I was.  Dr. Lathrop explained it to me, but I was crying like a baby when he finished.  

The next morning Mr. Wexley was sitting in the shed reading the newspaper like he always was.

“Mr. Wexley, I forgot my keychain.” I said when I walked into the dark shed.

“Oh yeah.” He laughed, “I’ve got them right here.” 

He reached up and removed them from the hook.  I began to feel better about things.

“You should be more careful, Lawn Boy.” He nodded as he handed them to me. 

“I will.” I nodded in agreement.

As I walked out, I remembered one time when Father McNaulty paid me my salary in cash, I dropped a twenty dollar bill on the floor.  When I got home, my dad asked me what happened.  I didn’t know.  My dad got mad.  He yelled at me, “How could I be so careless?”  I did not have an answer. 

The next day Father McNaulty called me into his office, “I believe this is yours.”

He handed me the twenty dollar bill I had dropped.

“Thank you, father.” I was overcome with joy, but when I got home dad demanded the money.

“You have got to learn to be more careful.” He took the money from me.  How could I be more careful?  My brain was broken, but he still did not understand what I was going through. 

When you look at me, you can’t see what is wrong with me, but when you get to know me, you will understand.  Losing the money wasn’t the awful part, it was the fact that dad still didn’t get the fact that my brain was broken.  He remembered the kid I used to be, but I wasn’t that kid no more.  

When I came in on Tuesday, Father McNaulty called me into his office.  When I walked in, I saw the cash box laying open on his desk.  He stood there with his hands behind his back.  As I walked in, he pointed to the empty cash box, “Would you care to tell me what happened?” His voice was not angry, but I could tell by his expression that he was not happy.

“I don’t know.” I gasped.

“You had the key.” He nodded. 

“Yeah...but I let Mr. Wexley borrow it to open the shed.” I stammered. 

“And then you got the key back, right?” He pointed to the empty box.

“Yeah...I mean no...I forgot to get it back from him.” I shook my head.

“Well, he tells me that he has no idea what the other key was for.” He bowed his head.

“Father, you got to believe me, I did not take the money.” I found myself close to tears.

There may be some problems with memory and perception of what the truth is...he may struggle with reality…

“Until I get this money returned, I am going to have to let you go.” He closed the metal box and looked at me. “I think you need to go home now.” 

It was a long walk home as my tears marked the way.  My days as Lawn Boy were over.  I did not know how to tell my parents.  

“Hey kiddo, what’s up?” Dad asked when I came in the door.

“I got fired.” I managed to tell him.  The expression on his face changed.  He was mad.

“What happened?” He asked.

“Father McNaulty said someone took the money from the cash box.” I felt tears falling on my cheek.

“Did you take it?” He asked, crossing his arms across his chest.

“Noooo.” I sobbed.

“C’mon, we are going to have a word with him.” My father put his arm across my shoulders.  

I did not want to go back.  I did not take the money, but since I was in charge and the money was gone, I knew I was responsible.  Father McNaulty was walking from the church when my father called to him. He greeted dad with a smile, but when dad stated what he was here for, father’s smile faded.

“Without that money, we cannot operate the festival.” Father McNaulty explained. 

“How can you do this to him?” Dad asked, “Knowing that he has problems with remembering?”

“I trusted him.” Father McNaulty nodded.

“He has always done his best.  Sometimes people fail. Every Sunday, we hear testimonies of saints who let Jesus down because they were fail able.” Dad sighed. “My son deserves the same consideration.”

“You are right, Mr. Dansworth.” Father McNaulty sighed, “I should have known.” 

“Lawn Boy?  Is that you?  I thought you had been fired.” Mr. Wexley was astonished when I came walking up to the shed on Tuesday. 

“I got my job back.” I said, “Let’s get the mower ready.” 

“You...you took the money.” He pointed his finger at me. 

“No, I didn’t.” 

“I told them you did.” He laughed. “You dummy...you gave me the keys. It was like taking candy from a stupid child.” 

“You took the money?” I asked.

“Damn right I took it.” He stared at me as if his eyes could kill me. “Nobody would believe I took the money as long as you were around to take the fall. I had it all worked out.”

“You had it all worked out.” Father McNaulty appeared in the open door. 

“Well...well.” Mr. Wexley shook his head. 

“Collect your things, Mr. Wexley.” Father McNaulty commanded.

I stood there and watched him pack his things in a knapsack and leave without saying a word.

“I will subtract the money you took from your final paycheck.” Father McNaulty replied before he walked out the door. 

Now everyone calls me the Lawn Boy when they see me walking toward the church. When it snows, I grab a shovel and clear the sidewalks and parking lot.  As long as the snow falls and the grass grows, I will always be the Lawn Boy.   

August 29, 2021 22:22

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5 comments

Marilyn David
07:46 Sep 09, 2021

Really enjoyed this story especially the ending. I love a story with a moral. The truth will always come out in the end even if we may have to wait.

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Mustang Patty
12:23 Sep 05, 2021

Wow-I felt sad and intrigued at the same time. It sounds like Prom Night lost this man everything - his girl, his smarts, and his ability to make new memories. You did a wonderful job with the pacing and interspersing of newspaper articles, and prose. Thank you for sharing. I curate Anthologies, and you and your work are just the things that I look for. Please check out my website www.mustangpatty1029.com and look at my most recent offerings. Everything is FULL right now, but I will be announcing the new Annual Anthology in January of 202...

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21:54 Sep 08, 2021

I could very well be interested in the Annual Anthology. Look forward to hearing from you. George

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Endellion .
20:02 Sep 02, 2021

I literally got so excited when I saw you had a new story. I love your stories, including this one! It seemed so realistic, beautifully written with great grammar. I may be young, but I know a good story when I see one!

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00:05 Sep 12, 2021

Thank you

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