“Have you learned about Mesopotamia in school?”
I told him yes. “They have two rivers there.”
“That’s exactly right. There was blue grass between the rivers. It grew tall, up over your head. You could get lost in it.”
Mom seemed different. I wasn’t sure she liked having Sergeant Defenbargh back home. They didn’t talk much. Mom would say something that wasn’t a question, but then pause, like she was waiting for an answer. Like, “We’re just going to stay here all day,” or “I guess I’ll just go study then.” Sergeant Defenbargh wouldn’t answer, of course, because these weren’t questions.
After a few days the lawn was “up to code,” as Sergeant Defenbargh put it, and we started fixing other things. We replaced the faucet in the bathroom and cleaned out the basement and the garage. Every day was a new project, but mom never helped. She was busy going to the library, where her study group would have meetings. It wasn’t really a group, just one guy named Ken. He used to come over after I had gone to bed. Only one time he came for dinner. He was nice and funny and had a beard. But he dressed like a kid, always wearing shorts and funny tee-shirts. Sergeant Defenbargh never dressed like that. He wore long pants and always tucked in his shirt. And he shaved every morning. After he finished he would slap his cheeks and neck with perfume. I didn’t think Sergeant Defenbargh would like Ken.