Dear Dirty America


The Dangers of Patio Furniture

The Dangers of Patio Furniture
July 26
09:19 2021

suffering and loving it

SOUTH DAKOTA — My neighbor, Darla Schwayz, was out watering her flowers and chomping on my ears about how it had taken several months to get her patio furniture.

“Apparently it was stuck in the Suez Canal,” she said too loudly. “I was calling like every other day trying to push those guys to get it in sooner.”

“Hopefully it didn’t arrive covered in mud.”

“What?” she asked.

“Looks nice,” I said, peering up at the patio.

“Wait until you sit on it.”

“It kind of puts the rest of us on notice,” I said, glancing back at my patio with its two cheap, foldable chairs that we got free from the bank. “I mean, look at that wood. And the fine threadwork of the cushions.”

Darla turned off her hose and invited me to try it.

“That’s OK,” I told her. “I’d hate to get too comfortable and not want to leave.”

She laughed. “Sit,” she said again. “Enjoy!”

I glanced up the patio steps, at the thousand glittering trinkets set out on display, at the flower pots, the wind chimes, and then that fine patio furniture gleaming under the sun.

“I can’t do it,” I said.


Darla thought I was being overpolite. She scratched her upper lip with the tip of her pinky finger and tempted me. “You’ll be the first one other than myself. Even my kids haven’t tried it yet.”

“I don’t want to play into the illusion,” I told her. “Problem is, the nicer the stuff you have, like this fine ensemble you got here, the harder it’s going to be to die.”

She looked at me and pushed her glasses up farther on her nose. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

The skin in the corners of her eyes was red, like maybe her eyes had been itchy and she’d been rubbing them.

“I’ve taken an active approach to detaching myself from things,” I said. “I hate to bore you with it, but I don’t want to end up dying and the only thing I can think of is crawling back to my favorite stuff. I try to buy uncomfortable things and despise them as much as possible.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say. She waved to a woman walking her dog on the sidewalk. “It finally arrived!” Darla hollered.

“What did?” the woman shouted back.

“THE PATIO FURNITURE!” Darla hollered.

The dog walker lifted a thumbs up into the air and kept going.


“It’s not easy,” I said, hoping to bring Darla back to our conversation.

You always have to be sensitive about sounding too righteous. I mean, I have my quirks, too. I’m not a complete saint.

“The more nice stuff you have,” I said slowly, “the more you’ll be screaming when you die, hanging on tight, clenching your fists.”

“Well, that’s just ridiculous.” She waved away a fly. “I expect there’ll be nicer stuff where I’m going, anyway,” she said. “I don’t know if that’ll be true for you, though.”

“It’s best to have your soul leave this world like a hair being pulled from soft butter.”

“For goodness’ sakes,” she said. “Why would there be a hair in the butter?”

“The worst is to be pulled from your body bawling like a wounded donkey. Then you know you’re going to have problems in the next life.”

“I’ve got chicken in the oven,” she said. “But let’s talk more again some time.”

“Some people,” I said, “depending on their personality, will stand before their Creator, hoping for mercy. They will brag, ‘But did you see my patio furniture? That’s got to count for something!’ Or, ‘They gave me a Lifetime Achievement Award!’”

I waved a hand between us, as if I were wiping clean a mirror. “None of it’s worth a thing.”

Darla walked away and let out a long breath. “You’re weird,” she said, without turning to look at me. “But I guess I always knew that.”

When I told my wife what happened, she insisted on baking her special banana muffins and we bring them over to smooth the waters with Darla Schwayz.

“Like she needs to experience more pleasure!” I said. “She’s already hooked on worldly experience. We should bring her a salad of tossed neem leaves. Now that’s a gift. If she but knew it!”

My wife’s the boss, after all, so banana muffins it was. And smooth the waters, it did. To some degree, anyway.

[header photo by Marianne from Pexels]


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