ON THE LAWN

He ducked as the plate flew over his head and skipped across the pavement. It bounced once, miraculously, and for a moment he actually believed the boast printed on the plate's bottom that it was one hundred percent unshatterable. He had always wondered, fought the temptation to accidentally let the water-slicked plate, still wet from the dishwater, slip from his grasp onto the kitchen floor and see what would happen. The plate didn't survive the second bounce. It shattered, pieces the size of a baby's fist skittering and sliding into the gutter, and he couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed. It would have been amazing if the plates actually didn't break when they were dropped, miraculous even, but supposed that even the most sturdy of plates couldn't survive being launched from a second story window. He looked back to the house just in time to jump and shrink away from a paperback novel that soared towards him and landed with a flap of pages on the wet grass at his feet. Its spine was broken now, he realized with dismay, pained at the loss of a perfectly good book. "Take it, you son of a bitch! Maybe it'll teach you a lesson!" His hands spread plaintively, helplessly, as she shrieked from the open second story window, her frizzy, tangled hair splayed out unattractively across his shoulders, her face red from the effort of anger and yelling. Being angry had never, ever, been a good look on her. He glanced down at the book. Microsoft Excel for Dummies. He didn't even remember buying the book. In fact, he didn't even think it was his.

"Wait, you want me to learn Excel," he asked, a little desperate, a little confused. She shrieked again, more gutturally than elegantly and dramatically and disappeared for a moment, reappearing with another of the sophisticated, unbreakable plates. Her aim was off, and he only needed to step to the left to avoid getting hit. "The dummies part, you idiot!" Her words were almost completely ignored as he stared down at the plate mournfully. With the rate she was going, he would need to buy an entire new set just to be able to entertain guests. He blinked down at the sharp pieces, frowning. The plates weren't even in the bedroom; was she really bringing everything he owned upstairs just to throw it back down at him? "Babe...that doesn't make any sense, at all. I mean, maybe if..." This time it was a bowl, the one with the delicate lace pattern around the lip that he had bought at a yard sale. "Babe..." "DON'T CALL ME BABE, YOU JERK!" He sighed. "Okay, Ellen. Listen, you're being unreasonable." Ellen leaned her upper body s far out of the window that for a moment he was afraid that she would fall. It was stupid, she was short enough that falling was pretty unlikely, but even so his mind filled with the image of her tumbling out, still shrieking, and landing in the bush underneath the window. If she did, it would totally kill the bush. He winced. "Unreasonable!?" She barked a laugh and shook her head. "You cheated on me!"

He took a second to consider this. Yes, it was true, but a lot of people cheated on their spouses. "Yes, but..." "In our bed!" "But..." "And on our kitchen counter!" "I know, but..." "And on our washing machine!" Though his mouth moved, no words came out. She had a point, although how she had known about the particulars of the washing machine encounter he wasn't really sure. Ellen just knew things like that. It was a little unnerving. "Okay..." he started. "But isn't this a little overdramatic?" "What?!" He stooped to pick up the book and lay it flat. At least he could try and prevent the pages from getting too wet. Maybe he would actually read it, since she had thrown it. "What I mean is that who actually throws someone's stuff out onto the lawn? I think people only do that in movies and on TV." Ellen gaped for a second, and then with a roar of anger she pulled her body back inside the window. From the ground, he could hear the thump and rattle of the glass as she hit the back of her head on the window frame. He imagined her face flushing with pain and humiliation as she rooted around for something to throw. At least when people threw their mate's things out the windows in movies, they did it with grace, and not

hurting themselves in the meantime. The papers appeared before she did, dumping out of an old printer paper carton and floating down delicately to the lawn. "FUCK YOU, THOMAS!!" As the papers drifted down and peppered the lawn and bushes, he groaned, more upset and disappointed than he had been when the first plate had shattered. More so than when she had literally thrown a shoe at his back and booted him out of the house. He recognized that carton. Carefully, trying not to step on any of the papers and make things any worse, he bent down and picked up one of the sheets. "Babe, those were all of our tax receipts and stuff for the past two years. I just finished putting them in order," he whined, scanning the yard to make sure that none of the pages had drifted off of their property. The last thing he wanted was for one of his neighbors to get a hold of all of his personal information. That would be all it took for someone to completely steal his identity, and he had worked too hard to build up a good credit score for it to be destroyed now. As he gathered the pages, he locked eyes with his neighbor, a middle-aged grade school teacher, who stood in the doorway of his house, looking over at the confrontation with an incredulous, disbelieving expression. Thomas waved with the hand that wasn't holding his wrinkled, damp receipts. His neighbor looked begin and nice enough, but Thomas didn't trust it. The kindly, ordinary man look was the perfect cover for a man who would pilfer his personal information and use it to buy all sorts of risqué, potentially illegal products over the internet. In fact, Thomas suspected, it was probably him who was stealing their W-fi signal to begin with. The man stared, and Thomas forced a smile that read just beneath the surface, I'm on to you....

The sound of sobbing brought Thomas' attention away from the papers and back to the house. Ellen's anger had faded a bit, dissolving into deep, body wracking sobs. He made a face. The way she was sprawled across the window frame certainly was dramatic, but he knew was she looked like when she cried. Some women became elegant and beautiful when they cried. For some women, tears made the world stop moving, it made the hearts of every man clench and break, until their deep instinctual need to help a woman in distress breached the surface and they couldn't help themselves from running to her aid. Ellen was not one of those women. The first time she had cried, Thomas had rushed to her side and slung an arm over her shoulder, lowering her to sit on the edge of the couch. In his mind the moment had been surrounded by a warm, proud glow. It was a perfect beautiful moment, his first experience as the comforter of a beautiful woman, but the moment she had raised her head to look at him, the fantasy shattered. She kind of looked like a muppet when she cried, Thomas realized, and from that moment on, the process of comforting her had become far less enjoyable. He couldn't see her face from his angle, but he guessed it was no more attractive now, with her still feeling angry and large hen's egg welling up on the back of her head. Thomas gathered the last of the papers and stacked them on the front steps, using a piece of broken plate to hold them down from flying away in the window. "Who cares if they're out of order now," she bubbled. "Our relationship is over. All that time, everything we had, you just threw it all away."

"Well, technically, I didn't throw anything away," Thomas argued. "I was perfectly willing to let things keep going the way they were, honestly. Everyone was happy enough." Ellen sobbed harder, producing an empty water bottle from inside the house and throwing it half heartedly down onto the lawn like a petulant child. "Yeah, you, me, and your girlfriend! We're all so happy!" Thomas considered. "Yeah, I think we were. I mean, except for you, apparently." She raised her head, eyes wet and swollen, but once again flashing with anger. "You son of a bitch! Of course I'm not! Why would I be fucking happy!?" Nervously, Thomas looked around him. His neighbor was looking even more disapproving now, and Thomas surmised it was due to Ellen's language when so many small children lived in the neighborhood. "Babe, you should watch your mouth. There are kids around." She shrieked again, and slammed the window so hard that Thomas heard the entire house shake and rattle on its frame. The yard suddenly sounded very silent. He locked eyes with his neighbor who still watched them, frowning heavily. "Hey," Thomas raised a hand and waved again. "Sorry about the language. She's a little upset."