The Daycare Next Door by Amy Lyons

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My neighbor planted a plastic swing-set, staked into dirt a domed cage for climbing, and dubbed her lawn daycare. Brown and blue footholds studded green panels for budding belayers to practice their scaling. A fat cartoon car with yellow blind spots idled near trash cans, awaiting the horsepower of four toddler feet. Jump ropes slithered toward trellised tomatoes. Hula hoops hung from the garden hose hook. 

In want of a hedge trim and new ornamentals, my yard missed my son. He learned to toddle by gripping fat fists around the ringed handle of a popping push mower. Hours slid by as he sheared the plush carpet, reaped the faux earth, squealed at the stripes his crackling toy laid.

Grade school snuck up. While other kids freeze-tagged or dunked blown-up balls into safe driveway hoops, my son spent Saturdays spading a colony of craters deep in the dirt of our postage-stamp plot. I need many samples was all he would answer when I brought him a brownie, suggested a walk to the tip of the hill for the fireworks show. Unbalanced pH in the soil obsessed him. He sacrificed summer to a total re-seed.

He’ll grow out of it, the monsignor said, straight faced, un-punning.

Flora-obsessed and suffering spells after anything more than an hour indoors, at eighteen he pitched a pup tent amongst lilacs, sleep shrugging him off unless his body touched land. His father left then, citing parenting philosophies that forked irreconcilable, his tine leading to a life with Ivy League daughters and a wife who wore make-up.

My neighbor’s new children haven’t arrived yet. I make my escape in the echo-strewn night. I’ll sell the house later, hire a moving team of men my son’s age the day he walked into the river. I drive a hundred miles, hunker in a hotel, nothing in sight but a mall, two cell towers, blacktop for weeks.

Amy Lyons has published flash fiction in No Contact, Lunch Ticket, 100 Word Story, Literary Mama, and Anti-Heroin Chic. She’s a 2020 Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions nominee, and a 2021 honorable mention for Miami Book Fair’s Emerging Writer Fellowship in fiction. She holds an MFA from Bennington.

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