"Mr. Leaf Master 3000"

Updated: Nov 14



It was a cloudy November day. The leaves had taken to changing their color and were slowly falling from the trees. Jonny heard his father's voice echo from upstairs. "Jonny! I need you to clean up the leaves!" Jonny turned off his video game and hurried upstairs. He didn't want to make dad angry. As he stumbled out into the garage he could see his father putting together the new leaf master 3000. It was an impressive machine. Designed to chop up leaves as big as your head into less than the size of a dime. Jonny's father relished, "This baby is gonna change the way we do leaves Jonny. Just you wait and see."


Just about that time Jonny's younger sister, Eloise, came toddling up. Always wanting to insert herself into whatever anyone else in the family was doing. And Jonny was a good big brother. It rarely bothered him. And so he stooped down and in the most gentle "baby voice" he could muster said, "Hi Eloise, this is the leaf master 3000. It's gonna change the way we do leaves. Just you wait and see."


Eloise toddled off and joined her mother in cleaning out the car. The girls were going on a trip. And dad was going to let them take his car. So naturally, Pam needed to make sure her car was nice and clean. All of this of course was for Henry. She had learned early on in their marriage that he had a certain penchant for cleanliness that she didn't possess. In their first year she had gotten the flu. Growing up whenever she'd gotten sick her grandmother would pick up after her. She'd grown accustomed to the treatment. And so naturally, after blowing her nose and coughing her head off, she'd lay the tissue down on the couch arm. The coffee table. The bedside table. And sometimes they'd fall to the floor. It was nothing personal. And she had every intention of picking them up in her own time. It's just Henry didn't feel the same way about the tissues that she did. After hemming and hawing for a good 20 minutes. He finally said something. Which came as a relief to Pam. She'd known he was frustrated but had a deep seated feeling of ambivalence towards his anger. It's not that she didn't care. It's just that she didn't care to pick the tissues up in the time frame Henry thought was acceptable. So naturally, she didn't. When Henry finally broke it was kind of cute. In a flirting with contempt kind of way. She needed him to not care. But could see how laying your elbow in a freshly used tissue was disconcerting. And on it would go. For the next 17 years. "Are you going to pick that up?" "Whose dish is this?" "Whose tissue is this?" "Why do you leave your shoes here?" The whole house was tidily untidy. A shoe basket for the shoes that were laying all around it. Waste baskets in every room that were full to the brim and overflowing with used tissues. It was a dance Henry and Pam did. And over the years the kids had joined in in their respective ways. But all in all, Pam loved Henry, and Henry couldn't live without Pam. And so she prepared her tidy untidy car for Henry to take over in the next week. All so he wouldn't have to put his elbow in something sticky on his way to work. After-all, she didn't want him to be angry.


The internet went off. Which just so happened to coincide with Henry's family text of "time to do chores". Harriet rolled out of her bed and squinted her eyes. She moseyed her way on up the stairs and out into the garage. She could hear dad's new power tool chopping up the leaves. And wanted to make sure that he saw her out and about looking busy. So she grabbed a bag of garbage and took it to the cans, making sure to wave at Henry as she passed by. He was too busy instructing Jonny on how to run the Leaf Master 3000. She could tell he was proud of the purchase. She could hear him yelling over the motor, "This thing is changing the way we're picking up leaves. Isn't it great!" Harriet rolled her eyes. She loved her dad, but sometimes, he could be a bit much. Always trying to use teenage lingo and make funny jokes. It was embarrassing. For an entire 6 months dad had told everyone he knew that over the weekend he was probably going to "Netflix and Chill". And he had no idea what it meant, but just kept repeating it over and over. To his clients at work, to his students at college, and even to his Sunday school class. He literally believed that it meant sitting down to relax and watch a movie. Never even crossed his mind that it could mean something different. Thankfully, one of his clients had broken the news that it was actually a euphemism for the "devil's tango". Henry was embarrassed. And Pam's co-workers got a kick out of the story. They even bought Henry and Pam a "Netflix and Chill" blanket for Eloise's baby shower. A pun that was certainly intended. So dad could be a tad literal, and a bit exhaustive. But at least in this moment he wasn't angry.


The Leaf Master was a breeze to set up. Just as the advert had promised. And it chopped up those leaves even finer than Henry had expected. It was going to be a good day. Which was a relief to Henry. He'd worried Jonny was going to push back on helping with the leaves. His wife and randomly decided to clean out her car, and he'd had no idea why. Keeping a toddler occupied, especially the Red Headed Hurricane, Henry's nickname for Eloise, could take a tole on one's mental stability. Pam deciding last minute to clean out the car must have had to do something with that. Henry thought to himself. No matter, at least she was doing something useful. Henry did enjoy a clean car after all. And did he see Harriet out of the corner of his eye? Was she taking out the garbage. Unbelievable. He thought his family text for sure would have caused her stay another 20 minutes in her bedroom. But there she was, and actually doing her chores. It was going to be a great day. After-all, he just wanted everyone to be happy.


Later that night. Eloise was in bed, and the family settled down to say prayers. Henry prayed for the family business. Pam yawned and prayed for Eloise to stay healthy. Jonny hopped from chair to chair and told Henry at least four times he didn't have anything to pray for. And Harriet kept talking about how she wanted to own a farm and have a bunch of animals. Slightly frustrated Henry would eventually say, "Does anyone else have anything to pray for, I'm getting tired!?" Jonny piped up. Looked Henry square in the eye. "I'd like to pray for the Leaf Master 3000. It was a great machine for the family. And I had fun cleaning up the leaves today." A single tear formed in Henry's eye. And he thought to himself. "I sure am blessed to have the Leaf Master 3000." And just as the thought crossed his mind. There was a twinge in his spirit. Followed by an uncomfortable feeling of sadness. He looked around the room. He saw Jonny looking at him, waiting to see if he would laugh at his joke. He saw Pam. Exhausted and bored. He saw Harriet checked out and dreaming of her own future. The answer came quickly. His desire for perfection had driven them away. During his relentless drive to make them happy, he was missing their hearts. Mr. Leaf Master 3000 was out of his depth. He turned to Jonny, smiled, and said, "Good one son." Jonny smiled and ran downstairs. He picked up his wife's foot and began to massage it and said, "You seem tired." Pam smiled and laid back into relaxation, and whispered, "I am." He looked over to Harriet who was now rolling her eyes at the gross display of public affection being perpetrated by her parents. "Tell me what kind of horses would you have in the barn." Harriet smiled and began to talk about her dreams.


About the Author:

Dr. Corley is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Missouri and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Kansas. He specializes in marriage counseling and trauma recovery.







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