It all began when the Dentist woke up sprawled on top of his bed sheets, a pair of damp socks clinging to his feet, greened at the tips by grass stains as if a blooming moss had confused them with rocks. He would later step outside his house in bewilderment, awash in the summer sun, hoping to somehow retrace the steps he had made in his sleep. After only a few steps toward his driveway, he noticed that his lawn, which was overgrown just the night before, was perfectly and evenly trimmed.
A man not normally given to sleepwalking, the Dentist was profoundly confused by the happenings. He decided to share his story with his next-door neighbor, the Chiropractor, in search of some answers or assurances. The Chiropractor would shrug it off as an embellishment, laughing and suggesting that the Dentist try completing all of his chores in his sleep.
Abashed, the Dentist drained his mower of gasoline before going to sleep for the night.
Awoken in the morning by a loud, brisk knocking, the Dentist found at his doorstep the elated Chiropractor, who chokingly explained that he had mowed his lawn overnight without a minute’s recollection. He had even gone as far as to weed his yard, he would relate, although he stowed the trimmings in a half-full laundry hamper.
“Tonight I tackle the gardening,” he said.
The Dentist found it impossible to sleep the following night, restless and fidgety under his sheets, his mind abound with questions. If he could complete a task as intricate as mowing the lawn in his sleep, what would he try next? Was the Chiropractor lying about his lawn being mowed in his sleep, or had he actually done it; if so, what were the implications of the coincidence?
He peeked out his window periodically through the night, expecting to see the sleepwalking Chiropractor pulling flowers from his garden. He had staved off most the night without incident and was finally nodding off to sleep when he heard a mower cord being pulled.
He immediately looked toward the Chiropractor’s lawn only to see darkness; the noise was coming from a neighbor on his other side. He threw on his bathrobe and stepped onto his front porch to see his other next-door neighbor, the Banker, mowing his lawn laggardly with a flashlight-mounted helmet. He watched in marvel as the Banker rounded his lawn, leaving his mower haphazardly on the driveway and lumbering back into his house.
He visited the Chiropractor in the morning, visibly shaken and distraught, relating with urgency what he had seen and hypothesizing meanings behind the coincidences. He suggested that the sleepwalking could spread throughout the block, and that the neighborhood could go as far as to mobilize in their sleep, and that they should take measures to stop the matters before they got out of hand.
The Chiropractor was unresponsive to the Dentist’s distress. He was more concerned about the fact that he hadn’t achieved anything in his sleep the night prior.
“Be happy that you’ve started a neighborhood trend, and tell me again your mindset before you went to sleep the night you mowed,” he said.
In the coming nights the Dentist would become a makeshift insomniac, lying in wait for the terrible sound of a mower cord scraping against a metal shell in the middle of the night. The Accountant mowed the night after the Banker, followed by the Stock Broker who afterwards would sleep sprawled between his driveway and his yard.
Eventually the neighborhood would tend to their yards in their sleep like clockwork, everyone but the Dentist emerging from their homes in the night’s solstice to trim or to pick or to mow. The Dentist, going on a week without rest, swore he even saw them wave at one another from across the street as they labored in their sleep.
Growing more detached and fearful, the Dentist would stop answering the door for his neighbors who brought pies, flowers and cookies as tokens of gratitude for inciting the neighborhood phenomenon.
He visited the Chiropractor with a final plea: they were the only hope, he explained, for saving the neighborhood from unconscious insanity. He proposed that they stay awake through the night to go from house to house, shaking the sleepwalkers to awakening.
“There never was or will be any harm in mowing a lawn, and I swear if you awaken me I will turn the mower on you,” said the Chiropractor.
As night fell, the shivery Dentist began packing his essentials to leave his home and neighborhood. This proved to be a difficult task, scatterbrained and dejected as he was; he would repeatedly change his mind, deciding it was best to stay and try to sleep in his own bed, only to begin packing again. The sound of a mower cord splitting the night’s silence finally set him in to motion and out the door.
As he stepped outside, the neighborhood was coalescing for their nighttime yard work around him. He stopped for a moment to watch the Psychologist in the distance, who was fumbling with a ride mower in his driveway. The mower started and propelled him unexpectedly into the road; he would regain his composure and continue to ride slowly beside the curb.
The Dentist set down his suitcase and stared in wonderment as the Psychologist chugged off into the distance, shrinking and finally disappearing into the darkness.
Knowing that the Housewife wouldn’t realize where her husband had gone the next morning, the Dentist decided that he could not in good conscience leave town without waking her or someone else to explain what had happened.
He began walking toward the Housewife’s home, interrupted repeatedly in mid-step by the eerie sound of a sleepwalker groaning or pulling something from the earth. He found himself pacing up and down his driveway, jittery and withdrawn, each second committed to something new.
He would decide eventually on the mower, a sense of appeasement washing over him as he pulled the cord one, two, three times in the dark.
A rough draft.