Grassland by Derek Brown

When I was eight I used to imagine each blade of grass in my grandmother’s backyard was a skyscraper, and her lawn an endless city. I’d go out of my way to find tiny barren patches in the lawn and give them names similar to Central Park—Park Central, City Center Park, Middle Park, or whatever. There were numerous “Central Parks” in my city. I’d imagine the city’s population to be well over a billion. And each yard on the block was another city, each with its own untold billions. But my city was easily one hundred New York Cities combined, thus deserving however many parks it wanted.

I’d give names to different regions of the yard, too, as a way to get to know the inhabitants. These names were always reminiscent of landmarks—Sheddleton was by the shed; Mapleton was by the maple tree; Porchlandia was by the porch. Of course, there were both East and West Porchlandia’s, for each back and front doors of the house. The patches of scorched grass became ghettos, where riots raged and burned buildings to cinders. And I’d name them, too: East Central after what I thought was Spokane’s worst neighborhood; South Central, named after L.A.’s notorious ghetto; and The Digs, named after a part of the yard with an old, unused flower bed with dirt piles and holes. And the lush Kentucky bluegrass hiding in the shade of the trees became the Upper East Side of my city.

Then I’d start to make my own places.

At one point I dug a hole, flipped the clear plastic top of my birthday cake case upside down and put it inside the hole, filling it with water. I named it Cake Lake. I was so proud of that lake that I filled it with rocks and put sand around the perimeter for a beach. My grandfather promptly made me take it out and put the grass back. “Why’d you make this hole in the grass, grandson,” my grandfather asked with a chuckle. “I wanted a lake,” I replied. I was so adamant about getting this city in perfect shape and giving its inhabitants everything they’d need to be happy that I became their unseen god.

The asphalt of the street became oceans, and blocks became continents. I dared never to cross those seas. That changed one day when I stretched out my arms as far as I could get them, and imagined them to be wings of a plane. And so I could fly.

I remember thinking trees were skyscrapers that went to the moon, and were what I imagined to be City Hall. The most important people lived and worked in those trees, and they decided the fate of everyone. They would watch over the grass buildings and at night decide if they should be trimmed. I came to hate those people whose choices always led to a lawn mowing.

At one point I imagined that the lawn mower was an evil enemy and took a few boxes of snaps left over from The Fourth, filled my pockets, lifted my arms and became a fighter jet. My mission: destroy the lawn mower. I’d fly over my city, tossing snaps on imagined enemies in the grass, saving people, and finally fly to the lawn mower and start tossing snaps all over it—pop, pop, pop! And with those tiny explosions ringing throughout the world I created in my grandparent’s backyard, my city was safe for another week.