HuddledMassesOfGrass


Page Created: 6/25/2014   Last Modified: 3/18/2016   Last Generated: 12/11/2017

Copyright 1993, by Lee Djavaherian

Author's note: I wrote and performed this speech in the ADS category (After Dinner Speaking) at several college forensics competitions when I was 23.

The cicadas were out as usual on that warm July evening, chirping out high and low in their eerie, siren-like oscillations. The rabbits were there too, silently gathering on the front lawn, probably planning an attack on the neighbor's tomato plants. Those weak, little rabbits with their puny rabbit minds. Seems like they'll always survive, though. They've got the math on their side.

Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me.

"You can't kill it, you know," it said.

I turned around and saw that it was John Miller, the guy that lived up the street, but he looked weak and tired with green shoes and grass particles stuck to his face with dried sweat. This wasn't the energetic, young man I had known at the beginning of the summer, this was someone else.

"Look at it. It's even taking over your yard. It's like a plague, a cancer spreading across the country, sucking the life out of everything in its path."

"What are you talking about, John? The rabbits? The rabbits are killing everybody?"

"No, you idiot! The grass! Oh, I knew you wouldn't understand. You people with your fancy, clean clothes, your clean hair and clean shoes. You have no idea what it's like out there pushing a steel cutting machine twice your own body weight up and down mountains of grass, breathing in stinking hydrocarbons, stepping on maggot-filled, rotting bird corpses, praying to God that another day will pass with your two feet still attached to your ankles. So...how was your day?"

"Well, it was--"

"You know how many lawns I mowed today? Do you know how many lawns? Twenty-one lawns. I should have mowed seven yesterday, seven the day before, and seven today. But no, I mowed all twenty-one lawns today. Why? Because it rained yesterday and the day before! 'Why haven't you mowed my yard, it's getting high? I thought you were dependable.' And then there's this one guy who doesn't want his yard mowed every week, no, 'I want it mowed every 4 weeks, and don't forget!" His yard isn't grass anymore. It has mutated into a breed of corn. You're out there mowing cornstalks. He doesn't know the danger in what he is doing. The grass is going to get angry."

"Well, John, maybe you need to get someone to help you mow. It sounds like you have too many lawns."

"The world has too many lawns...Why do you think I'm over here? You're going to help me work."

"Me? Impossible. I have too many things to do. I've got jobs, appointments, and enough homework to last me until the year 3000. Positively impossible."

"You'll get 20 bucks an hour."

"Ok, I'll do it."

"Alright...You got a mower?"

"Lawn Tornado 2000, 3.5 horse power, 4-cycle, vertical-shaft Briggs & Stratton engine with a 22 inch mulching blade."

"Alright...You'll have to change the blade, you know. We don't mulch, we throw. Ok?"

"Ok."

"Good. See you tomorrow."

The weeks that followed were full of many surprises. Ultraviolet radiation, excessive decibels, poison ivy, and a machine known by many as the weed whipper, within whose path no foot shall trespass unpunished. And John's obsessive compulsion with order was becoming extreme. Instead of the usual back-and-forth or square pattern used to mow a lawn, John insisted that we use a two-dimensional, mathematical sine wave function, and more specifically, that we alter the coefficients of the function each time we mowed.

He once said something like, "It will keep the grass in a state of mental confusion." Then, one day, he handed me a strange box of steel cylinders.

"Here, plant these in the ground near those dense mounds of grass," he said to me.

"What are these, some kind of fertilizer plugs?"

"Yeah...fertilizer."

"What are these wires coming out of the top?"

"Just plant the damn plugs!"

A month later when we went to mow again, there were dirt craters where those plugs used to be. Those weren't fertilizer plugs, those were some sort of pipe bombs! He was seeing the grass as some sort of human enemy, and took it upon himself to win the war. Then suddenly, after weeks of mowing for him, he fired me.

"Thanks for helping me fellow mower, but I don't need you anymore."

"What do you mean you don't need me anymore? Do you think you can just hire and fire someone whenever you like?"

"We can't all have what we want."

"What? Do you think I liked putting up with a mental case like you? Your insane! All that talk about the grass getting mad, that it's going to take over the world, and 'I've got to keep it in a state of mental confusion.'"

"It's true, I wasn't lying. Do you want proof?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Look over there."

With those words still echoing in my head I turned and saw something inconsistent with the natural world. The pile of grass near the edge of the street leaped up, opened the door to John's truck, started the engine, and drove away. And it wasn't even an automatic.

"Are you a believer?"

"I am a believer."

"The grass stole my truck and all of my lawn equipment. I hope you're happy."

"I am a believer."

Then John explained everything and told me to write it down for future generations of lawn mowers. In essence, I became his scribe.

He said that for thousands of years it has been known secretly to only a few, elite, lawn mowers that grass was an intelligent being, possibly even surpassing that of man. The first reported sightings of this phenomena were in 975 B.C. when Nassir Abdulvahab noticed a disturbance on the banks of the Nile river. He wrote, "The long, green, flowers come to the sacred tablets each day, reading from them and talking amongst themselves with voices like a thousand beetles running on dry leaves."

In Germany in 1103, Gottlieb Müller, a blacksmith had a similar experience. He wrote, "Tonight, my eyes deceive me. I was awakened by the sounds of banging iron from my shop. I quickly fetched my brother Heinz, and we went to see who was there. When we looked inside, Heinz gave a horrible scream and ran outside. For the grass, the same grass that we step on each day, was hammering out its own sword."

John said that as long as grass remains cut in orderly patterns on a regular basis, it remains naive and benign, never realizing its intellectual potential, but as soon as it grows long and escapes the boundaries of its existence, it starts to learn at an amazing rate, developing individuality, creativity, and the will to survive. Some grass even take initiative, become leaders, and organize the others into a revolutionary state. But as I wrote, I began to see what John's greatest fear really was. He might one day lose control over the grass.

Several years later, it rained for an entire week, causing John to develop a high fever preventing him from mowing any more lawns. He kept giving me mowing instructions as if he was going somewhere. "Be sure to mow the Johnson's every week", he said with a smile, "And remember, my fellow mower, we don't mulch, we throw." I told him not to worry since he would get well soon, and so I went home.

The next day a trail of dead grass ran up the sidewalk to John's front door, continuing through his house to the sofa where he was laying. And on the sofa was a small piece of white paper that said in green letters, "We mulch. Sincerely, The Grass."

I never saw John again. He must have the known the grass was coming for him but he didn't care. Maybe he was tired of fighting, maybe he couldn't live with the guilt of suppressing those millions of potential voters, those huddled masses of grass, yearning to breathe free. And so I started thinking, maybe everything we ever postpone in life is like the grass. Every time we put something off, every time we procrastinate, we create a problem that eats its way into our consciousness, our subconsciousness, and our dreams, until we start to see that problem as a manifestation of its own will, a demon created from pure, 92-octane evil, when it is our own will, shaped from the fears and stubbornness within ourselves, that creates the demon.

And I'm sure the rabbits would agree.


Excerpts from 8 different judges ballots:

"Unusual Material. Sometimes unintelligible."

"The beginning scenario takes far too long. It is three minutes. I still don't know preview statement or regular speech form. This is a weird topic - You have been mowing too many lawns :) - This is a really cool interesting story on that I rate you highly but it is not an ADS. There is no reality made humorous or speech structure."

"This sounds like prose the first few minutes. You need to draw the audience in. You are isolating us. Where is the thesis, the preview? This is to be a speech not a humorous prose-like presentation."

"You are not touching on a serious point to the issue except the analogy at the very end. It was still vague. I don't think you get the gist of the After Dinner Category. Your performance was more of an interpretation than a conversational speech with a humorous tone regarding a semi-serious issue."

"ADS should be a public address style speech-you need an Intro w/preview - a body w/3-5 main points- and a conclusion. Not just one story about a mowing experience. How about the obsession of mowing or lawn care" . . . "what about 'Lawnmower Man' jokes . . ."

"I thought at first this was a one person Duo Interp. What is your topic? Lawn mowing or pathology? Procrastination? . . . I was never sure where you were going with the speech."

"This is kinda like a bad acid trip."

"You are a talented individual, but the speeches in the round were of sufficient quality to override that talent."

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