A Sentimental Tale

On a March day in the year 1980 a traveler stopped beside a sign posted in a vacant lot which read "The best grasses are variegated."  In another area, or at another time perhaps, it could have been a warning against trespassing; but here, on the outskirts of this small quaint town tucked away behind its variegated grasses, hedges, forests, houses, factories, stores, out buildings; here, where the road itself seemed to reflect the apparent respect for variegation, or mimic it, or satirize it, macadam mixed indiscriminately with concrete, perhaps patchwork of one by the other, both indistinguishable as road base, clumped and caked dirt, brittle slivers of wood blown from nearby trees having cracked open, even a gentle matting of precious variegated grasses; here, sitting in the middle of a plot of ground perhaps an acre or so, sparse earth, its bluegrass, its green, its crabgrass and whatever else slowly balding, upturned pebbles like flakes of dandruff showing every passer-by an aging lot's embarrassment -- here, there could be no fear of trespassing, nothing to post a warning for.  It was just a sign, somebody's idea of a good one; it handed out perfectly, without cost, to anybody who cared to read it this notable information: like a public service, to make one a little the wiser when considering his own landscaping.  No one could be faulted for not practicing what his sign preached: these grasses followed its instruction scrupulously; but a most literal translation of its wisdom, and apparently it application, had done very little toward effecting a beautiful landscape, or else some more sinister means had been fast at work undermining the scheme.  It would be a sad day, the traveler resting himself before continuing his journey thought, if the land did not lend itself to variegation; or, worse still, if the message displayed itself falsely -- if in fact the best grasses were not variegated.  Now that was something worthy of regret, that somebody should follow a sign so zealously, should exert so much effort seeking to bring what was inherently barren to fruition.  But then perhaps it worked elsewhere, and only here failed: something in the soil perhaps.  The traveler was tired; and, in spite of everything, found himself impressed with this nearly ruined lot.  He could not for the life of him imagine a bad person responsible for such a sign, or such a lot -- or such an odd looking section of road, or, beyond the bend, what he could see of it from here, such an unpicturesque town.  No, it did not have the look or the feel of evil; it had simply the aspect of a vacant lot, though he doubted its vacancy.  And far from repelling him, he eagerly looked forward to a closer look, once he had rested.