The drone of the engine made it easy to lose himself in his thoughts. He could almost enjoy it, if it didn’t take so much time away from the Santa Maria. Now he’d have to re-do the varnish on the poop deck, since he couldn’t put the second coat on in time. Then there was the question of the rigging. He finished his final turn with the mower and pushed it over to the gate and cut the engine. Alice was yelling something from the porch.

“Harold, I said don’t forget to sweep the sidewalk.” She paused and took a drink from her iced tea. “You always forget to sweep the sidewalk. It’s part of the yard too, you know.” She turned and let the screen door slam behind her.

Harold muttered “yes, dear,” and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. Then he straightened his glasses and walked back to the shed to get the broom and the rake.

By the time he finished up, Violet and Margaret were just pulling into the driveway. Alice called out over her shoulder that she’d be home late, and Harold waved as the three of them drove off. He wondered if Alice had left any of that iced tea. Turning back to his pile of grass clippings, he loaded them into the trash can and lugged the can back behind the shed.

He squinted in the afternoon glare as he dragged the can back into place and pushed it up against the wall with his foot. Alice didn’t like the trash cans to block the walkway between the shed and her rhododendrons. He grabbed the other can and moved it a little to one side. Satisfied, he brushed off his hands. He turned to go back inside and noticed the ants.

Must have disturbed them, he thought. The ground around the can was a scurrying mass of alarmed activity. He squatted down and peered over the tops of his glasses. They were just regular black ants, the kind boys feed grasshoppers to, or zap with their magnifying glasses. He grinned and rocked the trash can back and forth a few times. The ants scurried back and forth, sending out their silent alarm.

“Earthquake!” he said, and chuckled.

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