Winning the Prize
The lawn and garden award sign mysteriously disappeared from Ellen’s yard. It had been there the night before, but now was gone. Ellen didn’t notice it was missing when she went out for the morning paper or when she watered the pots of geraniums and petunias lining the porch.
She was dressed and on her way to work when she spotted something wasn’t right about the house. At the curb, it came to her. The sign, announcing the much coveted award was hers, was gone.
The award was a fleeting thing -- given annually to only the best manicured and designed front yards in the neighborhood. Judges surveyed the area throughout the month of June and then green signs announcing this yard was worthy appeared before the Fourth of July. In August, the signs would be collected, stored over the winter till next growing season.
This was the first year Ellen won the award, beating out the competition on either side.
“Well, I suppose it’s your year,” Mrs. Hobson, Ellen’s neighbor to the east conceded when the Hobson’s yard had been overlooked.
“You’ve been a great inspiration,” Ellen replied in a nod to the loser. Then, Mrs. Hobson began to ignore Ellen, pretending not to see her while Ellen was in the yard, pulling the errant weed from the prize winning shrubs and beds of impatiens.
“I think Mrs. Hobson is unhappy about the award,” Ellen confided to her husband, Larry who laughed off the suggestion.
“Don’t worry about it,” Larry said, but Ellen couldn’t help it. She went outside to give everything another drink and pluck out the spent geranium stems. Holding the hose, her eyes kept drifting to where the sign had been planted, imaging if she studied the spot long enough, it would reappear. Ellen felt eyes on her and when she looked up, spotted lace curtains falling back into place in Mrs. Hobson’s window.
Inside, Ellen rummaged through her junk drawer in the kitchen, digging out the phone numbers for the neighborhood association.
“What are you doing?” Larry asked, in the kitchen for an after dinner snack.
“I’m going to call Laura and find out if the signs were picked up early.” Larry shrugged while she dialed the number.
Five minutes later, Larry was back in the kitchen. “What’s the verdict?”
“About the sign?”
“They haven’t picked them up yet. Laura said sometimes kids take them as a prank.”
Then, Ellen gathered up the kitchen trash and headed for the dumpster. It didn’t do any good to fret about it. Opening up the lid to deposit her trash, she spotted the sign. It was at the bottom of the bin, covered in red sauce. She dropped the lid as the back door to the Hobson’s slammed shut.