Picture Perfect
by: Grace P.

"Shut up and start mowing!" yelled Mrs. Macintosh. "I'm not paying you for nothing."


I hate that woman. I thought to myself as I started to push the lawn clipper up and down the yard in perfect, straight rows. All she ever does is yell at me.


Who’s Mrs. Macintosh, you ask? Well, Mrs. Macintosh is the evil wife of my emotionless neighbor Mr. Ned Macintosh. She never smiles and always wears the same clothes. Plus, I don't think that I've ever seen her blink.


“There. All done, Mrs. Macintosh!" I yelled from the other side of the yard.


"Fine. Now get started painting the house! It’s starting to chip!" she yelled.


I rolled my eyes as I turned to get some paint from the shed.


“Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me young man! If you had done a better job last time, you wouldn't have to do it again!"


There, done! I thought to myself, That’s the second time I've had to paint that stupid house, and there was NOT a single crack on the whole thing.


“Done painting the house, Mrs. Macintosh. May I have my pay now? It's almost time for dinner."


“Fine, boy! Go put up that there paint and come back for your pay!"


Ugh! That woman has no appreciation for me. I thought to myself as I was putting the paint up. Without me, this place would be a dump, and her no good husband just sits around and lets her boss me around.


As I was walking back from the shed to get my pay, I saw a strange man talking to Mrs. Macintosh while Mr. Macintosh just sat there staring in to space.


What is she up to now? I thought as I started to come up the stairs to the porch, but as soon as my right foot hit the first step she sent me a glare that seemed to say, “Take one more step and your head will be on my mantle!” So I quickly obeyed.


Then as the man was leaving, he stopped to talk to me and asked, “Hello there young man! Do you by any chance know the owners of this house?”


“Umm...Yes Sir… I do.”


“Well aren’t you lucky! These people have just won an award for best looking lawn and house in the town. Their house will be the picture perfect house of the town, and they will get to be in the paper.”


My jaw dropped! My lawn, the yard that I had poured my sweat and blood into had won an award and was going to be in the paper? I’ve always wanted to be in the newspaper.


“But what happens if the yard doesn’t always look like this?” I asked as I thought of how run-down the house and grounds looked before I started working on it.


“Well then, I guess we would take back our award and give it to someone else, but by the look of this magnificent house, that won’t happen any time soon,” said the man as he tipped his hat and started back toward his car.


I flew up the steps, to where Mrs. Macintosh was standing, and she immediately started nagging me.


“You better not have made a fool of me while you were talking to Mr. Murphy, did you boy? He’s a member of the Town Committee Board, and if you disgraced me in front of him then so help me I’ll….”


I couldn’t stand her constant yammering, so I cut her off.


“Mrs. Macintosh, is it true that the house is getting an award?”


“Don’t interrupt me boy. It’s extremely RUDE!”


“I’m sorry, Mrs. Macintosh, but is it true?”


“Well, of course it is boy. My house is the most beautiful in town, and now my husband and I will be recognized for it.”


I took a deep breath and said what was on my mind.


“Mrs. Macintosh, I…I think it would only be fair if I got to be in the newspaper, too. I mean I have worked on this house twice a week for two years, even through the summer.”


“Well, I NEVER! Of course you can’t be in the picture. This is MY house and MY award! Now take your money and don’t come back until next week.”


I took my small pay of five dollars, ran home, ignored my annoying little sister, ran straight up stairs to my room, slammed the door, and didn’t came out again until 10:00 the next morning.


Slowly, I slugged down the stairs. I was in no mood to even move. I sat down on the couch where my little sister was playing with her dolls.


“Look who finally came out of his cave… Bigfoot.” Ugh…I was definitely in no mood for that.


“MOM!” I yelled, knowing that my mom would tell my little sister to leave me alone. Sure enough two seconds later I heard my mom’s voice chime from the kitchen.


“Jamie, Stop torturing your brother. He apparently isn’t feeling very well.”


“Ugh, I’m feeling fine. It’s just the devil’s wife next door,” I said.


“What happened, Jared?” asked Jamie. “Did the crazy giraffe lady threaten to suck out your brain like she did to her husband?”


“Jamie! That is NOT very nice,” scolded mom.


“But that’s what everyone at school says,” argued Jamie.


“Well, we won’t talk of such nonsense in this house,” said my mother as she argued back.


You could tell that my mom had just won the argument.


“So, sweetheart, what’s bugging you?” asked my mom.


“Nothing really, but the Macintoshes won the ‘Best Lawn and House’ award, and they get to be in the newspaper.”


“Oh honey, that’s great. You’ll get to be in it with them, right?” asked mom.


“No. That’s just it – Mrs. Macintosh said not to come near the house ‘til next week.”


“Well, what did Mr. Macintosh say about all this?” asked my mom.


What a stupid question! I mean why even ask?


“Nothing mom. Nothing! Just like always,” I said in a huff.


“Oh, I’m sorry honey, now I can see why you’re so upset,” said my mom. “Maybe I should go talk to Mrs. Macintosh about this.”


“No, this is my problem, and I’m gonna fix it!”


“Okay son, but make sure you behave, whatever you do! I’ve never met anyone as uptight as Agatha Macintosh.”


It was Saturday morning. The day that the people from the newspaper would be next door, and I was going to be there, too.


At about noon I saw the newspaper photographer and reporter drive up the road to the Macintosh’s house. I leapt from the couch where I was reading, told my mom that I was going out, and I swiftly ran next door. It seemed like Mrs. Macintosh had read my mind. There she was, standing on the porch giving me that same old stare. She was ready to run me off, and with a pitchfork, for cryin’ out loud!


Then the reporter asked if she was ready to take the picture. She said “Yes” and walked off with one last annoyed glare.


Don’t back down! Don’t back down! Was all that I could think.


Then I jumped the fence and in two seconds Mrs. Macintosh was right in front of me with the pitch fork up against my chest.


“Don’t come one step closer,” she warned.


“But I should be in that picture too,” I said.


“I will not have a twelve-year-old boy, in MY picture.”


“I’m fifteen, and I have worked on this house more in the past two years than you ever have in the last thirty years!” I said.


“Well…I…NEVER,” she stuttered.


Then I sucked it up and said what I had come to say. “If you don’t let me in the picture, then I quit.”


“Mrs. Macintosh, we’re ready for you,” said the photographer.


“I’m coming!” yelled Mrs. Macintosh as she stormed off toward her emotionless husband. She shoved the pitch fork in his hand and frowned.


“Say ‘Cheese’!” said the photographer, but nobody smiled.



Two months had passed, and the Macintosh’s prize-winning house was starting to look like an abandoned ghost house. Just like I wanted! It was now time to grab the phone book and make the call.


E, F, G, ahh! There it is, Greenville Town Hall. I thought. Time to make a little call to a Mr. Robert Murphy.


As I dialed the numbers, I practiced making my voice deeper, like a grown man would sound. Then I heard someone pick up.


“Robert Murphy. How may I help you?”


“Yes, this is Mr. Edward Dixon, and I was calling to comment on the new house of the town, which was in the paper a couple months ago. My children and I thought that it would be fun to see it with our own eyes. So we went there yesterday afternoon. Well, let me tell you, Sir, that place was a total DUMP!”


“Um… I’m sorry Mr. Dixon, but are you sure that you visited the right house?”


“Well, of course I went to the right house. If you don’t believe me go visit the house yourself.”


“Yes sir, I believe that I will. In fact, I will personally pay the owners a visit as soon as I get off of the phone.”


“I should say so,” I said, and abruptly hung up. Yes! That should get him going!



A few minutes later I heard Mr. Murphy’s Mercedes drive up next door.


Oh yeah! It’s go time!


As I ran next door and jumped the fence, I could hear Mrs. Macintosh and Mr. Murphy arguing.


“Well, I’m sorry Mrs. Macintosh, but unless you can find a way to clean up this house in one week, we will have to give some other house the privilege of having the best lawn and house in town.”


“But you can’t DO that!” yelled Mrs. Macintosh.


“I’m sorry, Mrs. Macintosh, but I have no other choice,” stated Mr. Murphy as he turned around and headed back to his car. “I’ll be back in one week to confirm or take back your award. I’m sorry.”


Once Mr. Murphy left, I walked off toward where Mr. and Mrs. Macintosh were standing.


“I can come back to work and fix this house up in a week, if you would like,” I said.


“I thought you quit. Why would you want to come back?” asked Mrs. Macintosh, as if she were talking to a traitor.


“I’m not coming back for nothing. If I fix up your house, that will take all of this week. So my first request is that I want to be paid double. Second, you can’t yell at me anymore.” I was feeling as if I were in charge; so I asked for my final request. “And last, I want to have my own picture and article about me in the newspaper.”


“NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! I refuse!” she shouted.


“Fine. That’s your choice then. Good luck getting this house back to how it was when I was still working on it,” I stated.


“Give the boy what he wants. He works harder than any other young man I’ve ever met,” said a rough voice from behind.


It was Mr. Macintosh!


Did he just TALK?!?


“But Ned!” said Mrs. Macintosh.


“No, Agatha. The boy deserves it,” said Mr. Macintosh.


And I could tell that Mr. Macintosh had just won the argument like my mom had with Jamie.



I was finally finished! One week of solid work, and I was finally finished. I had just enough time to run across the yard to my house and change clothes before Mr. Murphy and the people from the newspaper got here. So I quickly jumped in the shower and put on some jeans, a dress shirt, and my lucky high tops. As I walked back over to the Macintosh’s house, the cars had just driven up. I went over and shook everyone’s hand. Then I stood in front of the camera and smiled.