‘The Yard Boy’ by Joy Williams

The yard boy was a spiritual materialist. He lived in the Now. He was free from the karmic chain. Being enlightened wasn’t easy. It was very hard work. It was manual labor actually.

There is so much to love in the opening lines of this bizarre, beautiful story from Joy Williams. The bold statement, the sense of the yard boy’s earnestness, the narrator’s gentle mockery.

Meanwhile the rich characters who hire the yard boy to do their gardening are torn apart effortlessly. Mrs Wilson, who names her son Tao, “is wealthy and can afford to be wacky.” Jonny Dakota is “into heroin and intangible property.” And the has-been illustrator Mr Crown, infuriated by the construction across the street which blocks his view of the sun, opens fire on the builders with a shotgun.

First published in The Paris Review, Winter 1977 and available to subscribers to read here; collected in Taking Care, Vintage, 1982, and The Visiting Privilege, Vintage, 2015

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