It's not about the house.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ploughshares, Schmoughshmares

It has been a veritable Mexican standoff around the AssVac lately. Since, oh, let’s say mid-April. Though actually this may not qualify as a Mexican standoff, per se. Because whatever the phrase “Mexican standoff” actually means (and whatever its derivation, which is probably N.P.C.), I assume it has something to do with gunfire, and this one has yet to escalate that far. No, at this point I’d say our standoff feels more Kansan, Oklahoman, or perhaps a unified Dakotan.

I’m talking, of course, about the prairie:

See, for the first two years of our living together, Johnny and I shared a skank-hole apartment in the much greater skank-hole of South Boston. We didn’t have a lawn to worry about then – which did not stop Johnny from planting peppers and tomatoes in the lone square-yard of exposed soil anyway, and then getting pissed when bums ate everything the second it got ripe. You think it’s hard keeping skunks out of your garden? Try turning the hose on Southie wildlife and see what they find to spray you with.

God, I hate that place.

Anyway, the point is that we didn’t have a lawn those first few years, so outdoor duties were not included in our cohabiting negotiations. But when that scab of a Southie landlord kicked us out (for requesting once too often that he provide us with some source of winter heat), we moved to a two-family in Quincy that came with a ratty postage stamp out front, and a half-court’s worth of dandelions in the back.

Our new landlord was not one to do anything around the property. He told us right up front he had no intention of dealing with grass or leaves or snow. We were on our own for shovels, rakes, etc., but he was kind enough (he pointed out) to have provided us with a rusty, ancient power mower. Oh, and:

“Be careful when you use,” he thoughtfully counseled. “That machine, it jump sometime.”


Feeling – and hoping to maintain – a nostalgic attachment to my own feet and toes, I went out and bought a little push mower. You know, the old-fashioned kind? Without a motor? I figured power wasn’t really necessary for that adolescent-moustache of a yard and anyway, this push-thing would be a lot easier when it came time to haul the bastard up and down the cellar stairs.

The unforeseen result of my (I thought) wily acquisition, was that mowing the lawn became my de facto job. The downstairs neighbor did do it occasionally at first, but he always used the jumpy power mower – which may explain his alarming tendency to run over plants and garden hoses – and I liked him well enough to want to maintain his membership in the ten-toe club. For four summers, then, I (and, just to be clear: not Johnny) mowed that half-court lawn with my powerless push-thing.

Then we went and bought the g-d house.

As I’ve said before, we bought the AssVac for her yard, which we saw as much more than a convenient place to throw up after a tour of her moldy insides. It’s big – for the area, anyway – at almost a quarter-acre, and we expanded our collection of lawn-furniture accordingly. We envisioned weekend cookouts, summer gatherings, and quiet drunken evenings spent before a chimenea fire. That first summer, before the puking stopped, the backyard even served as our makeshift kitchen. But what we did not envision was the nosy, stupid, pain-in-the-hole neighbor who would insist we hire him to mow the lawn.

He insisted, I resisted, and he made fun of me over the ugly chain-link fence for using my push-mower of which I was so proud. To be honest, it’s not the best tool for this yard – there are more divet-holes around here than you can shake a stick at, and more sticks than at which you can shake a hole. But it did work, after a fashion, and —

Well, it might also be true that I am just the tiniest bit stubborn.

Because even after George brought over an old gas-powered mower that he had rebuilt for us, for free, I was determined that – until we got a bigger fence so I could concede defeat behind a veil of privacy – I would continue pushing the damn powerless over sticks and divet-holes. Three years went by. No fence went up. And then…

My back went out.


So last year Johnny mowed the lawn. And if you ask me, I think he liked it. What’s not to like, after all? He got to play with a big (compared to 5’3” him, at any rate) powerful machine that came with its own tanker of explosive gas; buttons and levers to push and pull and frustrate you if you get the order wrong; and a big spinning blade on the bottom providing all sorts of ways to hurt yourself and anybody else who dares get in your way (he doesn’t drive, remember). Plus he got to make with the chopping and general destruction, all in under twenty minutes without breaking a sweat.

No wonder he never wanted to play with my powerless little push-thing.

And I was thrilled. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I had spent on not mowing the lawn. Fretting about whether it would be okay for another week, or whether by then the jungle would have grown up too high for the wee push-thing to handle. Fretting whether the jagoff neighbor was going to accost me on the street again. Fretting over the damn tall bits in the corner by the trees. No more. I was free. As free as the grass grows.

It still astounds me.

So anyway fall came, mowing-season ended, and Johnny even hauled the thing down to the basement by himself. But when spring rolled around, he didn’t haul it out.

I’m not exactly sure what happened. Maybe he didn’t like it as much as I thought. Maybe his knees were bothering him, or maybe he was just tired from not really having had a weekend off since work at last picked up again. But I did not inquire. All I cared about was the fact that I had mowed the lawn for seven years and it was his turn now. I would point out every couple weeks that it was getting longer. I would notice, helpfully, as one by one all the other lawns around us got their first trims of the year. But I would not do it.

So instead it just got longer. And longer. And longer. Until it reminded me of that short story we read in middle school where lions in the magic house come to life and take to eating people. I didn’t want to get eaten by lions. I didn’t want Johnny or the cats to get eaten by lions, either. But I really didn’t want to mow the lawn. And so it grew.

And grew.

And grew.

Until, on Wednesday night…

Ta da!

So what happened, you may ask? Who won, and how, after all this time? Which one of us finally caved, strapped on the elephant gun and went out to clearcut the prairie veldt?

I did.

And why? What magical thing occurred to smash down my defenses, punch through my obstinacy and defeat my turpitude? Well, I’ll tell you what:

He asked.

“Hon?” he said. “If I bring the mower up from the basement after work this evening, will you mow the lawn tomorrow morning?”

Blindsided, I said “Okay, hon,” and went and brought the damn thing up myself.

Asking politely. Huh.

Who knew a thing like that was in the rules?


su said...

What a neat ending. Proud of both of you!
Compost that hay!

EGE said...

I already did! I looked like one of those fat-lady-butt lawn ornaments, wandering around picking it all up with a plastic grocery bag.

(Yes, I know you're supposed to rake it, but that would have entailed bringing the rake up from the basement, and I'd already conceded enough for one day. Don't you think?)

Sparkle Plenty said...

Dear Ege,

Might I put in a quiet word for the cordless Black and Decker Lawn Hog? It is quite light, battery-operated, comes with two batteries, and could be of service in keeping the lawn tamed. I'm too damn cheap and afraid of power mowers. I quelled two acres with it last weekend--really, the grass trembles now when I walk by, give it the stink-eye, and just brandish the Hog at it.

I'm not saying it was FAST. But I am saying it was EASY...

Yer Fan Sparkle

LadyCiani said...

It's purty!

su said...

Too funny. I was noticing this morning before I read you that I need to get out the whacker and whack away amongst the flowers and veggies. Why do the weeds grow without water but the treasures do not? Johnny have his garden set yet?

DonnaStaf said...

EGE caved? WOW...You guys crack me up. See...We don't fight with each other about this crap anymore; we had children to fight about it with...

EGE said...

Huh. And here's me thinking the fact that we're still fighting about this stuff is a good reason not to have children!