Author's note: This is part two in which Kevin gets back on the wagon of mowing his own grass after being addicted for six years to watching others do it.
For six years, I had watched the lawn service roll up on every Thursday afternoon and deploy like a SWAT team, in and out in 90 minutes, suspect in custody, leaving all things lawn good to go. Surely, a college graduate and a couple of honor students could maintain that standard of assault against an enemy as stationary and benign as grass. Surely.
I went to the armory to inventory our weapons with which to wage war against weeds and their ilk. There, in the back of the shed, ever blissful deep into retirement, sat the mower, weedeater, edger and blower. They shielded their eyes from the sunlight as their days in the darkness came to an end with the news of their reinstatement to active duty.
We brought our arsenal around to the garage for inspection. As you might imagine, engines that have laid dormant for six years do not just spring to life at the first pull of a cord. Or the 30 pulls after that. Times like this force me to revisit the shame that comes with being the black sheep of the Goodwrench family. My steel wool status was bestowed one dark day when I thought a flathead screwdriver was a local recipe for an orange juice and vodka. A hilarious family member subsequently enrolled me in the "Tool of the Month" club, telling me that I'd only receive 11 deliveries because I was November.
As for getting the equipment started, there was a time when this battle of brawn vs. Briggs and Stratton would've surely ended with a separated shoulder, blistered palms and a profane, closing dissertation the likes of which only a crotch-clutching rapper could appreciate.
But times have changed. Now we have ways around such engine indifference and unleaded lethargy. Ways like spraying potent chemical concoctions into steel orifices, ways that bring the horsepower back to life to be saddled and ridden again. It's based on overkill. Think of it as waking a sleeping teenager by poking him with a cattle prod, or waxing your eyebrows with a gas grill, just after you lean in closer, but just before you ask, "Why won't this start?"
With my newly enlisted troops beside me, I began my second tour of duty with Yard War II, the big one. (The twins insist the draft was reinstated, but tomato-tomahto.) The honor students did "paper-scissors-rock" (what else?) to see who got to mow and then I educated the other one in the nuances of whacking a weed with a weapon, not to be confused with mafia code for killing a stoolie.
The only real hope of leveling the playing field when you're mechanically disinclined is to buy the best equipment and hope it does the job for you. Hence, I had a four-wheeled, four-horsepower, state-of-the-art edger that was ready and roaring to go, courtesy of that uber-octane potion of high-test gasoline and low-grade uranium. My plan was to just walk behind it while trying not to strike oil or anything with fur.
I went about 40 feet and the edger started making strange noises. Keeping with my standard mechanical-stress protocol, I kept going and hoped the strange noises would go away. Applying similar sharp thinking from flathead screwdriver lore, I pondered the chances of the edger experiencing not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather a self-healing one. I went not 10 more feet before the edger made it clear that it had no medical training whatsoever. I looked closer at the edger in an effort to use my trained eye to determine if the problem was orangejuice related or vodka related. No luck. I pushed it a few more feet and plugged my ears. The noise got louder. It was then I noticed the blade was wobbling violently. Of all the inglorious ways to depart this world, death by an inebriated edger blade was not what I needed people talking about at my funeral. Combine that with the screwdriver story, and my eulogy hits YouTube before I'm in the ground.
I turned off the edger and was taking it back to the garage when one of the honor students came walking up, somewhat alarming in that he had last been sighted riding atop a lawn mower. In the front corner of our yard, there sits a four-by-four foot transformer box from the power company. About 30 inches from it, stands another box from the cable company. They have lived here longer than we have. I supply such details of this math problem because in the world in which the honor student lives, riding lawn mowers with 42-inch mowing decks and 36-inch wheel bases fit through 30-inch gaps. Or he has a deep-seated, truly intense hatred of utilities.
We went over to the mower. I looked at the mower jammed halfway into a place it had never been and was never going to go. Then I looked at the honor student. Then back at the mower. Then back at the honor student. I was trying to gather strength by envisioning a youthful Albert Einstein, utterly bamboozled by a hedge trimmer, but it wasn't working.
I needed some water. As I approached the front door, I looked at theflower bed to the side where the other honor student had finished weedeating. There in a row, needing only to be zipped up into compost body bags, lay the remains of his mother's roses. Apparently, his inner civil rights activist had not allowed him to discriminate between weeds and roses.
Just then, the honor student who was apparently opposed to any and all alternative energy sources, up to and including flower power, came bopping around the corner with the weedeater and said with a smile, "All done." Truer words, people. Truer words.
That sound you heard was the addict falling off the wagon. He landed on the roses. On the thorns, but you knew that. The SWAT team comes next Thursday. I'll be watching from rehab.
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Kevin spent the next day trying to convince the police not to press charges against his honor student for mowing while intoxicated and leaving the scene without cable. Kevin is pulling weeds at LIFEisHEALD@yahoo.com.