My wife likes mowing lawns. Really. So much so that I never need to get the lawnmower out. You can guarantee that if a single blade of grass rears its ugly head on the verdant green baize that surrounds our house, she will fire up the lawnmower and mercilessly decapitate it
A few years back, I indulged her grass molesting fetish by buying a top of the line grass molester. A Briggs and Stratton Commercial, four-stroke mower, with extra wide cut, self-propelled commercial grade chipper chute and heavy-duty catcher. My beloved was delighted (a fact that left me somewhat bemused but satisfied). Of the many capital items that have been bought at her behest, none have been received more enthusiastically. It gets polished at the end of each excursion, serviced regularly (which is more than I do), tender words are murmured over it and it's every need is dutifully met (unlike mine). In short, she is a better wife to that machine than she is to me. In return, this lawnmower has behaved faultlessly. For the last five years or more, it has diligently digested every scrap of green scalp over which it has passed; roared enthusiastically into life at the first pull of its stout cord, idled like a purring kitten when unattended and travelled countless circuits of our lawns without stuttering or ejecting its spark plug in a fiery arc before expiring with a wheezing death rattle (which was the case with its predecessor).
This marvelous machine has afforded me many hours of relative peace,
its steady drone drowning out the less tolerable drone of 'er indoors.
In my eyes it is manna from Heaven. But last night, whilst quietly enjoying
my favourite television programme, the one where a cheap and ordinary
Japanese car gets driven round the same circuit for the hundredth time
by some British racing ace I've never heard of, a minor miracle occurred—my
wife started a conversation.
I took a deep breath, tore my eyes away from the Cool Wall, and replied.
Dawn broke, wet and bluish grey, and the lawnmower sulked in the shed.
The lawn, far too wet for mowing, waved its tender fronds in triumphant
glee. Another day spared from the depredations of the all-controlling
In the eighteen and three quarters years that we have been married, there is one thing that I should have learned. I may win the odd battle, but I may never win the war. For the next couple of hours, I was mercilessly tormented for my triumph. The vacuum cleaner clattered around my ankles, the kitchen worktop became an anvil for a myriad of mallet-shaped kitchenware and the usual frosty silence was supplanted by a cryogenic wave of nothingness. Finally, when I could take no more, and was on the verge of throwing one of her many plastic ornaments through the nearest window, I conceded. I pulled on my wellingtons and resigned myself to do battle with the offending mechanical herbivore.
I opened the shed to be confronted by my nemesis gleaming at me in the pale light of the bluish-grey sky. After a quick check of essential fluids and a pull of the starter cord it rattled briefly and then subsided back into lifelessness. I swear I almost caught it smirking. I cast my eye up to the throttle control on the handlebars. She'd left it closed. With a flick of my thumb, the lever slid past the full throttle mark to the point marked 'choke'. There was a satisfying click as the butterfly valve deep in the guts of the machine hit its stop. I eyed the machine malevolently, grasped the cord handle with one hand and steadied the mower with my foot. I resigned myself to a series of sweat-inducing exercises with little chance of success, just to clear the dampness from the fuel line, or to confirm her diagnosis.
As I pulled the cord for the first time with the throttle open, it
coughed, hummed smoothly into life, and then stuttered on the rich mixture.
I eased the throttle back to a slow speed and it idled at a steady hum,
sweet as the day that it first massacred our lawn. Triumphantly I shut
it down, wheeled it back into the shed, and savoured the upcoming exchange
with the Light of my Life.
"No," she replied, "if you've managed to fix it, that
will do." Her accusing tone implied that she didn't believe I'd
been anywhere near her beloved grass molester, so I gallantly suggested
that I watch her start it, adding portentously: "I couldn't find
anything wrong with the machine, you must have hit a spot of condensation
in the fuel lines, dear."
Such are the joys of marriage..and
lawnmowers—now where did I put Miss Sultry September?
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Story © Jobe Smith 2005. Picture and construction © utterpants.co.uk /020706