When you’re sheltering in place, there’s no excuse not to mow the lawn. That’s the thinking in our small town, where you can be grass-judged and grass-shamed by your Dutch neighbors if you don’t keep it near regulation length. The wife and yours truly had been hacking it down this year instead of springing for a lawn mowing service.
The problem was that our brand-new lawn mower was a piece of junk. It was a non-self-propelled Troy-Bilt model that smoked and complained and did a lousy job of mowing the lawn. We’d had problems with it from the first day we got it home. It took forever to figure out that the two posts that make up the U-shaped steering bar had been pushed down into the blade’s path to make for easier shipping.
Read more Coronavirus Diaries here!
The other day, Anj called me outside to look at the lawnmower again. She could get it started, barely, but the prospect of cutting actual grass was too much for it. It had been oiled and gassed up and even had special drops applied to counter the effects of the ethanol in the gas. And it was still emo.
“Forget this,” I said, more or less. “Get on the phone with the Tractor Supply” — where we bought it and which is still deemed an essential business and is thus open — “and see what we need to do to take this back.”
We didn’t have the receipt and somehow were not in the system under a phone number that could be looked up. The Tractor Supply employee said they would still take it back, but only for “store credit.” Which was fine by me. We didn’t want the money. We wanted a lawn mower that wasn’t afraid of grass.
But there was the question of how to get the lawn mower to the store. It probably wouldn’t fit in either of our cars. It would make a terrific grassy mess in the unlikely event that we could squeeze it in. We could coordinate with my dad, who lives on the other side of town and has a minivan, in a day or two. Too long.
“I’ll push it,” I said.
“What?” Anj asked.
“I’ll push it to the Tractor Supply store. You get Sparrow [our 10-month-old daughter] in the car. Meet me there and take it in and do an exchange. I’ll wait in the car with her while you’re wrangling, then push the new one home,” I said.
What I didn’t realize is that the store is a full mile away, according to Google Maps. Walking a mile is next to nothing. Walking a mile pushing a lawnmower, and then walking all the way back, pushing its replacement, was something.
When I was two blocks from home with the new Cub Cadet yellow mower, I saw a girl with unnatural red/pink hair sitting on a sidewalk. She was burning weeds that sprout in the lip of the sidewalk, where it meets the road, with a handheld propane torch.
“That torch,” I stopped and asked, “where did you get it?”
Bright Red said it wasn’t hers. She was doing some yard work for the lady in the nearest house, who’d had it for a long time. But she speculated that I could probably go to Ace and get one of the newer models.
“Thanks,” I said, “Something like that could be very useful to me” — in my war against the dandelions.
I started walking again. The girl slowed me down with a question of her own.
“So you just decided to take your lawn mower out for a jog?” she asked.
“That’s right,” I bragged, and pushed it like I was on a mission. But what I thought in my head was, “Well played, kid, well played.”
Jeremy Lott’s lawn is no longer a jungle.
Editor’s Note: How are you spending your time amid the coronavirus shutdown? Please send contributions of 250–400 words to firstname.lastname@example.org.