The Joneses


Little Red walked countless miles with me. We ambled over the smooth, big hill out front and up the back slope, surprisingly steep. We paraded the lawn with pride; none of the neighbors worked so hard outside. I got to wear a dust mask, workboots. And earplugs, headphones. You can probably guess us quite a pair. People always seemed to walk by at cutting time, if only to point or stare.

Yup, we got to know the yard like the back of our hand: all the invisible topographies that can turn an ankle, the tight corners taken on two wheels, how to ride the edge of the flower bed, the way the sun blazes orange just before it sets, the hornet’s nest rebuilt every year beneath the north side of the deck.

That’s why I felt remorse when I tore her busted guts out. Grass wet and thick and overgrown from old snowmelt. Clog. Cuss. Pull. Jam. Smoke. Scream. Snap. Who would have known all her metal organs were strung together with some overworked cabling? Little Red is dead, now buried under the wheelbarrow behind the shed.

I finally broke down and bought new. “That’s one fine ride,” the next-door lady crooned. Her Craftsman sensibilities demand she mows from March to December. She recuts after me, drawing a verdant laser line between her yard and mine. (Yes, the grass is greener on the other side.) And she should know about tractors. She has two.

The guy on the other, other side reminded me how much time will be mine. The second thing he ever told me was, “I know you just moved in, but you’re breedin’ rabbits.” He waited a week and then cut it clear. I can just find other exercise, he now reminds me. “We can ride around and drink some beers.”

It’s strange at first–learning to mow all over again. The engine bumps and burps and smells like Sears. Three weekly hours of sweat are now a few dozen easy turns through the dancehall with Marley. I’ve replaced water breaks with sitting tall in high-back glory to gaze upon my trim, green horizon. My turf is about an acre or an hour, depending on how you measure.

Still, I yawn at the majesty, tired from finally keeping up.

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