This week, the G.P. headed back to the ol’ Kansas homestead (literally) to visit his dying friend Buddy (again, literally – you can’t make this stuff up). Off he went, Rowlfie in tow, leaving me and the Rev to fend for ourselves in the wilds of Corpus Christi. Normally, Dad’s travels are a good thing. In his absence, we tend to finish big projects at both houses. This week, however, the major task was mowing my ½ acre yard. The barely sentient Yard Sharks now circled my block, focused on my uncut grass like a bucket of chum. Bravely they pinned handwritten notes on my mailbox: “We do gud werk. Cheep.” Soon they’d be ringing the doorbell, demanding to mow and arguing when I said, “NO!” My front doormat features a cat flipping the eff bird with both barrels and says, “Go away,” but that doesn’t deter the Yard Sharks. For sharks you need something bigger, and probably electrified.
Death waits for no Dad, so the G.P. left in a hurry. Over the last few months, I’ve begged him to confer upon me the gauntlet of lawn care, with little response other than derisive laughter. The G.P. (Great Provider), owns the tools, and I’m too cheap to buy my own when I can steal whatever I need, whenever I want, from my parents’ house three blocks away. When I want to check out a tool for some project, the stern Guardian of the Shop demands to know exactly what I’m doing, and if he thinks the idea is 1) dangerous or 2) super dumb, my request is denied and I get a lecture on “Why Your Idea is the Stupidest Idea Since So and So Put the Trailer Toilet on Linoleum With No Support Underneath and the Toilet Fell Through on Christmas, Trapping Fat Grandma,” or some such other example of epic idiocy.
This stewardship of the tools is why I still don’t have a tree house.
In any case, the timing seemed perfect for me to take over the Duties of Yard. Several weeks ago, the G.P. gave me a reluctant lesson with the weed whacker. He tried to show me earlier, but when he called me to come get taught, he called the weed whacker a “string trimmer.”
“What’s a string trimmer?” I asked, causing the G.P. to hang up on me, and then get angrily on Facebook to vent about my generation. The lesson was belayed, but several months later, we tried again, and I was successfully instructed in the rudiments of weed whackery.
The night before the G.P. left, I stopped by my folks’ house to make my case.
“I guess I’ll do the yard then, right Dad?”
“SHIT! I forgot about that,” replied my father, obviously forlorn.
“I can do it Dad! What are you afraid of?” I screeched, desperate to be taken seriously, but not able to moderate my register.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll turn the riding mower over on yourself in the ditch and cut your leg off, but good luck,” he said kindly. The king had made me a Squire of the Yard, my steed a riding mower procured at great cost from the land of Sears, my sword a 20lb gas powered weed whacker. I felt like the Highlander and almost yelled, “THERE CAN BE ONLY LAWN.” I didn’t, though, because Dad would’ve definitely demoted me.
First, I tackled the mowing. The mower featured a cup holder, so I put a beer in it and backed out of the garage. The controls really suited me. I think all vehicles should feature speeds that go from turtle to rabbit. I stayed in turtle most of the time. I knew that if I suffered amputation the first time out, I wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in future arguments with my father. I was very careful around the ditches. The Yard Sharks circled as I worked, angry predators watching me for any signs of distress – waiting to lunge in for the kill should I tire. Not me! I was riding on a lawn mower. It was easy. I forgot about my beer until I had finished the job. I reached down and grabbed the still-cold can and raised it to my lips for a triumphal sip. It was full of grass. I spluttered, cursing Hank Hill and his televised lies.
It was time to trim the edges. I headed over to Dad’s to get the bulky weed whacker. I grabbed it, and as I crammed the mechanical evil inside my car, I realized I’d forgotten safety goggles. The G.P. insisted that if I attempted to use the trimmer sans goggles I would “put your eye out for sure. No, your glasses aren’t enough. No, you can’t wear your swimming goggles.” After searching 20 minutes to locate any kind of eye protection (Dad owns about 3,000 pairs of safety glasses), I found nary a one. What I did find was a snorkeling mask. “This’ll do,” thought I, partially sure that I saw my father wear one while using a circular saw at least once.
Snorkeling masks don’t work well for yard care: they’re extremely hot; if you accidentally exhale through your nose, they fog up; and if you try to inhale through your nose you nearly faint. They make screamed profanity generated by the difficulty of starting a cold weed whacker sound somewhat less than threatening. When I yelled, “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN” at the devil device, I got a lot of weird looks from the utility workers across the street. Probably because it sounded more like, “BIT BE BEHIMB BE BATAB.”
I got the vile creature started, and trimmed the entire front yard. Breathing through your mouth while decapitated weeds are whirling through the air isn’t ideal, and I briefly considered adding an actual snorkel to my get up. I finished the yard, and gratefully divested myself of my gear and dumped all my clothing into the washing machine. I streaked through my house and took a cool shower as a reward for a job well done.
As I stepped out of my tub with a towel wrapped around me, my doorbell rang and Stadler started barking up a storm. “They’ll go away,” I thought nakedly. The bell hollered again. I stuffed myself into some shorts and a tank top, totally enraged, and charged to the door like a bull, throwing it open without even bothering to look through the peephole. “WHAT?!?” I bellowed at the small man standing there oozing obsequiousness.
“Would you like me to mow your yard for you??” he asked.
“No,” I replied, and shut the door, laughing hysterically.
Evidently, the Squire of the Yard has a long way to go before she’s knighted. The G.P. returns tomorrow. Methinks His Highness will understand. He once accidentally murdered the Rev’s prize plum tree with a string trimmer. She’s still mad about it.