Mower

(This is an interesting piece I recently found. Apparently, I had some kind of love/hate thing going on with a former lawnmower).

My lawnmower hates me. And who could blame it? I don’t simply mistreat the miserable machine; I abuse it. I routinely ask it to do things it was not designed to do, then forcibly push it into precarious circumstances, well beyond both its capabilities and its horsepower. When it coughs and sputters under my grip, I tip the front wheels off the ground and allow it to momentarily catch its mechanical breath. Then I drop the wheels and watch it choke on dust and weeds and overly long grass.

Not long ago, I bought a riding mower and parked it next to the beleaguered walk-behind. I change the oil and filters and sparkplugs in the big machine. All I do for the little guy is fill it with gas, but even that’s begrudging. Sometimes I whisper small reminders that maybe it ought to be a little more grateful, that before the big rider came along, I used to bounce its rickety wheels across an entire acre of uneven field, usually once a week.

Regardless, my mower keeps on taking my abuse, then coming back for more. In one rather extreme act of defiance, it refused to shut off after I let go of the safety handle. Nowadays, when I want to kill the motor, I have to reach dangerously close to the little engine-that-obviously-can and manually close the throttle. Sometimes, it burns my fingers a little.

On our last outing, as I alternated between banging its already-dented frame into a fencepost and force-feeding it a row of small trees, it flung off its own floppy discharge guard. My mower gaped up at me, grinning. Then it proceeded to spray fresh mulch all over my face and clothing until I wired its mouth shut with a metal coil and a rusty bolt. I may have had the last word, but that round clearly went to the mower.

We’ve been together about four years now. And if I have anything to do with it, we’ll be together for many more to come.

No matter how much my lawnmower hates me, I will not reciprocate. It’s hard not to respect its sheer willpower, its tenacity, its threshold for pain and exploitation. I’ll admit my feelings for my little green mower veer toward the erratic. We got along famously when I brought it home and we shared our inaugural stroll. But over time, I grew to resent not just the machine, but what it represented as well—hot afternoons, buckets of sweat, soreness and blisters, ruined sneakers. Resentment eventually morphed into respect, and respect into an odd form of adoration. Recently, in a moment of weakness, I almost drained its black, chunky oil and replaced it with new. I considered tightening bolts, sharpening its blade, and swapping out filters and plugs and whatnot. But that sort of coddling would no doubt alter the crude balance we’ve been able to maintain these many summers.

Besides, for some strange reason it feels so good to love something that so thoroughly despises me.

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