Competing with the mistress
My husband has a mistress, and is if that isn’t enough to take, now she has won over my daughter as well.
The green John Deere riding mower is tough competition. She’s always shiny and clean with new tires and not a lot of miles on her. When she first showed up at our house a number of years ago, my husband was instantly smitten.
Unlike me, she came with an operator’s manual that explained her likes and dislikes in terms he easily could understand. He spent many hours with her, first mowing and then covering the same ground yet again with the grass catcher attachment. To me, this seemed like overkill.
His usual two-hour mowing time immediately doubled to four hours per week. I could barely conceal my resentment. Friday nights belonged to her. To top it off, he even started to leave work a little early to be with her. It was more than I could bear.
Arguments broke out as the green-eyed monster reared its ugly head. I accused him of caring more about the mower and the lawn than his family. He told me I was nuts, filled a water bottle then took off his shirt and walked straight out the door to be with her. I’d peer out the window and see her idling smugly in the driveway, just waiting for him.
I have to admit they made quite a couple. Our lawn started to resemble a golf course or a carefully manicured park. After the yard was immaculate, he would wipe the mower down, top off the fluids, and bid her a fond farewell until the next Friday night, when they had another standing date.
Eventually I adopted the old “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” adage and offered to help with the mowing. He was reluctant at first to give me the keys or even show me how to start her up, but finally relented.
“Don’t take it out of second gear,” he said at first. I looked at the shift and quickly realized there were five gears plus reverse.
“OK,” I lied. And the moment he walked away I put it in third and let out the clutch. The mower crawled along at a snail’s pace.
“Let’s see what you’ve got, lady,” I challenged, shifting into fourth gear.
The mower clipped right along, shooting clippings out the side chute at a brisk rate.
Glancing over my shoulder I could see my husband pushing his old mower, cutting the steep banks along the ditch.
Fifth gear was faster than I expected, I’ll admit. The mower shot forward and seemed to be careening a little out of control downhill and on the turns. I really wanted to shift down, but didn’t dare take a hand off the wheel. The engine roared and the mower bounced a little wildly as I approached the front of the house. Uh oh.
My husband looked over one shoulder as we got closer, and I tried to look casual. I cut the corner near the porch too close and suddenly heard an ear-splitting, “CRACK!” as the mower caught the edge of the porch and splintered the front plank. A huge, and I mean huge, scalene triangle of wood broke free of the house and sailed through the air, flipping end over end like a spear. It jammed four inches into the ground and quivered like an arrow.
My heart pounded and the sound of the motor filled my ears, as did the cries of my shocked husband who was giving the universal signal for “cut the engine.” He did not look happy.
He pulled the giant splinter out of the front lawn and looked at me in disbelief.
“Took the corner a little fast, didn’t you?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, playing dumb. “Was I? I’m still getting a feel for it.”
“Yeah,” he said, putting the shard of pressure-treated lumber on the porch. “I’ll take it from here.”
With no concern for my safety, he ran a hand over her front end where she had collided with the house. Clearly I was outside the family circle of trust, and she was more loved than ever.
It was quite a while before he let me drive the mower again. One Friday the sky threatened rain, and my argument that we could finish the lawn in half the time was convincing.
“Be careful, and no fifth gear,” he added.
I crossed my heart and took off in a cloud of grass clippings. As promised, I only went to fourth gear, but couldn’t resist expanding a small portion of the lawn where the grass had grown tall. The mower made the first pass with no problem. I made another pass to extend it a few more feet, and tall grass began to collect under the mower instead of coming out of the chute. It seemed to be piling up fast.
Just as I started to wonder what would happen next, a puff of smoke rolled out from under the mower. I hit the brake and put it in neutral just in time to see flames shoot out from the underside of the mowing deck.
“FIRE!!!” I screamed, jumping off the riding mower. Tim’s eyes were like saucers as he looked in our direction and saw his damsel was in distress (her, not me).
As I ran away from the mower, he ran toward it. And as I filled a daisy watering can with water from the hose, he simply pushed the mower back a few feet, away from the blazing grass that had become trapped under it. He heroically stomped out the flickering flames with his shoes as I approached with my colorful plastic watering can.
“What are you going to do with that?” he asked.
“I dunno,” I said sheepishly.
“You had to do it, didn’t you,” he said.
“Yeah,” I chuckled.
He dismissed me with a wave of his hand.
Over the years, I have come to terms with the fact that Friday night belongs to them. At least during mowing season. Once it’s too cool to mow, weekends belong to Tom Brady, but that’s another story for another time.
Just when I thought I had matured beyond the point of being envious of a pricey garden appliance, it happened. Last week my daughter came running into the kitchen, breathless and flushed. Her eyes were bright and her smile stretched from ear to ear.
“Hey, honey!” I said, smiling back. “What’s going on?”
“You aren’t going to believe it,” she said. “Dad let me drive the mower.”
My smile faded.
“It’s OK,” she continued, sensing my disapproval. “He was in the seat with me and we went slow and the cutting blade wasn’t even on.”
I yanked back the curtain to see my husband wiping grass off the mistress with a soft cloth.
And the beat goes on.