My family moved from an apartment complex to a house in the suburbs when I was seven or eight years old. We had televisions, food, lawnmowers, a couple malls, enough to make it almost bearable in a monotonous way. In the fall I raked leaves, in the winter I shoveled snow, all the while going to school. In the summer I slept late and did nothing. Or at least I used to sleep late. The first summer in our new house it began, every morning at 6 AM, VROOM VROOM VROOM!, some asshole mowing their lawn, every morning at the crack of dawn some lawn mowing idiot with no reason to live who woke up day after day to mow the lawn anyway. The first few years I only vaguely noticed it. It was a small part of the day and I was young enough to accept it blindly without protest. But as the years passed it started to grate on me, rattle my nerves. What was the point of mowing lawns? You could never win. The grass is too tall, too wild, it must be put down, organized. This lawn mowing is a sickness, an anal sublimation of homosexual desire, a gap in a pointless self-interested existence filled indefinitely, and at my expense! I would get that bastard someday.
Sixteen years old, after nine years of rotten summer mornings, I snapped. I was awakened at six AM, hungover after three hours of sleep. I jumped out of bed, tore open my closet, pulled out my semi automatic 22 rifle, loaded it with all 18 shots, drew my curtains and looked for the source. I saw him, mowing my lawn? It was my father, my own father all of these years. I knew that there had to be some reason I’d hated him so much, subconsciously I must have known all along. My anger toward him was replaced by pity. I knew my mom was somehow behind this. My dad was beaten, a man with a wife and kids, two cars, a house, and an enormous lawn. This new sympathy didn’t stop me from screaming at him “You crazy old bastard! Turn that damn thing off! You call me inconsiderate? You’re insane! Go back to sleep!” Surprisingly, my dad looked up at me peacefully, turned the mower off, and pushed it away into the garage.
When I woke up a few hours later and saw my father in the kitchen, I knew I was in for it.
“You’re getting big, son. It wouldn’t kill you to start helping out around here.”
“I hate mowing lawns. I hate lawnmowers.”
“So do I.”
I realized that blazing afternoon that my father mowed early to avoid the heat. 94 degrees, sweat pouring off me, Kill Kill Kill! All the grass and the pretty little purple flowers, the occasional toad, butterfly. Die. You must all be destroyed.
A sick sad thing started happening to me about an hour into the job. I started to actually take pride in my work, mow under bushes and neatly along the fence, places no one would ever look or notice. When I finished, I felt this queer satisfaction. This was all some trick, some evil manipulation. Somewhere in time people had been convinced that they had to have a tidy lawn, had to get a lawnmower. Such an awful lie, but it made them feel good. I vowed never to buy a lawnmower. Let the lawn grow up to my ears, I’d whack a path to my door with a machete.
“Mom, why do we mow the lawn?” I made sure to ask this after I had mowed the lawn, a philosophical question, not an attempt to dodge labor.
“We have to keep it tidy.” She didn’t even look up at me.
“What would the neighbors think?”
I personally didn’t care what the neighbors ever thought about anything. They could all go kill themselves as far as I was concerned.
“OK then, but why do we mow the backyard? The neighbors can’t see that?”
The insects? I gave up. In my mother’s mind, the lawn was something that just had to be mowed. To her, it was just the right thing to do. The only thing. Only it wasn’t her who actually did the work.
For years I mowed the lawn. From spring until winter, mow mow mow. I showed my mom rock garden catalogues, mentioned how cool it would be if we dumped tons of sand around the house, like we were at the beach. My mom just laughed. I worked and cursed. I pushed the lawnmower as hard as I could over twigs and rocks. I wanted to jam it, to kill it. Maybe even have a rock shoot out of it and kill me. The lawnmower was unstoppable.