Grand Theft Lawnmower

Martin Sheen in my front lawn after six days of rain.

My wife and I are relatively honest people. Really. We don’t cheat on our taxes (mostly because we don’t make enough to be able to file), we pay tolls now that there’s a camera and we hardly ever leave WalMart with something under the cart that wasn’t scanned by mistake. That’s a fairly good record, isn’t it?

So why did we commit grand theft lawnmower over the weekend?

Allow me to explain. We don’t have what you would call a “close” relationship with our landlord, unfortunately. Everything was smiles and happiness when we first moved in, but due to a series of mishaps (a flooded basement THAT WE DIDN’T CAUSE, lack of water pressure THAT WE DIDN’T CAUSE, the heat not working on the top floor THAT WE DIDN’T CAUSE and a clogged up dishwasher THAT WE..OK, that one was on us and we paid $70 for it) the relationship is strained. We have a humongous yard. When we were considering renting, the first thing out of my mouth was that I wasn’t going to be able to mow this lawn, given the fact that I run out of energy climbing the steps most days. The would-be landlords assured us that we would have access to their ride mower, and as long as we put gas in it we could use it any time we wanted. At the time, they lived just up the street from us in a beautiful log cabin. Sounds great, right? Everybody’s all smiles when there’s a deal on the line.

The rains came and about three weeks ago I emailed our landlord to get the mower. Since our agreement, they had moved to their other house in Massachusettes and rented out the log cabin as well (they own the whole development—guess they really needed that seventy bucks). First we were told, after two additional weeks of growth, that they had to hunt down the key for the garage. Two days later we get this friendly reply,

“You will have to ask the renter at the log cabin if you can use. I think he will be using it…the man in building next to you is interested in mowing. I can have him contact you if you are interested.”

So now in order to use the mower we were promised, I have to go up to some stranger’s door and explain the whole deal to him even though my landlord already knows him and could have settled everything with a phone call. And why would I want to pay someone else to mow when there’s a ride mower we can use for gas money? And why can you contact the guy who wants to be paid but not the people who have the FREE mower? Whatever. So Mary Ellen, being the more intrepid of the two of us, goes up the hill to get the mower. Nobody home. A week goes by. She tries again, again nobody home.

Then we had oh, about six straight days of rain. By now our front lawn looks like something out of “Apocalypse Now”. We had to send out red smoke bombs to be able to find our driveway. Snipers hide in the weeds waiting for us to come out of our house. I swear I saw Dennis Hopper taking pictures and late at night you could hear Marlon Brando whispering “The horror…the horror.” A tiger popped up out of nowhere and a young Laurence Fishburne made his debut. We loved the smell of napalm in the morning. Do I need to go on, or do you get the picture?

The grass was really, really long.

So by Sunday Mary El had had it. She went marching (in her car) up the hill to get this ride mower we were promised but still weren’t able to obtain. She was like Odysseus on an epic journey, her jaw set and her mission clear. She came back about fifteen minutes later and told me to get in the car. I didn’t ask any questions—one does not question a direct order if one plans to get back to Ithica. Or at least mow Ithaca’s lawn.

We get up to the garage and Mary El has the door open and the ride mower attached to a battery charger. I look around and there are no other cars. I ask her if she was able to clear this with the renters of the log cabin. Nope, not home. The side door to the garage was open. Mary El was working off the radar. We were about to steal a ride mower and I was her accomplice. The coast was clear. Mary El put her finger on the side of her nose, and after pinning a pink carnation to my lapel I returned the high sign. The sting was on.

After a few charges the motor started. There was Mary El blazing down the hill at a good 5 mph clip, a modern-day Bonnie to my Clyde, as I followed in the car with the purloined charger and gas can. It was the most audacious of all possible crimes, a daylight robbery. The wind blew through Mary El’s hair. You’ve heard of Thelma and Louise. You’ve heard of the Dukes of Hazzard. You ain’t seen nothin’ ’til you seen Brian and Mary El in action, creeping down the road with an engine that could be heard three counties away, brash, intrepid, reckless, brazen. We live on the edge with our domesticity. Don’t you forget it.

Mary El spent about five hours doing the lawn (she said she liked it because the kids couldn’t bother her, which I couldn’t argue with). We wiped the mower down and returned it to its rightful place, after we dumped all the leftover gas in our car—that we paid for, thank you very much. Mary El gave a queen wave on the ride up. We had committed the perfect crime, and the only evidence against us was a ton of dead grass on our lawn and the ten or twelve eyewitness neighbors who probably saw us as we drove by. And now this blog, of course. Mary El remains undaunted. Next weekend we go back for the weed-whacker…

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  1. shame on u two *waves finger*

    hilarious account of how a lawn can drive u to madness 🙂 loved it

    • That’s it, we were mad! When the law catches up to us we can plead insanity.

    • Jim Pillmeier
    • May 23rd, 2011

    I’m so proud of you both, only wish I could have helped!!

    • Ron Morehead
    • May 23rd, 2011

    Yeah I’m a big fan of theft, but especially when it’s this funny. Nice.

  2. Jimmy, next time we’re on the prowl we’ll call you.

    Thanks Ron. I’ll remember that next time I give you a hug.

    • Laura Cassetta
    • May 23rd, 2011

    Too funny Brian! I always enjoy your blog but this one had me laughing out loud. I can just picture Mary El riding the lawnmower to victory. I haven’t laughed this much to myself since reading Bossypants. Bravo!

    • Kae
    • May 23rd, 2011

    Loved it, Brian!

    • Anonymous
    • May 24th, 2011

    next time look for the bag to catch the cut grass..lol…great story

  3. Thank you Kae, Laura and Anon–Mary El is the brains of this operation, I just drove the getaway car.

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