He left the lawnmower in the middle of the sidewalk so she’d have to walk around it when she got home. An obvious message to let her know he had finally cut the grass.
Most of it. There was a mound of unkempt lawn right in front of the picture window, grass so long it had gone to seed. The ragged mess that had started the whole thing.
You going to mow the lawn anytime soon?
He called it her opening salvo.
She thought it a carefully considered, kindly worded, but direct question, a kind of consciousness raising opportunity, she said. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed that small fowl were able to conceal themselves in their front lawn, and that for all she knew a warren of rabbits were raising their young there. She mentioned those possibilities quite late in the conversation.
He had called it a fight. We’re always fighting over the most trivial things.
Looking like the only crack house on the street is not trivial, she had said.
He had asked if she wanted him to show her how to operate the lawn mower. That was his word, operate.
She offered to brief him on the operation of the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher, the clothes washer, the drier, and the iron.
He wasn’t interested.
Neither was she.
And now this. The half-mown lawn, the mower on the sidewalk, his opening salvo for the evening exchange. The only satisfactory explanation would be a heart attack while operating the lawn mower, but his quivering body was nowhere in sight. She shoved the mower off to the side and a pamphlet fell to the ground. OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR NEW LAWNMOWER.
Shit, she said and stormed into the house.
The kitchen radio was on—something from Mozart—a flute concerto—and he was whistling—he did have a fine ear and a clear whistle. She’d give him that. It was the first thing she’d liked about him and now, perhaps, the only thing.
As she marched through the dining room to the kitchen, she focused on her first words, something about the only operating instructions she needed was for his lobotomy.
He was ironing.
Three shirts, two of them his, one hers, hung behind him, and he was working on her pink Oxford cloth. The music on the radio stopped, and his whistle shifted to match the throb of the dishwasher that was just beginning the rinse cycle. He hadn’t heard her come in.
Words and letters scrabbled in her head, searching for something clever, a grand gesture, a smart remark. How’s the iron working? she said finally.
Oh, hi, he said. It’s great.
And a few minutes later, when he heard the lawn mower rev up, he started whistling again.
© 2011 Kathleen Coskran