Lawnmower Men

Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” -George S. Patton

**********

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen to an outdoor exhibition like no other. Where champions are made and the defeated are sent home with green on their fingers and shame in their hearts. I’m Bob Roberts—“

“—and I’m Bill Williams. Bob, what we have here is a true battle between styles. The two competitors could not be more different in their schools of thought, their preparations for this day, or their attitudes.”

“You’ve got that right Bill. Why, look at the machines that these two will be operating. Richie, the clear underdog in this bout, is lawn-mowergoing old-school. That push-mower of his has been in the family since before he was born. He told me earlier today that he learned how to curse by watching his father yank on the cord, swear, and yank again. It has become standard ritual for their family to pull, engage in profanity, pull harder, and watch the engine engage. Truly, Richie carries on a sort of rough, rugged, cowboy-like coarseness to his approach.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more Bob. While Richie is all white tennis-shoes stained green and classic mowers stained black by gasoline, Augustus strives to achieve sophistication and prestige in his approach. His rider-mowers are always top of the line. He seems to have a brand new mower every season, don’t you think Bob?”

“I gotta agree with you Bill. I hadn’t seen chrome hubcaps on a riding mower before the great match of 2013.”

“Wasn’t that the one where leaves of all shapes and shades of yellows and brown covered the playing field?”

“It was indeed, Bill. And Augustus made short work of those unsightly nuisances, all while cutting the grass underneath.”

“He certainly has the equipment to get the job done. Now, help me and the audience at home out. Is that a solar-cell on the back of Augustus’ mower? In his unending attempt to tame the green, has the technically savvy combatant gone green himself?”

“No Bill, but I can see where you might believe that. If anyone was going to throw in high-tech accomplishments, “just because”, it would be Augustus. But no, that is a spoiler.   He claims it takes the speed of his vehicle up a solid mile per hour, while deflecting cats and birds from his warm engine.”

“Bob, I’m not sure I have ever seen a cat try to hop onto either athlete’s mower during a match.”

“I’d have to agree with you Bill. However both men are dead-set on their techniques and will tolerate no opinions or interference.”

“Hence the lack of any sort of crew or maintenance workers for these two titans of the turf.”

“You got it Bill. In almost every other sport, you will find some sort of coach, advisor, or at least a guy with a gas can and tires. Not here. Theirs is the first and last call in all decisions. The success, and failure, rests entirely upon their shoulders.”

“But Bob, to be fair, it isn’t often that a tire-change happens during a lawn-mowing event.”

“Indeed, Bill. But you never know when you will have to top off the gas tank.”

“I can’t imagine the stress Bob. That sort of catastrophe could really send a guardian of the grass into a spiral. And yet, both of these men know that they have to tame the terrain completely; no patches can be missed by their well-honed eyes.”

“Bill, I feel that we should pause for a moment and comment on a trend that has yet to be broken.”

“I think I know what you are referring to Bob.”

“I think you do too, Bill. Once again, we have a lawn-mowing competition between two men. Women have yet to break into this sport.”

“You couldn’t be more right, Bob. I asked the family members before the match, and at least from their perspective, they, and I quote, ‘really didn’t see the point”. Harsh words. The sport has been derided by many as ‘pedestrian’ and ‘not an actual sport’ by many, and these two women are no exception.”

“Tell us more, Bill.”

“Take Richie’s mother for example. When asked if she would compete one year, she stated that mowing the yard was Richie’s chore. Why, if he didn’t take the green today, she threatened to withhold his allowance.”

“I thought that was just a rumor.”

“No, Bill. Now, there have been unconfirmed reports that Richie would lose his T.V. time, including videogames, if he made a poor showing here today. But most agree that is disinformation from Augustus’ camp.”

“Now Bob, I notice that once again Augustus’ wife is absent from this bout. Does her legendary disinterest continue?”

“It sure does, Bill. All the neighbors are well aware of Suzanne’s stance on the matter. ‘It is hardly a sport.’ ‘He is competing against a little kid.’ ‘Just mow the yard and leave me out of it.’ Surely she could put up a fight on the field here, but her lack of drive to join in appears to be as strong as ever. I do not think we will see a husband and wife team in this district anytime soon.”

“You never know, Bob.”

“You never know, Bill. That’s what we love about this game.”

“If game is the right word, Bob.”

“Agreed, Bill. Agreed.”

“Why, look at their pre-performance rituals. Richie spent hours and hours resting up. Critics have looked down on his style. They say he is, ‘sleeping in’ or, ‘slacking off’. Yet, Richie will respond to those by saying that he has to get his head right before lacing up his sneakers.”

“Whereas Augustus is up early in the mornings, ready to go. Why, if not for the noise ordinance and the long history of 800px-Early_Toro_brand_riding_lawn_mower_-_NARA_-_285450complaints against him, the man would surely have mowed some practice laps around the neighboring lawns. As we found out from 2011’s infamous three a.m. match, the community simply will not stand for lawn-mowing before a certain time.”

“Bob, the man simply has an eye for detail. He even has a specific wax that he will use beforehand, and I have heard that four coats is the minimum that he will apply.”

“Bill, the outdoors can be tough on a lawnmower. He wants every challenge he competes in to end with gear that looks like new.”

“Can we even call Augustus’ machine a mower, Bob? Experts have derided his choice. Their claims are that he has what is technically a tractor, as evidenced by the mounts on front where a snow-plow might be affixed.”

“Yes, Bill. There have certainly been many eyebrows raised, and not just at the twin cup-holders; which many feel shows a lack of endurance or dedication to the craft on Augustus’ part. Richie’s best friend, Jack, has been quite vocal that, ‘Old Man Aug ought’ta play fair’.”

“True words, Bob. Still, Richie claims that he can defeat his challenger on any mower.”

“It looks like we’re about to find out, Bill. At least, I sure hope so. But those clouds in the sky are a far cry from the blue skies we were promised.”

“Bob, the forecast today only called for a twenty percent change of rain. Even that could spell trouble.”

“Wet grass is clumpy grass, Bill.”

“Don’t I know it, Bob.”

“It appears that Augustus is ready for the clouds. One o’clock in the afternoon, and just like every other match, his headlights are on. Even the high-beams.”

“It wouldn’t be a mow-off if Augustus didn’t turn on the headlights in the middle of the day on an empty lawn. Ridiculous.”

“He certainly took it poorly when you asked him about it several years ago. Would you walk us through that, Bill?”

“Bob, I can’t. Legal says the court’s settlement is centered on my silence.”

“Crap, I forgot. Sorry. Well, no time for that folks! The men have grabbed their controls and they are revving to go.”

“Right you are, Bob. Right you are. As fans know, there is no referee. Anything goes. That includes the start time. Since we strive to have a gentlemanly sport, all matches start off with the head-nod…”

“There it is, Bill! They’ve nodded to each other and there they go!”

“Augustus’ vehicle, as always, starts at the first flick of the key. Why, I can hear the blades whirring away already!”

“Bill, Richie is having trouble getting ‘Ol Beater’ to start up. But that is nothing new to him. There’s the pull. The curse. The pull. Another curse word. The pull. Two curse words– And it’s on!”

“Bob, the one thing that Richie has going for him right from the start is turning.”

“He sure does, Bill. While Augustus may have a fancier mower, the time it takes him to turn with its length and wheel base is considerable. That really costs him in the fine detailing around trees and gardens.”

“So true, Bob. Why, look at Richie navigate his mower. He saw the small patch he missed and executed a perfect three-sixty, then was back on his course like nothing had happened. Unless Augustus has some sort of sensory program installed on his rig, he won’t be able to see missed spots until he’s making his second approach.”

“I can’t get over it Bill. Richie is really knocking out the detail work. He’s already tidied up around the elm that they planted over Sparky’s body. And that thick patch over the sewage pump is already tamed.”

“At the same time, Augustus is struggling to get around the rose bed. His wife may be the one who planted those flowers, Bob, but Augustus is the one that brags about them to any rotary club or floral shop he passes by.”

“Bill, I didn’t know that Augustus belonged to any rotaries.”

“He doesn’t. But he has often felt his wins here should be counted as contributions to the community.”

“Well Bill, his contribution to the course is substantial. He’s finally taken care of the slight hill and the garden. Now he simply has to keep mowing the big stretches.”

“Now Bob, take a gander over at Richie.”

“Yes, he has already gone to his first removal of the bag. This game is all about appearances, and that includes taking the clippings and throwing them onto the compost heap. It takes time to unfasten, carry the canvas bag off the course, and fasten the bag back on. Any other person might turn off the mower, but Richie refuses, knowing how temperamental that start-up can be. He’s already back to work, mowing over the small patch that fell from the un-bagging.”

“Bob, maybe it is for the best that Richie’s mom doesn’t observe these games.”

“Bill, I have heard rumors about Christina threating, ‘I’m gonna tell Mom!’ But so far that hasn’t happened.”

“And the sport is relieved for that small miracle, Bob.”

“Bill, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we officially have precipitation on the field.”

“Yes Bob. I can feel the rain falling on me and my lawn-chair. This could spell disaster.”desert-lightning-1408110525Yi1

“Bill, if any two champions can face the elements and rain it in, it’s these two.”

“Bob, that was a terrible pun.”

“Well this is looking like a terrible situation, Bill. I can see the wet hair and foreheads officially making life difficult for our two warriors.”

“Correct, Bob. The grass may not be soaked yet, but Richie is having a hard time with that second bag of grass.”

“At the same time Bill, Augustus is trying to keep the rain from accumulating on his brand-new mower. I’ve never seen a man try to drive and dry off his mower with his scarf at the same time.”

“This event always brings us something new, Bob. Why, this last second drama reminds us that—“

“Hold on Bill! Thunder! Thunder could be the nail in this match-ups coffin!”

“Bob, if it is up to the two men, that won’t stop them.”

“Maybe not Bill, but I have a feeling… and yes! There she is! Richie’s mom is demanding that he come inside! Trust her maternal skills to keep her child safe from pneumonia.”

“There is also the matter of the lighting, Bob.”

“You got it, Bill. Absolutely.”

“This match might technically go to Augustus now. With no refs, there really is no one to judge if Richie’s removal from the game is outside interference, or a forfeit.”

“Oh! Are you seeing this! Are you seeing this Bill!”

“I cannot believe it!”

“Bill, this is incredible! Augustus, worried about his lawnmower being out in the rain, is driving off the field without finishing! He’s already calling to his wife to bring out some towels!”

“I can’t really see his wife rushing out to help Augustus. She’s a pretty avid reader.”woman-reading-a-novel-in-the-comfort-of-her-home-361x544

“You are correct Bill. I can see her through their living room window. I can’t be sure, but it looks like she is shaking her head. Yes, yes she has officially turned her attention back to her novel.”

“Looks like Augustus will to have to dry off his machine himself. Perhaps deservedly so, Bob?”

“He did cease play of his own accord. This might be considered by many to be a disgrace.”

“His fans would argue that the lightning chased him away. He was only being prudent.”

“Bill, I have a feeling his obsessive cleanliness regarding his tractor is what stopped him.”

“You know I agree with you Bob. But either way, this match is over. No winner; a first in this region. Looks like we’ll have to wait until next year to see who will be Gladiator of the Grass.”

“Bill, it occurs to me that we’re sitting on aluminum chairs. In lightning. Care to join me for a cold one indoors?”lawn_chair_12

“Beer me, Bob. Beer me. For Bill and Bob—“

“—and Bob and Bill—“

“So long, Lawn Lovers!”

Caught Cheating While Playing (on) the Field

He that will cheat at play, will cheat you any way.” –Dutch proverb

**********

Lance sat on his couch and stared past the television.  If this were a normal Saturday night, Lance would be watching the game that was playing out on the screen.  The announcers were excited and a flurry of activity was occurring on his five-foot, HD display.  There was much cause for enthusiasm and uproarious behavior.  Yet, Lance couldn’t focus on the players.  He had heard about a game that had happened earlier in the week, and he had been obsessing over it ever since.

A series of knocks roused Lance from his brooding.  He got up from the couch, trudged over to the door, and opened it.  Without a word or a look to the man standing on the doormat, Lance returned to the couch cushion that was still warm.  He took his beer from the cup holder and took a long, slow sip.

“Sorry I’m late”, Vince said as he shook off his coat.  “Traffic was out of control.  You’d think people had never driven in the blasted rain before.”  He tossed his wet attire in a pile by the hat rack, just as he always did.  “What’d I miss?”

Lance jerked his head in a way that drew attention to the screen in front of them.  “Game’s right there”, Lance replied.

“You mind if I have a beer?”

“You know the way”, Lance stated.

Vince, feeling unsure of his standing, headed to the kitchen, removed an aluminum can from the door, and headed back to the living room.  “You bettin’ on your team tonight?  Even though they’re favored to lose?”

“They’ll be fine”, Lance said quietly.

“What is with you?”

“Do you wanna talk, or do you wanna watch the game?”

“You just seem mad.  Trouble at work?  Are you taking out Cynthia grief on me?”

“Maybe I get annoyed when people talk during the game.”

“That’s not it.  You’re usually screaming at the dang thing.  Besides, there’re commercials.”

“This beer’s empty.  I need another”, Lance announced as he went to the kitchen.

“All right, that’s it.”  Vince ran to the kitchen and stood in front of the door handle.  “What is your beef?”

“You’re blocking the beer.  Move.”  The last response was more of a threat than an actual sentence.  Lance’s broad shoulders and jar-sized head seemed all too eager to punctuate any statements with violence.  Lance could do plenty of damage when he wanted too.  And at the moment, Vince thought his friend was too ready to attack.

“Not until you tell me what’s wrong”, Vince demanded.  He hoped that the bravado in his voice was effective, even though he strongly suspected that his bluff wasn’t entirely convincing.

“Why don’t you ask Burt”, Lance replied.

“What does Burt have to do with anything?”

“I wouldn’t know.  You’re the one that’s so chummy with him all of a sudden.”

“What?  Lance, I haven’t seen Burt in weeks.”

A massive fist zoomed past Vince’s head, narrowly missing him and landing full-on into the refrigerator door.  An intimidating dent was now present where Lance’s hand had landed.

“Lance!  What the-“

“Don’t lie to me!  You two were playing football just last night.”

“How did you-“  Vince stopped himself.  Somehow Lance had found out.  Suddenly the sullen mood made perfect sense.

“What am I, stupid?  Of course I found out.”

“You weren’t supposed to”, Vince replied quietly.

“Oh, c’mon.  Half our friends were there.  You wanted to get caught.”

“Why would I want that?”

“Maybe you’re tired of me and you’re just too gutless to say anything.”

“Lance, if I that were true than why would I be here?  I’m not tired of you.”

“But you are avoiding me.  You’re just here for the beer”, Lance replied.

“Now you know that’s ridiculous.  C’mon, we’re close.  You can’t pretend that we aren’t.”

“Then why?  Why would you claim that the game got cancelled?”

“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“Uh huh.”

“Don’t be like that”, Vince said.  “Look, just because I spent time with him doesn’t mean that I’m done with you.”

“Is he better than I am?  Does he have skills that I don’t?”

“Lance, c’mon.”

“No, I’m serious.  Does he know tricks that work for you?  Are his moves sleeker than mine?”

“Lance.”

“And I’ve heard about that T.V. at home.”

“What?”

“Oh, the guys can’t stop talking about it.  ‘Look how big it is!  It’s so gorgeous!’   I’ll bet he lets you be in charge when you’re over there.  Does it make you feel like a big, macho man?  He just thinks you’re so great to be around.  If only he knew the truth.”

“The truth?”  Vince was tired of being on the receiving end.  He had played defense in college and was ready to dust off his old skillset.  “And what is the truth exactly?  That I put up with people who are abusive?”

“I’m abusive?  Me?  That’s a laugh.”

“Please.  Everybody’s seen it.  The way you treat people.  The pushing, the shoving, the name calling.”

“It’s football!  That’s how you’re supposed to behave”, Lance replied.

“Well, nobody else acts that way.  Just you.  And our friends feel the same.  Several of the guys actually asked me to talk to you about it.”

“What, their feelings are hurt?”

“And their backs, and their shoulders.  You don’t respect other people, Lance.”

“I don’t tow cow to whiny little twits with no drive, if that’s what you mean.”

“That’s what I’m talking about.  Why can’t you try to see it from their side?”

“Whatever”, Lance growled.

“All right Lance.  There are two reasons why I snubbed you.”

“Finally, the truth comes out.”

“First off”, Vince said as he jabbed his finger dangerously hard into Lance’s chest.  “You’re a cheater.”

“I am not!  I would never do to you what you did to me!”

“Not that kind of cheating you emotionally unstable nimrod.  You go out of bounds”, Vince exclaimed.

“You went behind my back!”

“On.  The.  Field!  You run out of the boundary lines that are there for a reason.”

“Oh”, Lance said quietly.  “That.  Well, that’s me taking advantage of a situation.  If a ref ain’t gonna call me on it, then I’m gonna do it.  Anything for a victory.”

“Yeah, well the guys have noticed.  So stop it.”

“And?”  Lance shoved Vince’s finger aside and took a step closer.  His beer breath was pungent and inescapable.  “What’s the other reason?”

“I’m really not supposed to tell”, Vince said reluctantly.

“I knew it.  What, you’re in love with him or something?”

“No, you moron.   Burt has pancreatic cancer, okay?”

Lance froze.  “Seriously?”

“Yes.  He has to get treatment, go to the hospital, post-op; the whole thing.  He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to play again and his team wasn’t up this week.  We used to be teammates.  We were something special before you came along and changed everything.  So he wanted to have one last round.  Him and I.  I didn’t think you’d understand.  So I didn’t tell you.”

“So it wasn’t that you’re dumping me, it’s that you were getting back together with your old partner.”

“Lance.”

“It’s the legs, isn’t it?  His legs are better than mine.”

“You aren’t as young as you once were”, Vince admitted.  “Plus you are gettin’ a few extra pounds around the waist line.”

“Wow.  Hurtful much?”

“Enough”, Vince said.  “You aren’t perfect, and I’m not perfect.  But you can see why I did it right?  Why I went behind your back?  I still love ya, you’re still my guy.  I had no choice.  I had to team up with Burt.  It was a onetime thing.”

“It would still appear that we need to work on keeping our lines of communication open”, Lance commented.

“Dude”, Vince replied.

“What”, Lance asked.

“That psychologist wife of yours is really changing you.”

“You’re jealous because Suzanne won’t let you drink in your living room.”

“Can we just watch the game now?”  Vince felt himself pleading but couldn’t stop.  His wife would want to talk when he got home.  There would be forced discussions about emotions later.  Right now he wanted to watch large groups of men beat the ever-living snot out of each other.

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