My next-door neighbor is having way more fun than me.
In order to offer him some modicum of privacy, let me simply, for purposes of this column, refer to him as Hendrick. Hendrick drives a tractor-mower, whose actual name I keep forgetting. It’s a big, bold contraption, with a big, bold sound, one that requires Hendrick to wear very impressive noise-canceling headphones while he’s mowing the grass. Grass is such a quiet plant, slender and fine, waving gently in the breeze. But then here comes Hendrick, with a ferocious grrrrr!, like a deadly upside-down helicopter, blades whirring feverishly, slashing those tender little shoots to smithereens.
Just look at Hendrick in action, and you can see how much fun he’s having, leaning on that big ol’ steering wheel, whipping that massive machine around the corners, doing donuts around the trees. For all I know, he’s rocking out, with old Rolling Stones hits pounding inside those headphones.
I revere Hendrick because the places he mows, I don’t have to. We both have pretty big backyards, separated by a sort of meadow, with a winding path cut through the middle of it. The path is essential on school day mornings, because when my daughter walks to the bus stop, she can disappear in the tall weeds and tangled briars and never be heard from again, until she needs money. As you can understand, this critically important path must be mowed regularly, or it just grows over and disappears. I could take my miserable little environmentally correct rechargeable-battery-operated electric mower out there and push, push, push my way through the jungle. But no. My good neighbor Hendrick takes his Humongo-Notorious Death Star out there and — zoop! whoop! shlroop! — that path is as clear as an Olympic slalom course.
Hendrick also uses his Titanic Wham-O Mauler to clear the vegetation along the edge of my property. I’ve put up a decorative fence there, and I’m tempted to ignore whatever’s growing outside of it, between the fence and the road. But on his Mega-Dynamo Vege-matic Decimator, Hendrick can get a running start at the edge of his own driveway and fly down the street at top speed — possibly as much as 2 or even 2.1 mph — and clear the brush at the edge of both of our lots in 20 seconds flat. His riding mower is so gigantic, if he ever got mad at me, he could easily grind the entire fence into mulch. This is one reason why I ply him with cognac and other lavish gifts at Christmastime.
There’s also the matter of the rectangle, at one corner of my property, which abuts Hendrick’s property, and which, by a fluke of geography, really looks more like it should be his than mine. Like a good New England neighbor, observing all the proper protocols, Hendrick graciously asked if he could more or less treat it as his own, mowing it and keeping it up and even planting a couple trees on it; and as the lazy stingy selfish good-for-nothing neighbor I am, I agreed. Since that day, Hendrick has devotedly run his Colosso-Crush Devastato Predator over the northernmost corner of my property. He has made this corner of my property the crown jewel of the neighborhood. It’s immaculately manicured year-round. There are two beautiful new sugar maples complete with circles of mulch. Tourists stop their SUVs and take pictures of this corner of my property. We book weddings on this corner of my property. This guy Hendrick, I love him.
Of course, I realize, it’s not love. It’s not about me. It’s not really even about the super-sized riding mower. It’s about the kids. Hendrick has four children under the age of ten, while I have only one child at home. Hendrick has a certain need to get out of the house, and an excuse to don noise-canceling headphones. Hence, the need for a rider-mower bigger than a Volkswagen. And the need for a mowing area bigger than his own yard.
Here I am, by a stroke of good fortune. Ready to meet said need.
This is the essence of New England-style neighborliness, is it not?