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Monday, February 11, 2013

Hemingway & Weed Eaters PART 2


The Offending Contraption

Some of you may recall that I have been forced, against my own will, to perform certain unspeakable acts in the yard. You may also recollect that I have rebelled, I have protested, and I have denounced this injustice that has been forced unto me. I tried to tell her that I should not be doing it, but she didn't listen. Tragically, she wouldn't listen. She rarely listens to me, as she fails to appreciate my deeper knowledge of the ways of the universe.
Angry God Preparing to Smote Lawn Equipment
I have been given a writing gift, you see. When I fail to use that gift, or when I demean that gift by performing lesser tasks, it angers the Gods. I tried to warn her that this sort of thing would happen too. Could there be any more to this story you ask? But of course, I answer. There is always more. The universe works in mysterious ways. It is a universe where a butterfly flapping its wings in Beijing can cause a hurricane half a world away. Nothing is ever without consequence.
Me 'herding' horses (except I don't own a cowboy hat, or a lasso, or know how to 'herd' anything, or really even know how to ride. Okay that isn't me at all).
Point in case...I spent the bulk of my weekend, it seems, building a fence upon the acreage I call home. It was an electric fence to keep horses on one side of the property and not in the other. I should add here, as I deem it is an important point, that I never desired to own horses. Indeed, I still do not own horses, but a very beautiful girl who, like a siren, wooed me into her life, does happen to own horses. A LOT of horses. I have never before bothered to count them, but I am certain that placed head to tail that the herd could extend at least thrice in circumference of the moon.
Still not me, but way more like me than the guy herding horses.
Forget the fact that in recent months I have produced two, count them two, complete novels, performed radio interviews, scheduled and held book signings, written hundreds of blog postings, created new websites, and a plethora of other work. Forget all of that because in her mind, as she walks in the door from her comfortable office job, she sees only a man laying about on the couch eating cheesy poofs. She looks past the chapters I have written that day and inquires about the laundry. She ignores my latest blog posts and queries me on the state of dinner. But all of that pales in comparison to what horror awaits me on the weekend.
Not actually her, but closer to being her than I am to being the Marlboro man.
 For having been comfortably perched high in her downtown office (second floor) all week long, she is eager, not to relax and enjoy the weekend, but to put on her grubby blue jeans and t-shirt and boots and go outside and work on the farm. I am fine with that too, because honestly, I think she looks adorable in her tight jeans and cowboy boots.
The trouble is that she is not content to go do these things alone. Sitting there on the back porch drinking my morning coffee I looked on at her as she set about gathering tools and things to mend the electric fence with. She truly is beautiful, and I love the determined, satisfied look upon her face as she carries buckets with tools and spools of wire out. She looks as though she might have walked off some old movie set, or some Montana ranch. 'God, I love her,' I think to myself, sipping my coffee.
Don't move. Don't make eye contact. Their vision is based on movement.

But then she sees me. The beautiful, graceful soft face I was only moments before admiring thoughtfully turns into a grimace; a scowl almost. Sometimes it is hard for me to imagine that angelic face grimacing, and yet there it was. I know the look too. Uncomfortably, I fidgeted with my cup and looked at my feet. I imagined that if I looked away and concentrated on it hard enough that I could disappear into the deck or the chair like a chameleon. 'Just don't make eye contact,' I thought. Their vision is based on movement. As long as you stay still and don't make eye contact they won't see...
Still not me, but getting much warmer.
 "What are you doing?" she called impatiently.

 I thought of doing some fancy ninja roll and stealthily disappearing back into the safety of the house. Finally, I flinched. I could feel her eyes burning death rays into my skin and try as I might, I made eye contact. She saw me. Damn it.

"I'm sorry," I replied. "Did you say something honey?"
She still glared at me impatiently. I love her eyes. I have always loved her eyes. To me they are the most incredible eyes in the world. And yet, there they were, glaring at me, burning me with their death rays.

"Come on," she called.
 I used to work the big construction sites. I mean, jobs with hundreds of men on them. Our motto was always, "Out of sight is out of mind." Indeed, there were men who could spend weeks simply walking around ahead of the bosses and staying out of their line of site. Other men would carry some object with them wherever they went; a board, or a bag of something; anything to give them the appearance of having some mission, any mission. I forgot both of these rules, and then, had made eye contact. Double damn.
My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to reconstruct that electric fence running from one end of the property to the other. It was hot, steamy really. For a fat man with a hangover, it was as if I had been placed into a roasting oven with a pan full of boiling hot water beneath me and no escape. Even as we had only just begun, I could feel the stickiness of spiced rum oozing from my every pore. I was relieved to discover that my task was not as daunting as I had once believed, for the posts from prior years remained largely intact. I needed to simply locate the little yellow plastic whirly gigs that adorned each post, as she and her father and brother followed behind me rolling out the light wire and clipping it in place; simple enough really.
Usually I would have stayed behind and engaged in light humor and small talk as we worked, but on this day I was on a mission. I knew that I had to make it across the vast expanse of slow rolling hills and ditches before my rum gauge reached empty. I knew that as the last drop of rum laden sweat pumped out of my system that I was destined to collapse. Each step grew more difficult, each drop of sweat inched me closer to a complete system failure. I struggled to find the little yellow plastic whirly gigs in the grass around each post. I had to remain focused and reach the end of the line.
It was a rough go of it for me. But in the end, aided by rum, the defiance of my strong human spirit, and sheer determination, I made it to the end of the line. It was over. Looking back at the others as they rolled out the wire, I pitied them for not having the same level of perseverance that I had to get through their task without breaks. I felt bad for them for still having so far to go.
I rested my head upon a gate and wiped the sweat from my tired eyes. My mouth under a spigot, I drank in gallons of water. Beginning to overheat, I wet my shirt and wrapped it round my head like Lawrence of Arabia might if he had just crossed some vast expanse of desert.They finally reached me. The truck and the utility vehicle pulled up alongside me and they finished the fence. We were done. It was over. I smiled at her, proud to have been a part of the achievement. Now. Finally. She would allow me to rest and enjoy my weekend. She smiled back at me as she walked to the truck and produced, of all things, a weed eater. I shrank in a panic.
"We've got to trim under the wires to keep them from shorting on the weeds," she said.

I looked at her in a horror.

"I'll do it," she said.

I thought about it for a moment. I turned the thing over and over in my mind. "I'll do it." what sort of trickery is this? I thought. If I let her do it, she will be scowling at me the rest of the weekend and every complaint of her aching muscles or sunburned limbs will riddle me with guilt like bullets from a tiny machine gun that shoots guilt laden bullets at 1,000 rounds per second. If I do it, on the other hand, I will probably die out there.
There are some things worse than death, I thought to myself and grabbed the weed eater. I threw my wet shirt to the ground, and pulled the starting handle. Slowly, I made my way from post to post, trimming a swath of weeds from beneath the fence. I was doing it. Somewhere, out there on the seemingly endless expanses of mountainous prairie ground I ran out of string. But certainly I must have gone a long ways. I looked up at the fence for the first time. Standing there, looking at how far I had come and how far I had still to go, reminded me of standing upon the precipice of the ocean itself, gazing out into the nothingness as far as the eye can see and wondering if there really is an end to the thing somewhere beyond the horizon.
I am uncertain how far I walked to get back to the garage and restring the thing... two miles...three? No one was around. I could only assume that they were sitting somewhere beneath a shade tree and enjoying an ice cold beverage without me. Her brother was in the yard when I passed him on my death march back to the fence.

"Unplug the fence," he said. "We got it running."

When I got back to the fence, I looked at the thing. The plug in was far on the other side of a high fence. To unplug it, I'd have to walk another mile out of the way in the searing heat. I looked at my weed eater. Stupid thing. But I knew from my childhood science class that the plastic handles would not conduct electricity. Even through the haze of sweat I congratulated myself for not having ditched class at least that one day.

As I began weed eating once more, the weeds grew thicker and taller; so much so that I did not see the ditch with the running water in it. I stepped in it up to my knee. As I cursed and withdrew, my boot made a sucking sound pulling out of the mud. My leg was wet then and muddy, but still I soldiered onward.

It took me a second to figure out what had happened when the electricity coursed through my body. I felt the shock of pain whizzing through my extremities at the speed of light and finding a resting place in my bad right elbow. It was as if someone had hit it with a sledge hammer. I cursed and screamed and considered throwing the weed eater. I took a deep breath and exhaled and yelled to have the fence unplugged to anyone who might listen, far up the mountainside above me.

I heard an echo of others passing the message along and I could see through the haze and sweat, that far in the distance, her brother was reaching to unplug the electricity. I turned back to the fence. I'd made it that far without being bitten by the thing, I thought. He is shutting it off now. I must push forward...BANG!
When it hit me the second time and the surge found my bad elbow again, I hurled the weed eater and unleashed a barrage of curses into the sky that someday, a million years from now, will be picked up on another planet perhaps, by some peoples in a faraway galaxy who are listening for the sounds of intelligent life "out there."

Slowly, I regained my composure. I wiped the sweat from my brow and my bare chest. I was covered in mulched weeds from head to toe and my torso was burning to a crisp. But at least, I thought to myself, at least I have finally broken the God damned weed eater with a throw like that. It is finally over.

 I picked the thing up out of the weeds. She was there then, watching me. I looked her in the eye with an air of confidence. I knew the thing would never start. It would never work again after a toss like that one. I even half smirked at her when I pulled the handle. It fired on the first pull and ran like the day it was new. Damn Stihls. There are times when I despise German engineering. All I could do was look back at the expanse that lay in front of me. The fence went on for miles on end. I was certain then, that I would die out there that day.
I must have blacked out somewhere near the end because I cannot remember finishing it. I don't remember much about anything that day after that. In fact, almost everything seems a tired, sore, burnt, haze of confusion until the following night.
Model shown is not actually her. The model is only a simulation designed to elaborate the anticipated "come hither" look, that I imagined should have ultimately resulted from weed eating an entire acreage.
 I knew that having undertaken such a Herculean task on her behalf that she would be more willing to succumb to my advances. Women are a mysterious lot, but through my years of experience I have learned that performing hard physical labor at their request somehow releases pheromones that make them more willing to submit to the desires of a man.
The kids were finally in bed then, and as I had been too sore and tired to think of such things the night before, I removed my shirt and slid gracefully on to the bed beside her. She was reading. She hadn't noticed me yet. So, I put my elbow up and rested my head in my hand and tried to think sexy thoughts. I raised my eyebrow and cleared my throat to get her attention. I had weed eated a fifty mile stretch of wilderness for her the day before. She would no doubt be very happy to see me. I leaned in for a kiss. I was almost rolled out of the bed altogether when she gasped in horror and pushed me away.
Honestly, I cannot say why she did it. Maybe it was the scaly, flaky chunks of burnt skin hanging from my entire upper body. Or it could have been the hundreds of poison ivy blisters and sores that covered my badly burnt torso. Or perhaps some combination of the two? I may never know for certain. Women after all, are a very mysterious lot.

She still does not believe me about angering the Gods when she makes me weed eat. But I know it is true. I know it for certain. I can feel the results when I peel the shirt off of the layer of calamine lotion that coats my entire upper body. I can feel it in the itchiness of the reams of peeling flesh that falls off of me each day now.
The moral? I don't know, but I wish the hell I could find a literary agent to cut me a gazillion dollar deal so I could hire someone to do the weed eating for me. Because even after visiting his Key West estate and walking through the well-manicured lawn gardens, I am still inclined to believe in my heart of hearts that Hemingway never had to weed-eat.

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