Suburban Soliloquy


Of Lawnmowers
and Bicycles


Ms Keogh, my more significant other, who rarely goes unmentioned in my essays because our lives are entwined, is crazy. Not seriously crazy, nor dangerously crazy, and in her homeland would be regarded tolerantly as charmingly or amusingly eccentric. She’s a British citizen. In my own way, I am probably equally eccentric, but in a different way – we needn’t go into that here. It is a measure of our love that we put up with each other, more so that we can hardly bear being apart even after more than twenty years of marriage.

These days we don’t have money. It means we must restrain what is our nature, to buy things on impulse. But Mr Beckles, our twelve-year-old grandson, had an old bike that was not working properly. I felt our grandson needed a new bicycle because his old bike was too small for him. Ms Keogh said, with a rather severe tone of voice, that we didn't have the money and kids these days like riding those small BMX bikes. I’ve looked around at the kids in our neighborhood and she’s right, their bikes did not seem in proportion to their size. Reluctantly, with a thorough awareness of our financial strife, I could only agree with my wise spouse.

So Ms Keogh took Mr Beckles’ bike to the shop to be repaired. They quickly isolated the trouble and wanted twenty dollars to replace the brake cable. So what did my cherished companion do after lecturing me on the wrongness of buying him a new bike? You guessed it, she bought him a new bike. Furthermore, she didn’t buy him just any bike, but bought him the bike that had been in the shop’s window for at least six months, because it was six months ago that Mr Beckles saw the bike and fell in love with it. Six hundred dollars!!!!!

This is no ordinary bike. Oversized for a BMX style bicycle, it is candy red with brakes, gears, and rims of gold. The tires are yellow. I could not bring myself to be angry. I know how important bicycles can be to us when we’re twelve. Bicycles are practically pets, or so my bike was for me. And there can be no discounting the surprise and joy it brought Mr Beckles. I do not regret the extravagance, but what in our budget will be sacrificed?

In a neat row of cleaned and pressed homes, our house is an eyesore, our property ragged and unkempt, each year more than the previous. We had a professional landscape service that sent a group of migrants once a week to mow our lawn whether it needed it or not. It usually didn’t need it, except maybe once every month or two. So Ms Keogh fired them, a savings of over a hundred dollars a month. But how would our lawn now get mowed? I hadn’t cut grass in over a dozen years. I didn’t even have a lawnmower because Ms Keogh put our old one down at the curb with a sign that read “FREE”. She disapproved of it because, being powered by gasoline, it was noisy and polluting. How do we justify the tall grass to our neighbors?

Ms Keogh’s solution was to have our property designated a Nature Preserve. It is incomprehensible to me how she achieved this, but now we don’t have to plant grass seed and are not allowed to use fertilizer or insecticides. She then replaced the gas mower with a manual rotary mower, believing it would be excellent exercise for me to have to push through deep grass and over tree roots. I’ve tried and it was hard labor that didn’t work. The rotary mower is only effective with well maintained lawns on level ground. Failing to effectively restrain what little grass we have from growing too long, it was necessary for me to borrow a gas mower from a distant neighbor. After the chore was completed, my back went out and I walked bent with a cane for the next two weeks.

In any case, our lawn will eventually have to be mowed again – in fact, now. It embarrasses me that my neighbor, when he cuts his own lawn, troubles himself to include the part of our lawn that lays adjacent to his. It has been with difficulty that I eventually convinced Ms Keogh to allow us to buy a new mower, what will be an “electric” mower, the next time our budget permits.

The story does not end here. In her continuing campaign to save us money and cut back on our use of gasoline, she has sold her car and plans for us to both share mine. Also, in order to reduce the frequency with which I use the car and believing it would be excellent exercise for me to have to pedal, Ms Keogh bought me a bicycle.

It is a utility bike. Except for panels that partially cover the rear wheel, the bike looks almost exactly like the 3-speed Raleigh I had when I was nine, only my Raleigh was British racing green and this bike is black. There was something about those panels that added charm and made the bike, to me, appear antique. Electra, the manufacturer, names this model the Amsterdam and I have learned that in Europe this is a popular style. In Britain they are known as roadsters. The British versions usually are without the panels. The bikes are designed for short-distance commuting and shopping errands, and, yes, these are the same bikes used by the courier services during the Second World War. As for those panels on the back wheel – oh NO!, they are actually called "skirt guards"! UGH! They are coming off. No girlie things on my bike.

Ms Keogh, having read what I’ve written thus far, has left me a note reminding me that having just sold her car, a 1995 Acura Integra coupe with 140,000 miles, she can pay for the two bicycles, the lawnmower, and put the rest towards our property taxes on our
Nature Preserve.”

This essay is the most recent in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any
comments or suggestions,
the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon,
as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"