Two birds flew right past Steve as he dragged the machine to the front yard. They were close enough to startle him, but not so close as to tell the girl at work about it tomorrow morning. To him, one of the birds looked like a robin, the other a morbidly obese sparrow. Other people know things about birds. Where do they learn those things?
Steve adjusted the volume of his podcast with his left hand, while holding the bright orange lawnmower with the right. He missed his old earbuds, where he could adjust these things without touching the phone. But they had lived in his pocket too long and sound stopped coming out of the left speaker. He tucked phone back into his jeans pocket, and squeezed the handle starting the engine of the electric mower. He pushed the sweat and loose hairs back off of his forehead and the former held the latter in place. He hadn’t even started working yet and he was already sweating.
Steve maneuvered the bright orange lawnmower around the new, long extension cord, which was also bright and orange. Someone else in the building had run over the last cord and left its remains on top of the mower in the basement. It looked like the corpse of some half eaten snake. Why bother bringing it back in? Steve’s list of cord murder suspects included the blowhard old man and several of the nameless kids who filed in and out of the third floor apartment. He wasn’t sure which of them were the renter’s kids and which were her grandkids or which of them were currently living there.
This new extension cord was better anyway, much longer. He couldn’t reach that back corner of the back yard with the old one. The cord is dead; long live the cord.
He pushed the mower around the planter on the parkway, getting as close to the wood as he could. A few new flowers were growing in the planter. He didn’t know who planted them. He didn’t know what types of flowers they were. Other people knew things about flowers. Where did they learn those things? Steve was seventeen before he could tell a rose from a carnation, and he had only remembered the word carnation because of his instant breakfasts before school.
Steve found himself continually adjusting the cord and throwing it behind him. Sometimes its arc would remind him of a whip, but mostly he thought about vacuuming the living room carpet for his mom. She’d give him fifty cents for that sort of thing, regardless of how good a job he did.
Steve’s mom worked in a gas station for many years of her life. On the good shifts, she would come home a few hours before Steve would go to bed. On Mondays, she would be home in time to watch “MacGyver” with him and scratch his back.
Even now, the smell of gasoline made Steve feel happy and safe; “MacGyver” doesn’t really hold up.
His old mower smelled like gasoline; this new one didn’t even smell like a vacuum. His old mover was metal and dented and red but stained brown and green from the grass. This thing was plastic and orange and looked as though it were made by Tonka.
But it had “zero emissions”, at least according to the woman who bought it for the building and who didn’t have to constantly maneuver around its extension cord. He wanted to tell the woman that Instead of running on gasoline it runs off of electricity generated by coal, so basically this is a coal powered lawnmower.
Steve had assessed, however, that that is not something one says in polite society.
Steve pulled his phone back out of his pocket and hit the “rewind fifteen seconds” button a few times; he had forgotten to pay attention to the podcast. His mind was on his the girl from work, his mother, the third floor grandmother, and the lawnmower woman. All of the sudden the voices from the speakers were talking about Josh Hartnett; where did that come from? Was he the one in Pearl Harbor? Had he seen Pearl Harbor? Was there another movie about Pearl Harbor that came out near Pearl Harbor? A Dante’s Peak to its Volcano?
He saw a feather slip underneath the bright orange plastic front, but did not process the image in enough time to stop pushing the mower.
Feathers exploded in all directions, but Steve didn’t see any blood.
The bird was already dead.
Steve sighed and kept mowing and tried to remember what the word “transom” meant.