I didn’t hear the lawnmower stop. It was late September, and the farmer out back was busy cutting the harvest corn. The flat drone of the combine overwhelmed the quiet rumble of my grass-mowing husband. So I missed the moment when the little John Deere veered off the lawn and into the hedges.
Then the harvester moved on and there was silence. I ate potato chowder and squeezed concord grapes for jamming. I became lost in thoughts of sugar and spices while the best part of my world grew colder and colder on the smartest ride-along we could afford.
I grew tired of skinning the little purple fruits and wondered how long it’d be before you could help me. All was quiet, but I noticed the lawn was still unfinished. Six beautiful strips of manicured lawn, wedged inside a wilderness of dandelions. A good cut can hide a million evils. Where is that lazy bastard? No doubt you’d be chatting to Joe, our neighbor, I thought, the one with the zero-turn radius mower. Fancy equipment, but totally out of our price range of course. Funny, isn’t it, how a lawn mower can define your economic status. I think these thoughts and pop more concord grapes, and I note the sun is setting a little earlier now. I feel sad, and figure you won’t finish the mowing tonight.
Then I see Joe jump into his classic Ford pickup and head off down the road. I wait for the annoying drone of the mower to restart, but there’s nothing. Curiosity overwhelms me and I wash my hands and step outside onto our property. We don’t have a huge piece of land – just a few acres, bordered by trees and shrubs, set in something of a maze to give us some privacy from the road. At first I don’t see you, but then I see the rear of the Deere-green tractor wedged inside the dense and overgrown hedgerow. I‘ve asked you to cut that back so many times, it’s annoying. You say I nag, I say you’re a procrastinator.
Out of gas too, maybe, I wonder? And then I see it. Your silly straw hat lying a few feet away, abandoned on the grass. I see the strange cut in the lawn, not a straight line, but a swervy angle where the mower veered right when it ceased to be manually guided. Oh God, Michael, you’re wedged inside the mix of holly and mulberry bushes; your body slumped across the wheel, your face deathly white. Blood stains your handsome face; the vines cut you cruelly when you went into the hedge, but I later discover you felt nothing, you were already dead by that point.
I don’t scream or cry out. My feet become dream-like, and I have difficulty moving forward. It’s like my brain is recording every moment, every last second between one phase of life and another. Try as I may I’ll never be able to put this moment into words. The man I fell in love with, married, had children with, laughed with, struggled with, his journey has ended. I feel the loss of him in my belly, and a primeval knot swells inside me. Stupidly, I run forward to try and pull you out of the hedge, but the mower will not reverse.
I call out, no one comes. We live remotely, so that’s no surprise. I run back into the house and call 911. Later, the sirens and flashing lights draw everyone from their homesteads. In a short while everyone will know about this, I won’t have to say a word. It’s better that way. As the EMTs cover my dead husband’s face, something inside me dies. Whatever it was, I will never get it back.
By the time we climb inside the back of the medic the sun has set. I have loved the harvest moon, but not this one. This one stares sadly down at me like a large sphere of dull, tasteless cheddar. I remember how we like, I should say, liked to stare at the stars here. So far from the town the night sky is clear and unpolluted. We’ve lain side by side on the gravel and stared into the heavens. I laughed at you then. You looked so daft, staring up into the sky. Chances of being run over by a car out here were slim but there was a chance. Still, I’d join you anyway.
This private memory brings no comfort, only tears. As they close the back door of the medic I catch the moonlight on the few strips of mowed grass. It was your last unfinished business. The smell fills my nostrils, and I cry at last. I know I’ll never be able to bear that smell again. You are dead, and like the lawn, I feel our story is incomplete.