The gnats swarmed my glasses and stuck to the sweat under the brim of my baseball cap. Surely, in this small Italian town, anyone passing by could tell that it was an American mowing this lawn. For the fifth time the cursed machine sputtered to a halt. I knew that even in the sun the grass was too wet. I knew it was clumping at the blade and clogging the shute. In utter yard work ignorance, I chose cutting grass soaked in dew at 8am over a shirt soaked in sweat at noon.
I pulled up the flap that prevents the massacred mass of cut grass from blasting my shins and instead, dipped my hands in it, grabbing chunks of yard carcass. Gooey remains stained the crevices under my fingernails green. Throwing the leftover grass to the side, I, once again, pulled the choker cable and sputter, sputter, sputter, the mower was back up and running. The tiny rice-sized bugs that infest any 6 inch grass started flying at my head and eyes again. I couldn’t help but wonder – are they attacking me like honey bees do a bear, or is it just random, like the snowflakes that freeze your eyeballs in a blizzard? Either way, I was covered. Insects were a big part of my life that day. I’d spent way too much time that morning maneuvering the mower, dodging grasshoppers and butterflies. I mean, those grasshoppers were green and beautiful and huge; like sitting on your finger, telling you to believe in the blue fairy huge. How was I supposed to run over the personification (or insectification?) of my childhood conscience with a death machine?
I couldn’t avoid them all. No doubt insect bodies were mixing with the scores of rotting apples that had been left on the property since long before we moved in. Every once in a while, usually while trying to push the mower up the steepest part of the hill, my foot would slip on a nearly two-dimensional smashed apple. For a moment, I, and the mower, would slide backward and I’d envision my demise by John Deere. Would my children hear me scream from inside the house?
Understandably, random and unfortunate death was on my mind as a hop-hop-hop through the grass caught my eye. Standing right under the apple tree, at the very highest point in my yard was a tiny, little frog, no more than an inch long, running for its life. I panicked as I realized it was darting the wrong way – right into the tall grass – exactly where the death machine would be chomping next. I knew instantly that I had save it. This innocent life, this tiny, little frog was not going to die on my watch. I abandoned the mower and quickly caught the miniature amphibian. Enamored by its adorable little knobby head, I giggled out loud and showered him with audible compliments. Not as enamored by me, it leapt from my hands back to the ground. As I bent down to pick him up again, I heard strange metallic sounds…a clank, and a clunk, and a crash…like some old jalopy trying to chug its way up our steep street.
I placed the frog near the safe haven of rotting wood and criss-crossed metal of the neighbor’s fence and turned to restart the mower. It was gone. The entire mower was gone. All that was left was the apple tree and a trail of clumpy grass leading down our hill. The trail disappeared abruptly over the rather unexplained 6 foot cliff located in the middle of our backyard.
Stunned, the wheels in my head turned slowly. Was this a time of great joy, great sorrow, or simply great embarrassment? It could have been me, caked in wet mud and undoubtedly covered in apple sauce and grass blood that slipped to an untimely death. But it wasn’t. It was the rented lawn mower.
How would I explain this one?
Welp. At least the frog is okay.