Returning home, I found my wife no more energetic than she had been earlier in the morning and it was then that I had the first, nagging doubts about her faith in me. Shrugging off any feeling of discomfort, I set about preparing a section of my back lawn for tilling. I staked out a corner using pegs connected with yarn, happily envisioning corn stalks growing, strong and green, from my garden. I stood up from tapping the last peg into the ground to find my wife standing beside me.
“You’re going to plow all that?”
“Of course. It’s not so big.”
“Nonsense.” I stepped over and mounted the tractor. “We don’t have an acre of land. Besides, with this baby, it’ll be over in no time.”
“Are you sure you know how to use one of those?” My wife cast a suspicious eye upon the machine.
Choosing to ignore the remark and trying to remember all the salesman had shown me, I turned the key in the ignition. The engine came to life immediately. Ah, the beautiful sound of a…smoothly running engine? The tractor had silenced its roaring and once again stood mute upon the lawn.
“Humph,” she said. “By the way, where did you get a trac…?”
The rest of the question was drowned out by the renewed sound of the tractor coming to life. I flipped the switch and the tiller added its voice to the cacophony. Glancing back, I saw dirt clods flying about in the back and assumed the tiller was doing what it was designed to do.
Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t remember how the salesman had told me to put the tractor into gear. Throttle! Yes, of course! I jammed at the throttle and the engine wound up like a spring, the pitch of the noise escalating at least two octaves. Still the tractor sat, moving not at all.
“How do I make this tractor move?” I shouted at my wife.
She shrugged and began inspecting the various switches and gauges on the dash. She reached for lever on the side of the machine. The gearshift! Of course!
“Thanks, honey!” I said, reaching for the lever. She had already thrown it into gear. The tractor sprang forward like a wild beast released from a cage and I was halfway across the lawn before I realized I was moving...fast! I pulled on the gearshift. It refused to move. My hands flew around the controls, flipping levers and turning knobs. Pushing a button on the steering wheel, I heard a noise like a fog horn. What did a lawn tractor need with a horn? Nonetheless, I leaned on it, hoping the noise would alert any living creatures in my path. Looking back, I saw a long path of freshly turned dirt with my gaping wife standing at the end. I turned back around just in time to witness my tractor crashing through my neighbor’s picket fence.
My neighbor, Mr. Henry, is eighty-years-old and as crotchety as they come. At the moment I entered his yard, he had just removed the last weed from his flower bed and was straightening to go back inside. As he began hobbling toward his house, he caught sight of the onrushing tractor. Eyes growing wide with terror, he stood stock still, too frightened to move. I leaned on the horn.
“Run, Mr. Henry!” I screamed, placing my hands on the steering wheel and turning to the right in a desperate attempt to avoid him. It was at that moment he decided flight was his best bet. Unfortunately, he chose to run in the same direction I turned. He saw me heading his way and ran back to the left. At that exact instant, I again turned the wheel, this time to the left. Back and forth we went, the tractor growing nearer and nearer.
“Stand still!” I yelled at him.
“Nooooooooooooo!” Mr. Henry screamed, convinced I was trying to kill him.
By some miracle, I flew past, missing the old guy by mere inches. I looked back and saw him standing there, stunned. His cane had apparently become entangled in the tiller, because it was half its previous length and shredded at one end.
At last I was able to bring the monster to a stop, although only by running it into a tree and bailing out at the last minute.
Needless to say, I abandoned the Back-Yard Garden Project for less dangerous tasks and returned the tractor and attachment to the store. The salesman attempted to be understanding as I told him my story, but I think I detected a smirk on his weaselly face. Mr. Henry has mostly recovered from his experience and has forgiven me. At least to the point where I no longer feel it necessary to check my brake lines every morning before I leave for work. My wife has been acting much happier and her illness seems to be better. At least as long as no one mentions the words “tractor” or “husband.” I keep a low profile these days.