Four days of spring rain. I spent them writing. About serious things. My binge started in a place of self-acceptance. That lasted two hours. I tapped on the keys and got sad and sadder. I took breaks, but chose the wrong distraction, MSNBC. I sulked after day one and whined all day two. Day three I yipped sarcasm at my computer monitor and every car that drove past the house. Day four I exhaled obscenities.
This morning was cloudy, cool, and breezy, but no rain. Time to get outside.
First on my list, wash our 2002 Toyota Camry, white. And no (Child #1), it does not have a backup camera. This vehicle was part of the family. I dug out the fancy golden car wash liquid from the back shelf. Household dish soap was not good enough for this dependable beauty.
Bucket, soap, brush, and mitt collected, I turned the spigot. And noticed the leak puddling on the blacktop. I suspected a loose reel-to-rubber-connection was the cause. If I unwound the hose completely, I could press out any kink, rewind the hose and voilà, no more leak.
Someone (husband) neglected to tell me the hose reel, looking tidy as ever inside a gray poly plastic cube, did not unwind easily. Or at all. Assuming a squat, my right hand pushed the handle counterclockwise while my left grabbed the next two-foot section of hose and tugged. Did I mention the bone spurs in my right shoulder?
The hose snaked in misshaped figure eights in front of the dirty car. I got a pair of pliers and a small hand towel. I protected the two-inch section of kinked hose with the towel and gently pressed it round with the pliers. I was no novice at DIY projects. I had YouTube.
Tools back in their box, I returned to my squat and reversed the process. My left arm straightened the hose while the right pressed the handle forward. Every few seconds I hit a rhythm. In between I re-positioned the hose on the reel to wind a perfect balance of coils left to right leaving enough hose out to fill the bucket and rinse the car.
Spigot back on. So was the leak.
Fuck it. I had done the best job possible. Obviously the reel, the hose, and the fittings were junk.
The rain held off. The car got washed.
Before abandoning the hose, I decided to water the flower pots on either side of our bricked front porch. A trusty blue plastic watering can was close by and ready to fill.
The perpetual leak had produced an puddled ecosystem that could sustain a brood of fuzzball ducklings. I picked up my pace to conserve water. Filled to the top, I hauled the can fifteen feet, tipped it gently and watched water dribble down the side off the bottom and onto the porch. Some sprinkled out the dotted holes on end of the spout, but more washed the bricks.
I poured, and daydreamed. The clear water trickling on burgundy and chartreuse petals began to look like gin. Not good, it was 11:30. Spigot closed.
I decided to mow. I combed a patch of grass with my fingers, and wiped them dry on my jeans.
Our house was built on a hill. That was great on flash flood days; our sump pump never kicked on. Not-so-great on mowing days. But I was grateful to Agile Systems Inc. for the self-propelled lawn mower (I am an analytic, of course I looked this up). We bought our bright green deluxe self-mulching model twenty-one years ago. Another member of the family.
I rolled the dependable green monster to the center of the garage and checked for gas. It was low. The faded red galvanized steel gas can got a makeover last fall with a new spout. It looked brand new. I bent the flexible arm and tipped the can toward the opening. Fuel flowed slowly into the tank and down the spout onto the chassis. Shitfulness. Too late to stop my pour. Tank filled, I snapped a blue cloth off the roll and wiped the metal to a green shine relieved not one drop had hit the pristine garage floor, chip sealed years back (thanks Child #2 for the high school graduation project).
The grass was long, and (okay) damp. I left the wheels at their highest setting. Thirteen ritual presses on the plastic priming bulb later, I heaved the pull cord with that right arm jutting back into that right shoulder. If I exerted full-out effort it would start the first time. It did. Perfect passes in a deliberate diagonal pattern were narrow, but fewer lines of dried clippings would be visible so the extra trips across and back were worth it. I turned the wheels downhill.
Fourteen mature oak trees punctuated our backyard. I adored them in June, abhorred them in October. Their shade was luscious to people, not so much to grass. It was a full-time job to reassure every blade it got enough sunlight to grow and should spread that message of vigor to the root system. One pass across the lot and I saw no evidence I had been there. Time to lower the wheels.
Engine off I adjusted all four tires. Left hand tight on the handle I hinted the mower forward and heaved the cord with my right. No go. My gratitude to the engineer gods of four-stroke combustion motors had been premature. On the level I started this baby with one pull, one shoulder pang. On grass (its natural habitat), the machine revolted.
Two more yanks and I suspected I had flooded the damn contraption.
The fourth yank would be my last. And required profanity. I dug my heels in for leverage, leaned back, and wrenched my right shoulder part way out of its socket, “Jesus, Mary, Joseph, save us!” (not my exact words). Putter, putter, success. I tipped the mower onto its rear wheels until it puffed at full throttle. I mowed in haphazard passes; up-and-down, around-and-around the trees. Then parked the machine inside the garage.
Damp clippings perfumed the air. I was high on nature. The flowers up on the deck awaited my attention. Underneath, I unwound the hose from the wall mounted reel with ease. Gratitude. I pulled out the length of hose needed for the job and paused to admire the collection of thriving hostas, ferns, and a couple hundred weeds flourishing in the shade.
I smiled. It was spring after all. The cool air made me regret my short sleeves but the sun looked as if it might push through the clouds. I turned the spigot counterclockwise. Then watched the streamlet hug the wall and disappear into the mulch at the base of the foundation.
And wondered when leaks had become a permanent part of my family.