Manly Compromise

     Jane told me words that no man wants to hear: “Mow the violets.”
     I like violets. I detour around them.
     I acknowledge freely, with no trace of that curious yet overwhelming shame that haunts so much of my life, that when I am done mowing the lawn, it may look a bit spotty. In parts.
     It lacks that smooth, sculpted finish so admired by some people I know.
     Violets here, violets there, violets yon and perhaps hither.
     “But …” I said.
     “Mow the violets please,” Jane said, carrying the argument.
     I know when I’m beat. Jane knows all the plants’ names – in Latin. She’s out of my league.
     So I mowed the violets, but I didn’t like it. The good news is that I discovered some new flowers – lovely purplish-blue fellows, they are. Clumps of them. And I spared them.
     Then I took a bike ride in the hills, and somewhere on a hillside in Massachusetts I saw a fellow just like me, mowing around the violets and the purple flowers.
     I rejoiced as I pedaled home, shoring these fragments against my ruins.
     So I was ready the next weekend when Jane told me to mow the violets.
     But I was not ready for the ajuga.
     “The what?” I said.
     “The ajuga you spared last week.”
     “But …”
     “I don’t want the ajuga there.”
     “But Jane,” I said, pulling out my pathetic ammunition, “I saw a man on the hill up in Leyden, and he mowed around the ajuga. He mowed around the violets too.”
     “So what?”
     “Well?”
     “So?”
     “Well?” I said, unleashing the full force of my argument.
     Not a truly robust chain of reasoning, perhaps.
     “But the violet is the state flower of four states,” I said, pressing my disadvantage.
     “So what?”
     “Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Illinois and New Jersey.”
     “We don’t live there.”
     Here I panicked.
     “Wouldn’t you like me to give you flowers?” I said.
     “I’d prefer a couch.”
     “A couch?”
     The last couch I bought, to furnish my own home, had survived the Great War. In No Man’s Land, probably. It came from a Charitable Home for Misunderstood Derelicts, or one of their affiliates, and it set me back a touch more than the high two figures I was prepared to pay.
     What might a real furniture store ask for a couch for a woman who speaks Latin to plants?
     This was getting dangerous.
     “Can’t I save some of the ajuga, and some of the violets?” I pleaded.
     “Yes, Robert,” Jane said, swayed by my forthright, manly demeanor. “You may spare one clump of violets and one clump of ajuga.”
     She directed my attention to a far corner of the back yard, by the brush pile. Where the violets and ajuga live, free from harm.
     That’s called compromise.

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