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AN ATTACK BY A KILLER TILLER CAN TAKE ALL THE JOY OUT OF GARDENING

SHARE AN ATTACK BY A KILLER TILLER CAN TAKE ALL THE JOY OUT OF GARDENING

Spring is sprung

The weeds have ris'nThe job of running the tiller

Should always be his'n

Wives deserve the best. That's what Hubby says as he presents me with a new tiller for Mother's Day. "It's a fine piece of equipment . . . " he whispers with reverence. "One any woman would be proud to own."

I'm all choked up. It isn't often we share such a tender moment.

To tell the truth, I had my eye on something a little less active such as a new patio set. That "fine piece of equipment" looks so . . . so hostile.

This is probably my own fault. I did complain about getting the garden in, and I did curse our ground, which shovels refuse to dent, and I did allow one martyred little tear to slip delicately down my cheek while saying I just couldn't do it alone again this year.

What I had in mind, of course, was for Hubby to put in the garden while I sat on the new patio set looking femininely helpless.

A breeze flaps the price tag around and I nearly drop to the ground. For that price, I could have produce flown in from Australia on a private jet and delivered fresh to my doorstep daily.

My tongue aches to launch a verbal attack, but Hubby stands there, smiling expectantly, waiting to be thanked for his generous, thoughtful gift. I rack my brain, but what do you say about a tiller?

"Hey! Nice tread, and check out those tines."

"How about that rugged, enclosed-chain final drive?"

"I'll bet this baby cuts a wide swath. And mulches, too? My! My! Who would have guessed?"

Monday morning, Hubby makes sure I'm up and outside before he'll leave for work. He gives me the operator's manual IQ test before he'll declare me ready. Notonly do I not share his opinion of my degree of readiness, but I am positive thetiller dislikes me, and I do not want to be left alone with it.

I pace around the yard pulling a few weeds and dusting a couple of daffodils before coming face to starter-switch with the tiller.

"Might as well get it over with," I grumble.

It is over within two minutes flat, which is how long it takes me to entangle the tines in the chain-link fence.

Tuesday, the tiller eats the garden hose.

Wednesday, I spend the day raking up pieces of a Nerf football and a Frisbee it spits at me. (I think it prowls at night collecting this stuff.) In three days, we've been all over the yard and have yet to dent the dirt.

Thursday is the exception. We (the Beast and I) stand in one spot digging a hole as deep as China. It runs out of gas just as the SWAT team arrives. I guess my screams for help alarmed the neighbors.

Friday, Hubby stays home from work. He doesn't believe the tiller is out to get me.

I dress in shorts and a T-shirt. If nothing else, maybe I'll get a decent tan. Hubby starts the Beast, aims me in a north-south line, pats me on the head and goes to the patio. He settles back with a cold drink and a smug smile. I ease it in gear, give it some gas and within seconds I am pinned to the fence.

Hubby shouts, "Take it out of reverse!"

I didn't know it had a reverse and can't reach it anyway. Hubby races for the turnoff switch as the breath is rapidly pressed out of me. I slump, arms dangling over the handlebars.

"I can't die yet," I think. "I haven't learned how to knit." Which shows I am incoherent since I've never wanted to learn to knit.

Hubby gives me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (which tells you he's over 40), and I let him. It's the closest his lips have been to my lips since we bumped heads racing for the last piece of cheesecake.

As I recuperate on my shabby patio recliner, I watch Hubby circling the tiller. Maybe he expects its front counter-rotating tines to crouch and spring at him. All weekend he just sits, stares and mumbles. He wants to return it but just can't bring himself to tell the sales clerk, "This tiller hates my wife and tried to squash her like a bug."

I, personally, don't care what happens to it. I'm through with gardening. From now on, the Jolly Green Giant grows my veggies. My only contribution will be to search out amazing, biggest-ever case-lot sales.

Hubby was right about one thing, though. Wives do deserve the best. And to show I feel the same about him, he's going to get the best patio set for Father's Day money can buy.