My phone chirped, informing me I had a call on the other line.
Off to voicemail it went, as I was on a conference call with work.
Then my phone whistled that I had a text.
I followed all worldly business advice and did not glance at the phone, and secretly congratulated myself for continuing to focus on that all-important conference call.
Not ten seconds later, I hear a fist thumping on the back door. The attention stealing gods win this one. I quickly make my apologies, leave the call, and march to the door to see what’s so urgent.
No one is there, but as I’m craning my neck to see around the side of the house, I hear the front porch door slam shut with springs that have never been so up for the job of closing the gap.
I hurry toward the sound and now see a grizzled old man, sweating profusely, his fist poised to give the kitchen door a few new dents.
I fling it open.
“May I help you?” I ask, not hiding my annoyance.
“I called. And then I texted. And I knocked on the backdoor. Takes you a long time to git up and git goin’ don’t it?” He looked at me and shrugged.
“I was on the phone. Who are you?”
“Stanley. Did I surprise you? I’m super good at surprising people.”
I gave him a look that said we’re done here, and then he added, “I’m here to give you a quote about the wall that’s fallin down. You said to my son that you wanna build it back up again, right?”
Ah yes. The rock wall. Definitely needs fixing, but so do a zillion other things around here. I’d called these folks more than a month ago.
“I thought maybe I’d get a heads up someone was coming out,” I said.
His eyebrows rose. “I like surprising people. It’s what I’m super good at,” he laughed.
“I hope you’re also good at repairing rock walls.” I pointed toward the object in question and started heading toward it.
“I was a master carpenter for thirty years. When every other kid was outside playing ball, I was growing up in the basement building cabinets.” Stanley took out his Stanley measuring tape tool and began to walk along the wall. I wondered if he might be erroneously thinking I wanted cabinetry inside my rock wall.
“I bet a lot of people would wish to have that skill, although the price of lumber now is surely hindering work, right?” I was being polite, but I wanted to hurry up with the quote. I had to get back to work.
“I’ll tell you what’s expensive, darlin’. Drums!”
I felt my eyebrows fuse together, but Stanley took no notice. “I wouldn’t know,” I said, hearing my words tinged with exasperation.
He pointed a finger to the sky. “Well, I would, because I used to be one. Did I ever tell you the story about when I got a call from a bunch of guys in Montana who said their drummer just up and quit and they needed one pronto? I packed my whole kit into the trunk of my car and made it there 19 hours later. They were playing at the Holiday Inn, but were staying at the Ramada Inn across the road, and when I went to the front desk to ask for the room of the drummer, they sent me to the drummer who was in the band playing at the Ramada Inn and not the Holiday Inn guy. I pounded on his door and when he opened it, I told him I was here to replace him.
“Well, you woulda thought I just told him his dog died, cuz he collapsed with grief. It was really funny.”
I looked at Stanley with disbelief.
“We straightened it out, but boy was he super surprised, cuz I do that really well.”
I pointed to the rock wall. “Any idea how long it might take to repair this?”
Stanley pulled a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and swiped across his brow. He shook his head. “Whatever length of time it’ll take, no doubt it’ll be a easier job than the one I had when I was a long-haul truck driver. Whoo-ee! That work is exhausting, and the stress of it tries to kill you every which way. People have no idea how hard it is to drive one of those big wheelers. You can’t see anything, can’t control your speed for nothin’, you’re always white knuckling the steering wheel if you’re East Coasting it. Midwest and the Northwest ain’t bad—that’s just straight and narrow—”
“Which is exactly how I’d like this rock wall to look. How bout it, Stanley? Can you do it?”
He looked at me with widened eyes. “Oh, I doubt it’ll be me. I just had a heart attack a month ago—and hip surgery to boot. My son just sent me here to measure. Maybe get some exercise, right?”
My teeth begin to itch. “I could have measured the wall and sent those dimensions to you.”
Stanley laughed and said, “Yeah, but then my son wouldn’t have gotten me out of the office and off the phone with clients now then, right? He really insists I get moving a bit—really wants me to be healthy.”
I turned away from Stanley and mumbled, “I think he really wants to get some work done, actually.”
Stanley chuckled and put a hand against a tree to rest. “You know, it’s super surprising just how much he’s like my ex-wives, always encouraging me to get out of the house and office. Did I tell you how many ex-wives I’ve had? I bet you’d be super surprised.”
“I’d be more surprised if this job ever gets done.”
“I think the surprising thing is going to be how much it’s gonna cost, so I’d suggest you better stop lollygagging around here with me and git back to your phone calls, right? Go make some money, honey. That’s a phrase I used to say to the girls when I used to—”
I held up my hand. “Don’t wanna know, Stanley.”
He snorted and slapped a thigh. “Okay then.” He turned and headed back to his truck. “I’m sure you’ll hear from us soon.”
I shook my head. “I’ll be surprised if I do, Stanley. Super surprised.”
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