Why am I Not Surprised?

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.”

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Why You Should Always Bring Two Trucks to a Demolition

“I’m going to get rid of that hot tub,” I said to no one in particular about 500 times in the last two years.

Okay, that’s not true. I’ve said it to everyone who has ever walked past the antiquated, broken down, monstrous piece of rotomolded plastic that surely had people wondering if I was going to invite them to a bubbling bacterium filled night from the 70s.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

Never happened ever.

I hate hot tubs. Hate them.

They make my skin crawl both figuratively and literally. I am just not a jacuzzi natured nut. I’m not much of a pool person either. More of a “if you’re hot, go stand under the garden hose” kind of a girl. I don’t even own a bathtub, so why was there a giant tank of promised tranquil times in my front yard taking up valuable real estate where other valuable, contributing items like tomato plants, a patch of grass, or a host of plastic pink flamingo might live?

I’ll tell you why. Because no one wants to haul that junk away.

So, I looked at doing it myself. But there’s the tiny component that includes “disassembling” involved. My thought was this is doable, for if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life thus far, it’s that the solution to any problem is viable even if you only have access to three things:

  1. Duct tape
  2. WD40
  3. YouTube

It was a great idea for about 30 seconds. At the 31st second mark of the first video I watched on how easy it is to dismantle your old hot tub I’d changed my mind. Easy is not a word I would pick. I would instead pick words like onerous, laborious, and ignorantly ambitious.

They required power tools with gas tanks, multiple blades, and signed waivers in order to purchase. As I was far more fond of my fingers than farcical waterfowl, I picked up the phone and furthered my search for anyone willing to haul this sucker away.

After countless calls to every variety of company with the name “junk” in it, I finally settled on one who’s name I can’t recall but could aptly be named “Umm … Sure, if I Can Shove it in My Truck.” It wasn’t necessarily their enthusiasm that won me over, rather that basement price of stating they could do the work for 60% less than everyone else.

I am a penny-pinching son of a gun, and the thought of holding onto a few more pennies made me suddenly envision buying my new flock of plastic feathered friends at someplace fancy like the Garden Decor´ section at Walmart, rather than straight off the clearance shelves at the Dollar General. 

But then Willie and the gang showed up with a pickup truck that would definitely always be chosen last when team captains were divvying up the choices for all the pickup truck games. Tiny red flag.

Willie put his son to work—Willie Jr—and then left to answer the phone. I heard the sound of angry steel come to life, ripping through fabric and plastic and wood and thought that could have been me. And then a minute later I heard the sound of Willie Jr cry out and thought that would have been me.

“Snake!” I heard lil Willie cry.

I came out onto the porch and looked at Willie Jr. pointing out to Willie Senior the head of a black snake who was obviously just as surprised as the two of them and shared the same expression.

“Don’t kill him. That’s Hortense. He’s just a garden snake,” I said.

“Hortense? Is he a biter?” Willie Jr. asked.

“Only if you’re a rat,” I answered.

“Well, you have the face of a rat, Willie, so I’d watch out if I were you,” his sister said.

The sound of Willie Jr’s angry steel sprang to life again in answer.

That could have been me, I thought.

I brought out a pitchfork and handed it to Junior. “You ever had spaghetti? You just need to twirl that feller up onto here and then walk Hortense out to the woods where he can be safe.”

Junior was not thrilled. But he did it. And then the angry steel returned with a chorus that began to sound like it was running out of steam.

From the porch where I sat studying a library book, I heard snippets of phrases like Did you bring the extra battery? And Well, we’re gonna have to plug her in. Also, What do you mean it’s not working? Did you hit water? And finally some sort of thunk. Like a head falling to the table.

Junior and I finally found another suitable and working outlet for the angry blade brigade and the work resumed. Until …

“Snake!”

I came out onto the deck again. “That’s Hildegard. She’s probably wondering where Hortense is.”

And she’s probably wondering what the hell is happening to her house, I thought looking around with despair. Plastic, insulation, fiberglass, foam, and wood were scattered everywhere. Good lord, it looked like my attic went on a binge and vomited onto the lawn.

“How’s it goin?” I asked, noting it had been over three hours of work thus far. Three hours for five people against one hot tub. The YouTube video has one guy, one crowbar, and fifteen minutes, seven of them spent explaining to the camera what he was doing.

“Nearly done,” I heard Willie Senior offer up. Behind him, Junior was wrestling with Hildegard who was determined to stay in her home come hell or high water … or high-powered chain saws. Maybe she had babies to protect.

Poor Junior. That could have been me.

An hour later, as the sun was setting, I brought out a tray of glasses and a bottle of bourbon. “Good work, lads and lasses,” I said, seeing nothing but a concrete slab where the hot tub used to be.

“The truck is full up. Can’t fit anymore into it,” Willie Senior said, pointing toward it.

I saw half the hot tub, or what used to be the hot tub, shoved into the back and spilling out the sides. The other half was in several large piles on the lawn and driveway.

“We’ll come back for the rest tomorrow,” he said.

“And the check for payment of services?” I asked, suddenly realizing that question now took the place of whatever last sentence was in first place for Stupidest thing I’ve ever asked. My sluggish brain now foresaw being stuck with a driveway full of junk while I chased down a handyman who’d never return my calls.

Willie Sr. smiled and winked. “We’ll come back for it tomorrow.” He hitched a thumb again toward his truck. “Can’t fit anymore into it.”

Well, there you have it, I thought to myself, a man who owns a garbage company is a valuable treasure of honesty himself.

Maybe instead of the flock of flamingos, I’ll erect a statue of Willie.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.