Friday, September 26, 1986
Raccoons have been knocking over the Barleys' garbage cans.
My assignment: stop those 'coons.
I build a garbage can fortress out of boards that I salvaged during the deck repair. I’d like to see them knock this over: 2x6 redwood walls, 16 penny nails into 4x4 douglas fir posts.
And yet I know that after a few winters of rain, the wood will soften and split, fungus will grow, and the raccoons will return. All victories are temporary.
I present Mr. Barley with a bill of fifteen hundred dollars for the week's work. Three Irish Setters bounce around us. Then — the magic moment — Mr. Barley writes a check and casually hands it to me. This simple act always fascinates me: the transfer of wealth. So casual. So vital. A rich man of immense power, a tradesman with none. What if he refused? What would I do?
In ten years of contracting, I’ve never had to find out (although once I got into a shouting match...)
I move on to the modest house of a new client. She's white and very pregnant. Her husband is black and very large — like, left tackle large.
She hands me a list of problems she wants me to check out. On the bottom of the notepaper, preprinted, it says:
Sex maniacs leave notes.
On the wall is a framed drawing of a little boy and a little girl (cute, both white) examining their respective genitals in utter innocence.
The whole vibe is a wee bit strange. The husband sits at a computer, tapping keys. The wife follows me around asking anxious questions about what I'm doing: does the faucet contain toxic chemicals? Why did I replace the old chrome sink trap with a plastic trap?
Any moment, I expect her to go into labor.
I drill a hole through the back wall of the bungalow and extend a water line from the kitchen. I attach a hose bibb, turn the main valve back on, and test the hose. Out comes steaming hot water!
The woman asks, "Won't that scald the plants?"
I replumb to a cold water pipe and end up charging one hour's labor for a three hour job.
Oh well. I've had worse days. Much worse. And in my pocket I've got two checks, a big one and a little one.
Moving on, I arrive at school a half hour early to pick up my kids. The older kids would be bothered if I showed up in their classrooms, so I go to Nursery Blue where Will, age four, is folding paper boats and trying them out in a tub of water. I sit on a sofa next to the rabbit, Bunny Blue, who sniffs me thoughtfully and then closes his eyes. Bunny Blue has soft gray fur. Will glances at me, then continues folding and floating paper boats.
I fall asleep. I dream of water pipes, bursting.
When I awake, Bunny Blue is cuddled against my hip. It’s time to go. Will doesn’t want to leave. He's still folding and floating his flotilla.
Nursery Blue is a safe, warm spot in the world. Will is my third and last child to pass through here. I’ll miss preschool — for myself as much as the kids. We all need a bit of nursery toward the end of a day.