With the first draft of my Raymond script finished, I was free to attack the various home improvement projects I'd been slacking off on. I had an ambitious itinerary ahead of me: take down the Christmas lights, put up the Malibu lights, scrub algae off the brick patio out back, repair the broken brick pillar next to the front driveway, fence off and build a gate to the garden area, build a new desk for my office, clean the catbox in the office and, if I had time left over, save the world. Piece of cake; one, maybe two afternoons, and I'd be done.
I looked my list over and decided some judicious editing was in order. Right.
Okay, so now I'm left with the Christmas lights, the Malibu lights and the algae. A 3-item list. That's more like it.
- Scratch off the brick pillar. It's been broken for months and hasn't fallen over yet. It'll be fine for another couple of weeks. Make mental note to continue keeping Zoe away from pillar.
- Scratch off the garden fence and gate. It's not like anything's growing there anyway -- the dogs have made short work of everything we've ever planted. Of course, the dogs are why I want to fence it off, but let's not think about that right now.
- Scratch off the new desk. The one I'm using now is fine, and so what if I start getting neck spasms after sitting here for an hour? It's exercise, sort of, and god knows I could use some.
- Clean the catbox? Eh, why bother? I have no sense of smell, so it's not like it really bothers me. Just don't look at it and everything's fine. Off the list, at least until the next list.
- Save the world? Not my job, off the list. Next?
Up on the roof, down with the lights. They came down easily enough and I only almost fell off the roof twice. Hmm... I should clean out the gutters while I'm up here. Yeah, but that'd mean climbing down and getting a broom or something to clean 'em out with, and then climbing back up. I almost fell off twice doing those stupid lights, so doing the gutters would be tempting fate. Do I really want to live life in a wheelchair for the sake of clean gutters? Besides, it's almost finished raining around here. If I cleaned them now they'd just sit there unused and gathering crap until November, when I'd have to clean them again anyway. Right, put those gutters on November's list. Now get down off this roof, and for God's sake be careful on the ladder because it's standing on that slimy brick patio.
Out to the front yard, set up those Malibu lights. We started out with a box of 20 many moons ago, but it's been in storage in the middle of the living room and Suki's been snacking on them since then. We're down to, what, 5 lights now? Fine, 15, excuse the hell out of me for being hyperbolic. Pick the optimal spots for them, stick 'em into the ground. They go in pretty easy, I only really had to force one -- it just stopped about halfway in and would go no further no matter how hard I hammered it. Yes, I know the directions say not to hammer them in, but what do they know? They were written under laboratory conditions where the light always goes in by a guy who's never touched these things in the first place. It's all theory; it has nothing to do with the real world. This damn light won't go in without hammering...or even with. Fine, move the light a few inches over and now it slides right in. Hmm. Run the cable, hook 'em up, light 'em up. They all work, they look good. Finestkind. Damn, I'm good.
Meanwhile, Beth has been busy inside. She's put some shelves up in Zoe's room, completely without my help or supervision. Now that's slap in the face enough right there, but she's compounded the insult by doing it all wrong. When I do a project like that, I break out all the tools. I measure, I level, I snap chalk lines, use the stud-finder, measure again, drill test holes, curse a lot, throw things, and generally take just about forever. Beth's method was to use only my drill and level, do cursory measurements, eyeball it a bit, drill just the holes needed to secure it, work quietly and throw nothing. I didn't even know she was doing this until I came in and it was finished. I have to admit that they came out perfectly, but I chalk that up to beginner's luck. Working that way is just crazy.
It was late by then, so I decided to put off cleaning the back patio. I'd finished two projects with no injuries or structural damage, so I marked that as a good day and quit while I was ahead. I sat out front in the growing dark, smoking a cigarette and admiring the fine work I'd done on the Malibu lights. I snorted derisively at the neighbor's house, still bedecked with Christmas lights, and patted myself on the back for being a responsible homeowner. I looked at my unadorned house and now well-lit driveway and told myself "Nice job, Chuck. You done all right."
Regular readers of my home improvement debacles may be stunned at this point, questioning the workings of the universe. How in the name of all that's good and true could Chuck have done these things without something going wrong? Settle down, I'm not finished yet.
Balance was restored to the universe early the next morning.
Zoe came in and woke us as she always does. I turned on the TV for her, tuned in Sesame Street, and went back to sleep. But Zoe kept waking me up. "I can't hear it, Daddy." I fumbled blindly for the remote, pointed at the TV and hit the volume button as I fell asleep again. "I still can't hear it, Daddy." I did the remote again. Nothing happened. The damn TV wasn't turning up.
I got up, hit the volume button on the TV itself. Nothing happened. Now I was starting to get angry. If I didn't get this going in the next couple of seconds I'd be too awake to go back to sleep. I jiggled the cables on the cable box and TV, fighting to hold onto the sleep that was slipping away. I jiggled too hard and the framed picture that was precariously balanced atop the cable box tipped and went tumbling down the back of the TV. Crash as the frame's glass breaks. "What's going on?" as Beth wakes. "What broke, Daddy?" Fuck. It's going to be one of those days.
Awake now, no turning back, I took Zoe to the den and set her up with the TV in there. I started fixing her breakfast and it slowly dawned on me that there was a loud hissing sound coming from the front yard. It sounded like sprinklers, but it was much louder. I stuck my head out the front door to find a geyser erupting through the lawn. Erupting around one of the Malibu lights. The light I'd hammered in contrary to no-hammering instructions. No wonder I'd had to hammer on that light -- I was punching it right through a sprinkler pipe.
I ran out into the unbearable cold of a Southern California morning clad only in T-shirt and boxer shorts. I turned the sprinkler control off and stood there for a few moments being showered with cold water before it dawned on me that the water was still flowing. I grabbed a screwdriver from the toolbag from under the driver seat of the truck and shut the valve off manually. That did the trick.
I surveyed the damage. Big stinking muddy hole in the lawn. Nice big hole punched neatly into the center of the sprinker pipe. Gaping cavity that will require refilling underneath the driveway. Lovely. Da Boyz were obviously telling me something. [Ed. note: Da Boyz require some explaining, which will be done at a later date. Suffice to say that they are godlike creatures who delight in fucking with me.] I looked to the heavens and acknowledged them.
"Okay. Fine. I get the message. You don't want me fixing things. I give up, you win. If I promise never to fix anything ever again, will you at least let me sleep?"
One final burble from the muddy hole. Answer enough, I suppose.
As I put the screwdriver back, I noticed that my truck's window had been open and there was now several inches of water collected on the driver seat. Da Boyz, they don't miss a trick.
Private to Danielle: Yo, D! Your email's bouncing back to me. You gonna fix that or what?