Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sudden summer, little acts of war

There’s a fine line between whining and stating the obvious, and I, for one, am not going to split hairs about it. What is, is, and no amount of sniveling will improve our sad lot. But we all have days that are so rotten, so despicable, so unequivocally detestable, that we’re left with a profound sense of wretchedness that can only be alleviated by voicing our grievances. Not that anyone cares to listen.

Such is not the point. Besides being therapeutic, complaining is really an assessment of our situation. It’s like making a grocery list only instead of getting hungry you get more depressed. But at least you know where you stand.

And, too, let’s not forget the lesson of Job. He wasn’t exactly silent, and look where it got him.

The day of my debacle started innocently enough. Off to work early, back home before sunrise, a quick nap to refresh myself, a cup of coffee to jolt me awake, and I was ready. The first order of business was to mow the yard.

I stuck my head in the shed and promptly yanked it back. Several hornets flew out. The mower was almost within reach. Slide one hand in, hook a finger around the handle, draw it back. Be ready to run.

I reached in and a hornet buzzed my head. I recoiled as if snakebit.

Because of allergies, my mother once cautioned me not to get stung. Since then I’ve had an irrational (rational?) terror of anything with wings and a stinger. Once, when wandering at night down the alley behind our house, I put her warning to the test. I was up to no good—window peeping, if I’m not mistaken. While skulking around, I felt a sharp pain lance my ankle. Dancing around and trying not to curse (I was a good Baptist kid, regardless of my current deviant behavior), I yanked off my shoe and found a hornet. It was dead and I wished I was, and, indeed, I thought I soon would be. Obviously my mother was wrong.

Now, peering into the darkness of the shed, I wondered if we’re doomed to endlessly repeat these little acts of war.

I armed myself with a can of wasp killer. A few squirts and I felt safe enough to stick my head in; the mower and gas can were soon mine. I filled the tank, inserted ear plugs and yanked the cord. It roared to a start.

I managed five passes. Grass, twigs and shreds of bark blasted from the broken discharge chute, peppering me with chunky dust. As I whipped the mower around for another run, the handle snapped in half, almost pitching me facedown in the dirt.

I stared at it in wonder. It was incomprehensible that I would leave it that way all winter without repairing it. After dragging the mower behind the house and abandoning it, I went in search of something else to do.

The back room was heating up unmercifully. I laboriously hauled the window air conditioner up from the basement and then remembered I had to first install a support brace. I took the new DeWalt cordless drill to the long screws. The battery was dead.

I don’t mean dead as in discharged. I mean dead as in pushing up daisies.

While my other drill was charging I opened the window and set the support in place. I hadn’t noticed the hornet nest at the top of the sill. The window was promptly shut.

I couldn’t reach the hornets with the spray, so I settled down to wait. I waited, and waited, and waited some more, and watched as they seemingly settled down to wait me out. Hornets, I realized, have more time on their hands than do people. And more patience as well, especially when there’s a crazy man waiting to kill them.

The time spent waiting gave me time to think. Not just of the wasps and hornets flying around—their numbers this year are staggering—but of various problem areas. The mower died and the window screens are shot full of holes and the front door has gaps through which bugs enter and the side wings on the window air conditioner broke last year and I hadn’t replaced them. Another winter project that went unprojected.

The upstairs unit still worked, though it was a real wall-banger. I dragged it downstairs and set it off to the side. Now for the wasp.

I opened the window. It flew in and met my hat, which had been transformed into a weapon of mass destruction. As in, I destructed the mass of the hornet.

I set the unit in place. Naturally it didn’t fit right, leaving a huge gap for bugs to enter. I removed it and laid down foam weather-stripping and tried it again. The gap was smaller but still there. Already hornets were looking for a way in and I was the first thing they encountered, and they did not seem at all amused.

Half a roll of packing tape and it was done. I figured it would hold back the autumn hordes of lady bugs for at least three-and-a half nanoseconds.

I cranked the air conditioner on high. Sheba bolted for her cage.

The temperature was close to 90 by then and very humid. I wondered where spring had gone. President Bush might think global warming is “fuzzy science” but the seasons are getting more irrational all the time. We’ve had winter in autumn, autumn in winter, spring in winter, and now summer in spring. Just thinking about it made me dizzy.

Eventually the sun slipped over the horizon and dusk fell. I slipped into a pair of shorts and found the top button missing. My favorite T-shirt had a new hole in it. The pillow I sit on while rubbing Sheba had lost its stuffing. Sheba needed her nails trimmed and her fur combed, neither of which she’s fond of. My coffee was lukewarm. The book I was reading was not the one I wanted to read. I was miserably hot but too frugal (or cheap) to turn down the central air conditioner. My shoulder felt dislocated. I was exhausted. I didn’t want to go to work tomorrow.

I wasn’t whining, I was calculating. My problems were enunciated one by one until I grew sick of hearing them. Lori came in and sat beside me. Sheba tore off for a potty break and did a big sideways dance of joy. A robin sang the night down. There was no traffic on the road. We were no longer in the city. Lori’s fingers touched mine. This world is perfect.

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