It must happen that when we work, and work hard, we will shed some blood. We will sweat. We might even cry tears. And, I guess it could all happen simultaneously. Like, some injury that bleeds makes you break out in a clammy sweat, and also causes you to erupt into a fit of crying.
On my third day, the planning and sketching stage is mostly done, and I’m onto the real work of deconstructing a boathouse for rebuilding into a tiny cottage. And already I have taken care of two out of three of the requisite proofs of work. I began to man-sweat while rounding up my tools. This is Alabama where within the last week we’ve had a heat index over a hundred degrees. The ground and plants and air are soaking wet from big rains. The air is humid, thick and close, like breathing through a warm, damp towel.
So, I’m not talking about Hollywood sweating where somebody comes in and daintily spritzes your dry clothes in the wrong places to create the illusion of a worked-up sweat. I’m talking about shirt and pants wringing wet, even your palms sweating, and hidden crevices channeling the brine. Sweat stinging your eyes. Such a rapid loss of fluids that proper hydration might mean pry bar in one hand and water bottle in the other.
Baby, it’s hot outside.
And I knocked a little chunk out of a knuckle which caused a little bleeding. So that takes care of that. And, I cannot foresee what task facing me might bring me to tears. I guess it could be the very gestalt of the project.
As I sit here typing under the air-conditioning in a really comfortable desk chair thinking philosophically about the scope and breadth of this boathouse deconstruction I’m facing in the harsh out of doors, do I feel a tear welling up? Naah.
So, to continue…I shall exercise particular caution as I work. I’ve already said I’m not in a hurry, and rushing to meet a deadline is generally where the trouble starts. When I was working heavy construction on the Van Antwerp remodeling and restoration in downtown Mobile, I had to sometimes work a Saturday shift. And clocked-in on this one Saturday when an Alabama football game was kicking off just after lunch, I was in a hurry to wrap things up and get out of there and into my recliner by game time.
I sized-up a certain small job calling for two men to offload from a hoist a wheelbarrow that had fifty pounds of concrete hardened into its bottom. I told the men to just take a running go and try to launch it across a foot-and-a-half span into a dumpster. That was really stupid. When they did precisely what I told them to do, the wheelbarrow came up short on its trajectory and crashed into the leading edge along the top of the dumpster. On that edge is just where I stood as an observer to this calamity in the making.
The wheelbarrow flipped and twisted and one of its metal handles raked down the side of my head, tossing my hardhat twenty feet across the yard, and knocking me into the dumpster. When I crawled across the construction debris and dragged myself to the top, raising my head, all the men’s faces nearby went pale and their eyes grew wide. I had torn my right ear mostly off.
I was hauled to the closest urgent care clinic, and the doctor on call took one look at me and sent me by ambulance on down to Thomas hospital emergency room. The attendant in the ambulance asked me did I want a picture of my ear. I said I did. I have shown it to many people, who always glance up and compare the photo to the real thing.
The ER doc told me he was no plastic surgeon, but it was important to get right to work putting my ear back together. He asked me would I rather wait for them to call in a plastic surgeon. I told him to go for it.
My brother-in-law came to the hospital and, because he was a policeman, they let him back to where the repair job on my ear was just being finished. He brought me a box of Danny’s fried chicken fingers. “There,” the doc said. “Only took forty-one stitches. Your ear’ll be good as new and only just a little out of whack.” Then he looked at the snack-pack on my lap. “You hungry?” he asked.
“Not so much,” I said, “but it’s a thing.” I grinned and told him I always eat Danny’s during an Alabama game, and family fans didn’t want to take any chances. The doc shook his head (I think he was an Auburn graduate) and invited me to go ahead and have a wing, if that would do it, then he’d get me right on out of there.
Alabama won that day, on a single fried chicken wing, and my right ear looks better than my left. I’m a vegetarian now, too. Almost five years. Best of all, my little dog Bobby has got my back now. Watches my every move. He’s got this guttural voice that’s not a growl and not a bark, but it’s insistent and unmistakably signals that he wants me to pay attention to him. I’ve told him that if it appears to him I am about to do something stupid to call me on it.
He promises to do so, as long as I don’t expect him to learn to climb a ladder up to a sleeping loft when we move into our new place. I told him I wouldn’t think of such a thing. He looked over my shoulder at floor plan sketches I’ve been making, and, with both ears up, growled and barked at me.