“For the last time,” I sigh, “I have no idea what kind of wood they want. If it’s not written on the sheet I gave you, the pieces can be made from cardboard for all I care.”
I tapped the ‘sheet’ — a square piece of cut cardboard, where Mom and her carpenter had scribbled the dimensions of various planks and decorative trim. The sheet wobbled atop a stack of wood samples like the roof of shanty poked with a funnel cloud. The guy behind the register was not particularly blind, but I felt that calling attention to the list helped to establish my incompetence.
“Well,” the old man said, returning my sigh as if vying for a Grand Slam, “well, do you want to call them? See what they want to do?”
I pause for a few seconds and pretend to consider the suggestion, soaking in the fact that I’ve made authority figures out of nothing more than pronouns. ‘They’ could be the Queen of England (using the royal plural) or the NSA, scouring the guy’s phone records. Or perhaps our alien overlords. That’s the power of obscurity. Besides, specifying my employers as ‘Mom and Dad’ just sounded lame.
“I was told that if the trim did not match then I should forget it,” I shrugged in an attempt to dismiss the guy’s concern. His face was a portrait of a storm-tossed sea, wrinkled with waves of age and worry. He wore his shirt open halfway; gray and black chest hair spilled out onto the counter where they poked gingerly at the smudged forms like the legs of a a sleeping spider testing the earth after a heavy rain. He appeared stressed and I felt that I inadvertently added to it.
“Are you sure you don’t want to call?” he asked sadly.
At this point, I desperately wanted to call my folks (avoiding a return trip to the lumberyard), but my phone was stuffed, dead and lifeless in my pocket like something lil’ Timmy might bring home to terrify his aunt. The fallout from the kitchen construction and general chaos of the house is that we cannot find any of our phone chargers or charging stations at all — though to be fair, I haven’t found where Mom stored the plates, and dinner each night is dependent on our supply of Chinet.
The absence of suitable phone-chargers of course strikes me as strange considering how few individuals use a Motorola in the house anymore. Dad has upgraded to an iPhone (the focus of my evenings now encompasses tutoring sessions for new Apple users) and those that still rely upon my chargers have moved out of the house (Sean) in the last two months. Thus, either someone is messing with me or someone fed Gizmo after midnight (80’s Spielberg reference).
I still keep my cellphone nearby just in case of emergencies: robbery or attempted murder. If accosted, I might be able to hurl the thing hard enough to cause some severe brain injury.
“What do you think is best?” I ask the old man.
“Well, we don’t that particular trim in stock. Most of our trim is made of maple or pine, but this looks like poplar . . .”
Which I assume is a type of tree.
“. . . and we don’t carry that in stock. This sample you gave me looks hand-crafted, specialty made for someone . . .”
It was. Which begs the question of why I am asking for it.
“. . . soooooo, I don’t know what to tell you.”
Okay, so in this day and age, it is difficult to receive an honest straightforward answer in any regard. Politics, advertising, the nutritional stats on the side of your Cap’n Crunch: all deceiving, all dance around the information for which you’re seeking. We seek out the codewords, the fine print, in order to cut through the BS and trailblaze to the truth: ‘We cannot comment at this time.” “Use of this drug has been linked to cancer and schizophrenia.” “Chewing this cereal may lead to bleeding-of-the-gums.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” was the closest this man would ever come to admitting “We don’t have what you’re looking for. Check somewhere else.”
Which is cool. One less item on my list to worry about. The rest of the planks were loaded on my van and the old man and I departed as unlikely adversaries.