Like in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century
When my wife complains about frozen pipes to the people at work, they respond with one of those; Are you from the city? questions. Don'tcha know yer 'sposed to let the faucet drip in cold weather. The pipes to the upstairs bathroom run at the corner of the house. When it is consistently ten degrees or colder, they freeze.
My scotch background tells me to cut of the heat vent in the basement. That way there will be more heat to the first and second floor. Besides, I rationalize, the wood furnace does quite well at heating the basement. To further my miser ways, I cut the propane furnace thermostat back to sixty. I also shut off the window fan in the basement I use to circulate air when drying clothes. Self satisfied, I've had the cold water tap dripping 24/7 for weeks. My wife gets up at 6:30 to take a shower. There's no hot water. Darn.
In a mood to rationalize, I look at the bright side of winter. The deep snow cover allows me to know the movements of varmints around the old schoolhouse. A trail of closely woven tracks winds from the bush in the backyard; to a pine tree and on the the woodshed. The tracks are of a small animal. If I were stupid enough to venture out in my sweatpants and slippers, I'd probably see the distinctive line of a tail dragging over the snow. This afternoon the pooch and I will track varmints. At the moment he's driving me nuts. Inside, outside,jump on the monitor, spring from the floor to my lap, miss several times, reach out for my lap, miss the lap and claw the back of my hand, lie on the floor pawing at something under the desk in my office. Blood seeps across my hand. "Look what you did!" I tell him. It's distracting.
Wayne Snut( pronounced Snoot) comes to the back door about midnight. It's well below zero. The tree house gets cold at night. I threw leaves as mulch around the base of most of the pine trees. Wayne thanks me profusely for that gesture of gnome kindness. Still, a family of seven gnomes cannot create enough heat to take off their jackets. The Gnome book at the library shows gnomes taking baths in wooden tubs. Bare breasted gnome women soap their mates' back. Pure fiction, I'm told. Wayne offers to break the rules and tell me the names of the gnomes Pucci and met yesterday. I invite him in for tea with honey and lemon. Warm and relaxed, Wayne begins to tell a long story. "Cut to the chase Snut," I say. A snort of brandy in the tea loosens his lips.
"Aw right mate," he says. I didn't know Wayne was British. "Here's the deal." You find me two cans I can turn into a barrel stove and I give you the names."
"What kind of cans?" I ask.
Before he can respond there's another knock at the back door. " Snut here?" Elfred T. Gnome asks.
"Yes," I say.
"His wife is looking for him." Mr. T. Gnome says.
"What does she want?" I ask.
"Dunno, didn't ask".
"Snut," I call out. "Your wife is looking for you."
"Darn, I'd better git." Snut says in a panic. His wife is large both up and out. When he's in trouble, she'll sit on him. The length of time she sits is determined by the severity of the crime.
"Number 8 galvanized steel cans. Keep the lids. I can make my own doors," he says as he slips outside.
Elfred T. Gnome gives me with a questioning look. "I know what your after," he says.
"What," I respond with an innocent smile.
"The names," he retorts. " Make me a deal and I'll get you those names."
"What do you want?" I ask. "Venison jerky, he says.
I'll play one against the other for info. Tin cans are easy to find. venison jerky will take some time. In the meantime I'm off to Wal-Mart for supplies.