Sunday, December 5, 2010

Five Steps

Two steps forward, three steps back.

My prepubescent summers were spent in northern Minnesota. The old homestead is 150 miles south of the Canadian/US border. The closest big town is Virginia not far from Bob Zimmerman's hometown aka Bob Dylan. Summer is short. Winter is forever. The primary crop is lumber followed by hay. Nothing else would tolerate -30 degree temperatures is the depths of January.

The main road to the white clapboard salt box style house which replaced the original homestead which burned down years ago is dirt and gravel. A two lane dirt track bordering a hayfield and fringed with pine trees ran to the Cussoons place (rhymes with swoon). Across the driveway from the house is a paint peeled building with large glass store windows. I'm tempted to call my sister to find out why I don't remember the inside of the store. As a kid my curious nature would lure me inside to inspect dusty shelves of nuts, bolts and hardware. If I did get her on the phone, I be regaled with stories of how she climbed to the top of the windmill in the yard teasing me for being afraid of climbing the rickety metal ladder. I'm not up to being regaled.

Grandma was bedridden on the second floor of the main house. I avoided going inside . I was freaked out by the loud moaning which could be heard through the open windows in summers. One of the daughters cared for grandma. The other daughter moved to the city like many of the residents. We'd walk in the woods and come upon a cabin sinking into the soft sandy soil. Beds had sheets on them and forks and knives lay on the kitchen table as if the people who lived there left in a hurry. Joe Cussoon drove an old '53 Chevy. He grinned a lot and let me sit on his lap and steer while he worked the gas and brake. My Dad and I went to visit him at his shack in the woods. He made a living as a logger. When he wasn't working he'd drink jug wine. When we pulled up to his place, he came to the door of the shack and peered out . A line of brown spittle ran down his cheek and chin from the snuff he chewed. When his feet hit the dirt below the three steps to the cabin, he'd take two steps forward and three back. He was so shitfaced only the woodpile next to the cabin kept him from falling backward.

I thought of Joe Cussoon on Friday. Good thoughts mostly because he was a decent sort of guy living a lonely life in the woods.

The first step forward is jumping in my truck to get new tires installed. It took me awhile to find used rims to replace the rims on my truck which were rusted, causing the tires to leak. The tires are new and shiny with white letters on the sides. My mechanic and I stand at the rear of his shop while his son does the zzzt zzzt thing with the pneumatic wrench. The old tires are rusted to the hubs and the kid has to whack the rims with a sledgehammer to get them off. "You'd never be able to change a tire on the side of the highway," my mechanic tells me. "The engineer who designed the spare to store under the bed of the truck must have been drinking", he says. "Look how rusted your spare is," he points out.

We glance out the shop window. There's a woman trying to shinny up the plastic conduit on the side of the house. Her ultimate goal is to reach the small deck at a back door. "She must've locked herself out," my mechanic says. She gets half way up and slides back down, removes her socks for a better grip with her feet and starts over. Now she's got our attention-all three of us. We watch her pulling herself up the conduit pipe. Her jeans are starting to slide down over her hips. We're hoping for more. I motion to the ladder leaning against the wall of the shop, muttering that it's criminal to be standing here watching, while we could be helping her. "They're all criminals" my mechanic says. "Everyone who's lived in that four unit apartment has been nothing but trouble. If it weren't for the old lady on the first floor who keeps an eye on my place, I'd be robbed blind." The conduit breaks at a joint exposing the inside electric wire.

"I had a neighbor who got electrocuted climbing a conduit," the mechanic says. "The wire frayed, the current surged through him and he was stuck tight. Couldn't move a muscle." "If it weren't for his dog," he adds, who jumped at his leg and grounded him, he'd be a goner." We move to his office so I can pay the bill and go home. "Boy, she really had a set on her," the mechanic says. When she bent over to pull on her socks, you could see everything." The door opens.

"Do you have a ladder I can borrow?" the young woman from behind the shop asks. The mechanic looks at his son and nods toward the shop. "I'm really hung over,"she says. "My dog is upstairs and I left the keys inside the apartment."

I've got extra cash after paying for the tires and I want to pick up a load of firewood. I notice a big improvement in the way the truck drives. As I pull in the yard of the sawmill, I tell myself I can really pile the truck full of blocks of wood with my new tires. It's been cold of late. Mostly near twenty degrees. I full down the flaps on my knit hat to keep my ears warm. As I toss blocks of wood into the bed of the truck, I'm careful to mound the blocks to protect the rear window. After tossing wood on to the bed of the truck I move to the back and stack blocks to form a barrier to keep my window safe. The trailer that takes the blocks of wood from a conveyor belt inside the sawmill is extra long. I've backed the truck so the bumper extends over the front of the trailer. Still I have to toss the heavier blocks with two hands. I toss a smaller block with one hand aiming for the right side of the truck bed to even out the load. The small block rolls up the ramp of protective blocks and glances off the right side of the window. It hits rights at the rubber gasket holding the window in place. I grimace as the entire back window turns to snowflakes. With the cold weather the glass is brittle and inflexible. I load the truck until the tires can't hold anymore and head for home. Mandy watches the back window while small pieces of glass tumble out whenever we hit a bump. By the time we get home, I've left a trail of tiny pieces of glass with most of it falling into the space behind the cab and the bed.

One step forward, two steps back.

I call my insurance agent who tells me we're covered for glass breakage. I call the 800 number for the insurance company and give a pleasant man who takes the claim information all the pertinent details. He tells me the cost of the window is $217. For $25 more dollars they'll replace my windshield wipers. "Oh, and by the way, you have a $250 deductible clause on your policy", he says.

Two steps forward, two steps back.

After removing most of the broken rear window, I pull the truck into the garage. Everyone's talking about a winter storm approaching. I call Dawn to tell her about the window. The glass company's coming on Monday to fix it. In the meantime you'll have to park in the driveway.

On Saturday morning I open the side door to the garage to find the driver's side tire flat. After 229 pumps with my Bell bicycle pump, I get enough air in the tire to be able to drive to the Kwik Stop and fill the two tires.

Three steps back.

On Sunday morning I find the front tire completely flat and a back tire losing air. I'll wait until Monday morning to call the mechanic. It's probably a valve stem leak. I hold back from the urge to call his shop and leave an angry message because that won't change anything. I call a friend and ask him to lend me his air compressor. He's on his way to Madison. He'll be back in the afternoon.

Four steps back.

He tells me he's going to stop at the building supplies chain of stores. I ask him to call me when he gets there, so I can price air compressors. Three hours later and he hasn't called.

Five steps backward.

1 comment:

sAm said...

Oh good heavens...what a day!