We had finished dinner. Everyone seemed satisfied with that except David, who was at an age where he couldn’t be filled up with a fire hose. All the boys helped clear the table. It’s not too difficult when everyone pitches in. Then, it was time to feed the other animals. Brenda fed the cat while cleaning up part of the kitchen. David helped her, then cleaned out part of the refrigerator on his way downstairs to do homework. Nathan fed the Guinea pigs, and Mason fed the dawgs.
I went down to the garage where my tool bench resides, to feed the mosquitos. I suppose I’m not the first to be distracted by biting insects, but may be unique in my ability to dwell on it far beyond the needs of all who might hear me fussing about it. When you find yourself to be a banquet for bugs, no words are sufficient to relieve the stinging and itching that follows. Yet in spite of their inadequacies, words are often offered up, and loudly.
Cries of frustration must’ve sounded like cries of pain, so Brenda came down to see if it would be necessary to get out my life insurance policies. I hope she was relieved to find it unnecessary. She saw me swatting the air with my arms, and delivering a most intense sermon of exacting condemnation, that for a moment she may have expected to see some kind of supernatural incarnation occur. It did not. But had there been a demon within fifty miles, it would’ve dropped in to see what was going on.
It was because of mosquitos and other insects that sting and bite that positioned me to be at the work bench in the first place. You see, the screen door that leads out onto our front deck had a small oblong hole in it, and needed to be repaired. Until that was fixed, we couldn’t leave the glass door open very long, even though you might want to during the springtime, especially if you have a houseful of boys and animals that might make a simple passing breeze a pleasant thing.
Each of our boys have been provided with a key to the house. This does not mean they will always have it with them when it would be helpful. One day, in order to get inside without a key, it was decided it would be easier to just use a burglary method with the screen door instead of a demolition method with the front door. A simple hole through the screen would provide access to it’s inside latch, bypassing the need of a storm door key, so one of my sons climbed up onto the deck, which we call the balcony, and went to work.
To this day, I can’t be quite certain which son did it. My oldest, David, said he did it. Later, not knowing about the earlier confession, my middle son, Nathan, admitted he did it. Since two of them took full credit for it, it lead me to believe the third one may have been the real culprit, after all. The only thing that might throw me off that theory is that Mason is at the age of clumsiness, so instead of succeeding, he might have just fallen off the balcony into the holly bushes.
I don’t wish to fuss too much about the question of “whodunnit”. I must admit it pleases me to see them have a strong enough brotherhood to want to take up for each other even if it means getting punished for it. I knew the dawgs didn’t do it because the hole was too small.
After swatting mosquitos, I’d stirred up enough dust to get to work on the screen, except there was a small screwdriver and a pair of pliers needed for the job that I could not find. They were not where I thought they should be, or even where I thought I’d left them–those two places not always being the same. I didn’t see them anywhere on or near the work bench. I say that because calling it the tool bench as I did earlier now seems inappropriate without the tools I need.
While I was bent over checking the floor, a squadron of dive-bombing mosquitos attacked the back of my neck causing me to rise up suddenly connecting the back of my head with the extended handle of my table vise. I have many vices, and immediately used some of them. My vocabulary stretched to include some rather interesting descriptive adjectives that once again brought on attention.
This time, both dawgs came to inspect. Cosmo Topper was wagging his tail thinking I’d called out to play a game, and Ashley Cooper whined slightly as if she expected I was wanting to give her a dawg biscuit. Even though she’d just been fed, her mind is regularly drawn to the prospects of a snack. Her little whine was close to the best I ever got to teaching her to “speak”. It was just her sense of being frugal, I suppose. She saw no reason to offer up more effort than would be required, and as long as a whimper would get a biscuit as sure as a bark, she’d hold the bark in reserve for some time later when it might be needed–such as when a neighbor’s cat might be out walking across the street, or some other little thing.
Mason, my youngest, came to get the dawgs, and reminded me to keep the door closed so mosquitos not get into the house, adding that “Mama said…” which was sufficient. He had a book in his hand, as he often does. Mason has said he might be a writer when he grows up so he can win the “Know-Bell” prize. He has a lot of determination. And unless he changes his mind, that Know-Bell prize committee had better get one ready with his name on it.
Left alone now, I got back to the task at hand. It’s rare for me to do that once distracted, but I did. Since the desired size of screwdriver and pliers were not handy, I selected a larger one of each and soon made the little hole in the screen…larger.
I never found those smaller precision tools. They were most likely out in the deep woods somewhere. They could be near a treehouse or fort built by little boys, but whatever use would such small stuff be for building a treehouse, I couldn’t imagine. Perhaps some other fantastic project where small precision tools might be useful, such as modifying some toy or action figure since those things always come in need of modification. To the boys, tools were for play, not work.
Once I was certain the damage to the screen would not be repaired without replacing the screen altogether, I decided to see if I could at least fix the latch. Somewhere between the process of jimmying it open, and my efforts to adjust the locking assembly, it became obvious it would never work again in the manner it was intended.
There was a small pile of parts now that seemed to be more than would fit into the tiny housing of the locking mechanism, and a few other bits and pieces of stuff that I had no idea what they were designed for, all laid out in front of me. This type of thing has happened to me before. Sometimes I take the parts with me to lose elsewhere in the house, or leave them in a pocket to be washed. This time, I just gave up, and decided to come back some other time and wonder about them. For now, the only thing to do was to take what was left of the screen door and put it back where I’d found it.
I took it upstairs, and reinstalled it. We now had a screen door, but with a much bigger hole in it than before. The only other difference was that the locking mechanism was now and forever dysfunctional. While putting the screen door back in place, I was thinking that if my combined man-hours invested in the project had been on any legitimate outside job, I’d have enough money to buy half a dozen of ’em.
Back upstairs, a conversation was in progress about what the dawgs might say if they could talk. I told the boys the dawgs didn’t have much of a brain for forming sentences, and whatever they might say would most likely be about food or other simple pleasures. I also pointed out that the puppies didn’t have the same equipment for speech that we did. One wanted to argue that the animals were able to produce sound well enough, and had lips, teeth and tongues. So, why couldn’t they talk?
I told him though the dawg had a tongue, he couldn’t use it like we can. To make a point, I asked my son to rub his tongue across the roof of his mouth. When I saw he’d done so, I said:
“Ashley and Topper can’t do that. And they’d have to be able to have that kind of versatility with their tongue to form a good many of our words.”
To further drive this home, I called the dawgs. Then, I got out a jar of peanut butter, and with my fingers, rubbed a good coat of it onto the roofs of their mouths. Though the dawgs didn’t object and even seemed to like it, neither of them said a word. The boys laughed during that entertainment, and soon realized how long a dawg’s tongue can extend. The result of this experiment was to drive up our necessary budget for peanut butter over the next several weeks. It doesn’t take much else to entertain a boy if a dawg and a jar of peanut butter are available.
Sometimes other entertainment can come from finding out what makes things work. When a boy finds a little tool laying around, what comes to mind is what little thing it might fit that deserves a fitting. Maybe it was a small pair of pliers, I don’t know. But soon, Nathan had a problem. Seems all the parts necessary to put his bicycle back together were in a manageable pile except for four lock nuts. Without them, the handlebars would not be a part of the assembly, and anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle for any distance can imagine how useful they can be, and how awkward it might seem without them, unless your intent is suicide.
So, justifying a Sunday afternoon drive, Brenda and I went to a hardware store where we quickly found the lock nuts needed. Not to diminish our outing, we thought we look around, and decided while we were there to pick up a large bag of fire ant food. We call it that, and it might as well be for all the good it does. Those animals are extremely small considering the huge discomfort they can provide. They are little, but they pack a wallop.
And while in the store, being aware that my lost tools may never come home, I thought it smart to replace them. I selected a very small pair of pliers and a small screwdriver, noticing that for some reason, they were pricier than their larger cousins on the same rack. But I didn’t question it, and headed to the cash register with them along with our other intended purchases. When we got there, Brenda was taking inventory in her mind, and asked in a rather loud voice:
“Do you still have your nuts?” Then looking down and seeing them in my hand, added:
“Oh there they are! They’re so small, I almost didn’t see them.”
The lady in the next line snickered so hard that her handkerchief was called into duty. The cashier started to giggle until we made eye contact briefly. The rest of the checkout seemed to take forever, as I was wanting to vacate the premises. As soon as we were instructed to “have a nice day”, we headed out the door quickly.
We went straight home because it’s not good to leave boys alone if the toolbox isn’t locked up. Sooner or later, some families learn about curiosity killing the cat, but not entirely due to the cat being curious as much as that of some child with a claw hammer or a saw. We saw Penny Lane in the yard as we pulled in the driveway, so we knew our cat was okay, at least for now. We also saw the dawgs. They were happily licking the air all around their faces at twice the speed limit, so Brenda and I knew peanut butter sandwiches would not be on the menu that day without a trip back to the store.
When you buy a jar of peanut butter, it is at best a temporary solution unless you never intend to use it. Too much is presumed about permanence. You can imagine a door lock as a permanent thing, but it isn’t, no more than is a jar of peanut butter. And instead of being assets, they can turn into liabilities. Just as they can be found useful, they can also come up wanting of some desired quality due to the presence of thumbs. My oldest son has two thumbs, and like his father, can twiddle them to disarm the idea we might be up to something. But he is a good boy–a fine young man.
One day, David was called to the school office and told his parents were coming to pick him up, and that he was to be checked out. Well, he knew better. In fact, we had arranged for him to take care of the house while we were out of town. He knew since we were traveling, we would not be reachable by phone.
He tried to tell them it was a mistake, but the school secretary would not listen. In fact, it was a mistake: they’d called the wrong “David” to the office. It was a little thing like a last name that threw them off course. He waited awhile, but no one in the office ever acknowledged the error. After awhile, he decided on his own to just go back to class. He presumed it would be no big deal.
His teacher was quite surprised to see him. It was not normal for a student to have an excuse to leave, and not do so. He said he had to almost beg to be allowed to remain in class, and wondered if he would be punished for making such an irregular request. He thought it was a little thing to just be allowed to sit down, listen to the lesson, and maybe take some notes. But the teacher made a big thing out of it and worried that he was not supposed to be there.
As it turned out, no harm came of it, other than having to go by the office the next morning to explain why he remained at school when he had been excused to leave. I’m sure children sometimes think talking with adults seems like nonsense, and I’m sure this was true to that rule. Perhaps it was one of the dumbest conversations the boy ever had with an assistant principal. Hmmm. Come to think of it, that is probably not true at all.
I once asked a teacher what was the main reason they were promoted to assistant principal, and he said it was because they thought he was a civil engineer. My puzzled look brought the explanation that from now on he would be converting mole hills into mountains in order to justify his salary. He seemed to think it funnier than I did at the time.
Well, when David got home that day, it was at the regular time though he could’ve arrived a couple of hours earlier if he’d been of a mind to take advantage of the school’s error. When he got there, he found his house key where it should be in his pocket, so no windows or doors took a hit. The refrigerator, however, was going to have to be re-stocked. But thank goodness we don’t lock it. It’s cheaper to replace the contents than to replace the door to it every day.
Oh, besides feeding himself, he did feed the dawgs, the cat, and the Guinea pigs in our absence. Or, if he didn’t, they never said a word about it.