Deliver Me from Deliver-It-Yourself
“You know what would be nice?” Bobby flipped down the top third of the newspaper and regarded me with the natural suspicion of husbands everywhere.
“What is that?”
“A small piece of flat land.”
I was standing at the windows that offer a sweeping view of the New York-Pennsylvania border and our field and woods, all carpeted in snow and capped with a lead gray sky. Robert—a veteran of many encounters with my “ideas,” simply waited.
“For a fire pit,” I continued. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an outdoor fire pit? We just have too much slope.”
Now, back in middle school, when they took all the boys into one assembly to teach them to shave or belch, or both at the same time, they put the girls together and introduced us to female methods of persuasion. Some of these concepts cannot be discussed openly or I will lose my membership in the Sisterhood, but there are a couple in the public domain. Tears are the most commonly mentioned, but one of the go-to tactics in my toolbox is The Sigh. It’s gotta be impressive, starting from your knees. It should be sustained and loud enough to overcome environmental noise factors—like a husband with his fingers stuck in his ears. I am an expert sigher, though, and Bob knows all that is usually left for him to do is wait for the little timer to pop out of his cooking goose.
However, men are not exactly weaponless themselves, and that moment at the window represented the last time I would be the lead dog on this particular home improvement project. In fact, all I did was kick the first stone off the mountaintop. The avalanche that followed was all on him. In a matter of hours, the simple idea of an eight-by-eight platform for a small fire pit had morphed into a tiered deck addition to the house, complete with outdoor kitchen, covered seating area, and hot tub. Staring at the architectural-quality drawing my better half had produced faster than a hiccup, I realized I had played right into a plan that was fully developed in his head long before my sigh had begun its journey up my body.
We started gathering pieces of the deck project as we found bargains. The fire pit was an out-of-season snatch for a song and the stonework was a discontinued stroke of luck. On a bitter March day, I saw a sale on the type of decking boards we were interested in. We trucked off the hill and found the stuff was just what we were after. We purchased just shy of a thousand square feet. (Remember my eight by eight idea? Forget it. All this thing was going to need was a wind sock and the medical helicopter could land on it.)
“Will they deliver the boards?” I asked as I climbed into the truck.
My husband grinned and shook his head.
“This,” Bob said triumphantly, “is why we bought a trailer.” The autumn before, we had picked up a fifteen-foot trailer, a nice one with sides and a gate, to help with all the chores having our hilltop home seemed to necessitate. It was parked next to the garage, snoozing away the snowy days. Bob had the hitch set up on blocks, so it would be easy to back the truck up, fit the ball over the hitch, secure it, and head out. Turns out, the blocks had shifted and the trailer was sitting firmly on the frozen ground. That was okay, because we had hydraulic jacks to lift the hitch back up and slide the blocks under again. Bob retrieved the jacks and put one into position. Crank. Crank. Crank. Crankity-crank-crank. It sure looked to my untrained eye like the jack wasn’t lifting anything, including my husband’s spirits.
“It’s too cold. No problem,” he rebounded.
The truck was turned on, the heat in the cab blasted, and the unresponsive jacks placed on the seats. One of us asked again about having the boards delivered. Instead, it was suggested by the other of us that all we had to do was prop the trailer up enough for me to jam the blocks back into place.
This was not suggested by me.
Bob got a 2x4, jammed it under the trailer hitch, and pushed down while I tried to return the blocks to position.
The trailer slipped off the board and crashed back to earth, triggering my self-preservation instinct. I leapt up and back and counted all my fingers upon landing.
“Ready to try again?” My husband showed no concern for my future ability to feed myself.
“Can’t we just ask them what they would charge to deliver the boards?” I tried to sigh, but the cold had set up camp in my feet and no air was getting higher than my shins.
“For all those boards? It would be a fortune. Come on, give it another shot.”
We did. is time, I got two of three blocks under the hitch before the trailer dropped again. We were painfully close. And by painfully I mean frostbite.
“Bobby, it’s one phone call. You don’t have to ask, I will. I’m great at not knowing stuff. It’s one of my best things!”
We had been at it more than an hour. The lead sky was unloading an odd mixture of sleet and snow that plastered our faces and made breathing a contact sport. The warmed up jacks were given another chance to be heroes, but declined to rise to the occasion. Finally, we got the trailer up high enough to receive the connection from the truck.
At the home improvement store, the first board was fed into the trailer and my husband dragged it in. In a heartbeat, we knew we had a numbers problem. Fifteen-foot trailer. Sixteen-foot boards.
Bob did everything but stand on his head trying to get that board to fit. I looked at the mountainous pile of boards to be loaded, a trailer with a gate that couldn’t be closed, my half-frozen husband, and decided to risk a question.
“Just for giggles,” I said to the young man beside me, “what would you charge us to deliver this?”
“The boards? Up to your place?” The kid mentally calculated for about a nanosecond, then responded. “Twenty bucks.”
Something deep inside of me snapped. It may have been my spinal cord when I whirled around with murder in my eyes and barked, “ROBERT!”
Informed of the delivery cost, Bob, still standing in the trailer with a half-bent board over his head, calmly replied, “Oh. Let’s do that.”
He was right about the size of the deck. He was right about the outdoor kitchen and the hot tub. He was right about the stone for the fire pit.
But the next time he won’t ask about delivery, I’m skipping the sigh and going straight to the tears.