That One Guy


"It's an eyesore," complained our hoity toity canine.
He was talking about the deck my sweet Sven built almost thirty years ago. The deck that had survived three kids and was on it's third dog.
The special bonding paint that was supposed to hold things together and fill in all the cracks was coming off in strips, revealing a shade of red underneath it and a shade of old gray wood underneath that.
His highness spends a lot of time out there.
Sometimes because he prefers to.
And sometimes because we prefer that he prefer to.
But Hunter was embarrassed about the condition of his throne.
"It looks like shit," he said. "I am not going out there until something is done about it."
This turned what had merely been a crappy looking deck that I had been bitching about for a few years.
Into an emergency.

Sven did some quick calculations and went into town.
A little later he arrived home and made an announcement.
"The lumber will be delivered sometime today."
And before he even finished his sentence, Hunter began to bark, because the lumber was being delivered.
Hunter was elated.
As was I.
We all had some lunch.
Changed into our work clothes.
And grabbed our crow bars, hammers and such.
We sprang out into the sunshine.
Sven and I began wrenching the old boards up off the framing.
One at a time.
They were in no mood to go anywhere.
Not after all those years.
We muscled three rows off the upper deck.
I carried each successful battle across the gravel driveway, through the bright yellow coreopsis and over to the burn pile, very carefully, so as not to stab myself with the long, sharp as tack, screws.
That is when I spotted him.
That one guy who'd punched in.
And vanished.
He was sitting under the shade of the big white pine, up to his eyeballs in lilies.

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"What are you doing over here?"
He just stared ahead.
Sven began screwing in the new lumber.
One long board. One short board.
One short board. One long board.
One long board. One short board.
You have to stagger them, you see.
"Millie, do you want to give it a try?"
"Get the screw started first," he showed me. "Then you can drive it right in."
He went inside to rest a while.
I got pretty good at screwing on deck boards.
And that one guy went for a dip.


Every so often we ran into a real bastard of a board.
One that would not pry loose.
That would bust into pieces.
And would have us all cussing.
Except for that one guy.
He never swore.

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Nothing seemed to bother him.
Not unless we had to poke him to move over a couple feet.
Only then would he mumble something inaudible under his breath before finding another spot to spin around a few times and plunk back down.
Did you know that bossing around wood gives one a feeling of power?
I didn't either.
Not until I, me, Huckleberry Finn, whitewashed the fence for my sweet Sven.
You see, he taught me how to place the screwdriver on the joist right next to a board, if that board had an opinion of its own. Pound it into the joist with the hammer. And pull that screwdriver until that board was positioned exactly where I needed it to be positioned.
And then screw that baby in real tight.
"You are a natural," he said.
And he went inside to put his feet up.
To cool off.
And to digest whatever he just made himself to eat.
While that other one guy stuck by my side, licking little ankle breaker holes in the yard.
I always did want to be a carpenter.
My dream was fulfilled.
"I held up a black and blue middle finger upon Sven's return to the worksite.
"What'd you do?"
"I was pulling that board this way and the screwdriver went that way. I don't even know what hit what."
"What happened over there?" said Sven, pointing.
"Oh that? Well, you see, I was going along and screwing them all in line with the screws from my past on those boards. And somehow, as I went into the future on those boards, I must have veered a little to the right."
"I got off track."
"Well, you screwed that whole row into nothing," he said.
"They did go in really easy."
The new deck is absolutely gorgeous.
It is now drying out between rainfalls.
Sven said I should be able to stain it in a couple weeks.
And I didn't even ask if I could.
But I will not be alone in my work.
That one guy will be there with me.
He is planning to punch in and be on the clock.
As he should.
It is his throne after all.

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