The Cost of a Good Neighbour
Our backyard fence mirrored the
of nursery rhyme, falling down, falling down. Ann and I had delayed the project
for two years, managing our home improvement expenses, allotting dollars to
immediate necessity: fence or kitchen, furnace or fence? Besides, our
jury-rigged system of bungee cords, twine and propping stakes had sort of done
its job, much like an intern, a new hire or a boss-favoured incompetent
colleague. London Bridge
Another replacement had been on tap for two years. Universal health care is a wonderful privilege though the system’s gears could benefit from a little lubricant from time to time. Ann finally got fast-tracked for a shiny new titanium hip, time is irrelevant on bureaucratic clocks. Don’t do the hippy-hippy shake until the forms have been filled out in triplicate even if every day following a sleep deprived night becomes increasingly painful to endure. Disabled parking permits are nothing to strive for; that polite convenience masks a crippling curse.
Naturally both reclamations involving saws coincided even though our kitchen calendar clearly indicated they were to occur a week apart. Schedules are for other people, dictators who make them up and then can’t abide by them. It’s not spring so much in
as pollen season. Everything is
golden, dusted with an impossibly fine yellow powder. Edmonton
Surgery these days is very much an involved procedure. Last Wednesday Ann and I awoke at four-thirty in the morning: drink one cup of clear juice – apple or cranberry, scrub incision area, write YES PLEASE on left thigh, go to hospital with crutches and walker but no valuables. And meanwhile our backyard had become a Christo installation, flags and paint denoting the subterranean water main and gas line; a steel bin, three days early for the demolition of the rotten old fence, clogging the driveway.
Pollen season is also wildfire season. Wednesday was
Africa hot. City buses alternated their
numbers and routes scrolling above their windshields with FIRE BAN IN EFFECT.
Following a visit with Ann after her surgery I took the train home from the
hospital, 21 steaming minutes station to station. As I walked along our street
a furnace gust of wind blasted a cloud of pollen from a giant fir as I passed.
The powder clung to sticky me like corn meal on a ball of pizza dough.
I became even more annoyed as I neared the Crooked 9. Our fence contractor was pacing in front of out house. He was on his phone, elbow up, hand to ear. I thought, “Tattoo sleeves with green ink always look infected. Get off your damn phone and do your job; those things cannot be good for productivity. Maybe he’s talking to a vendor. The lumber arrived a day late, after all.”
He waved to me. A few moments later he hung up. He met me at the end of the driveway by the bin. He was pale, his blue eyes flooded with anxiety. I furrowed my brow and arched an eyebrow.
“I’m sorry. I hit the gas line. Just nicked it hand-digging the last post hole. An emergency crew is on its way.” I lit a cigarette while I digested his information. He said, “I’m not sure that’s a good idea.”
“Everything went very, very smoothly. Excellent. Thanks for asking.” I ruffled some pollen from my hair and scratched a little more from my beard. I smiled at him. If one job was destined to be botched on a day like today, well, who cares about a fence and a gas leak? “I’m getting a beer. Want one? We can’t do anything anyway, only wait for things to get fixed.”