There I was at the top of the ladder, hammer in hand, and there they were, scattered across the ground at the bottom of the ladder, a thousand nails glinting in the sunlight like silver jewels. I tried willing them back in the box and back up to my precarious perch high above, but they just lay there, happy as nails could be to have escaped their fate for a short while longer.
Colin came around the corner of the house just then muttering something about not being able to find the ladder and how Bud, next door, was going to get an earful for taking it again without asking. He stopped short when he saw it leaning against the side of the house with me on top of it. I mentally dared him to say anything stupid. He took the dare.
“What the hell are you doing up there?” Okay, it wasn’t exactly a stupid thing to say, but it was a good set up for a foolish follow up.
“I’m putting up the Christmas lights.”
“Um, Honey,” he said, rubbing his chin the way he does when he knows he’s about to step into murky water of undeterminable depths. “It’s August.”
Colin, being the practical man that he is, noticed the hammer and took a prudent step back. He must have also noticed the look on my face. A look that clearly said: What’s your point?
The Mexican standoff began!
While I waited at the top of the ladder for his hero archetype to kick in with my knuckles clinging to the eave in glowing damsel-in-distress white, he searched his mind for his best options. A few chin rubs later and a fearful grunt or two from me, he made his mind up to accept that he was going to spend that sunny afternoon putting up Christmas lights.
“Why don’t you come down from there and let me do it?” Colin suggested.
“Last time you said you’d do it, it didn’t get done and we didn’t have lights last year.”
“Yeah, well...” He looked down and saw the nails strewn throughout the grass. I could see his head shaking in disbelief as he realized I was planning on hammering them into the freshly painted facia board. It was an obvious choice between doing it himself and certain disaster. “Just hand me that hammer before you drop it on my head and get down off there.”
I lowered the hammer carefully and began my descent. Good sport that I am, I helped him rake all the nails out of the grass and put them back into the box where they belonged.
“Where are the Christmas lights?” Colin asked.
“In the shed. The clips for the eaves are in the box with them.” I walked away smiling with great satisfaction.
Who in their right mind puts Christmas lights up with a hammer and nails anyway?
I spent the rest of the afternoon in my garden gathering fresh veggies for dinner and making a lemon ice cream dessert. I figured Colin deserved a special treat.
The next day I got out the wheel barrow, a bag of mortar, a trowel and the hose and dragged them all to the front yard next to the stack of bricks that were killing the lawn. They had sat there for weeks waiting to become a planter. Just for good measure, I grabbed a spade, a rake and a few other dangerous looking bits of equipment. I donned a pair of work gloves, pulled a few strands of hair out of the scrunchy that was tying it back, and, just as Colin rounded the corner of the house in search of his wheel barrow and muttering about Bud taking things without asking, I turned on the hose.
“Ah,” said Colin, “there’s my wheel barrow. Are you going to be using it for very long?”
My head snapped up and the hose flipped out of the wheel barrow, soaking my legs and feet. “What did you say?” My brain was having trouble processing his words.
“I asked if you were going to be long with the wheel barrow. I need it to haul the grass clippings over to the compost pile. But it can wait until you’re done... whatever you’re doing.” He smiled and gestured in the direction of the stuff I had dragged out. “I think I’ll just head over to the golf course and hit a few practice balls while you’re using the wheel barrow.”
He started to walk away. “I have my cell phone with me. Just call when you’re finished and I’ll scoot home and finish up with the lawn.”
I was stunned. In twenty-five years of marriage, my ruse had never failed before. Colin had always succumbed to my clever traps. I had no point of reference to fall back on, so I just stood there and watched him drive away.
Bud from next door appeared from the other side of the house a few minutes after Colin had left me standing there without a clue how to build a brick planter. ``Hey, Mary! Can I borrow your wheel barrow?”
“Take it,” I said in disgust.
“Thanks.” Bud dumped the water out of it and wheeled it away.
There’s nothing worse than being nailed to the wall and then left hanging there. I went back in the house and ate the rest of the lemon ice cream dessert.