I could procrastinate no longer. I was time to clean my chimney (no, that’s not a euphemism for something kinky… you freak!).
Reluctantly I shuffled to and fro with tools and ladders and brushes and several of those infernal fiberglass extension rods. (They always always either cross thread or risk leaving the brush in the middle of the chimney.) Finally I ascended to begin my ritualistic tour of duty at the butterchurn of creosote.
Mindful of gravity I’d recruited the nearest kid as a safety officer. “Stay here, if I fall, call 911 before I bleed out.” There was whining. “It’s so haaaarrdd. Can’t someone else do it? This is worse than school.” If I could train my dog to do it I would have. Nobody but a kid can make breathing air while holding a cell phone sound like torture. Most teenagers need a few months working in a Kentucky coal mine to give ’em perspective.
Admittedly there was mission creep. Initially I was only counting on a pulse and someone to hold the cell phone. But things went as they do and I’d toss down a rope and shout “clip on the little canvas bag and put a screwdriver in the bag”. Infants and toddlers are intelligent, inquisitive, active, bundles of energy but by the time they hit teenagerhood either biology or school has burned that down to an ember of ennui and condition white. Since when is “put the screwdriver in the bag” a complex task? If that’s hard who’s going to manage civilization in the future. Heck, who’s going to make Big Macs in the future?
I did get assistance so I shouldn’t complain. Everything got done but at the speed of teenager. Perched from 40′ I was in something of a hurry, but teenagers in motion are sleepy turtles on qualludes slowly growing old and dumb while wandering in circles. Ugh!
Shouting “I’m on a goddamn roof, get the lead out” got things moving at the speed of rusty Yugo in mud. It was an improvement but not much. I counted to ten… about a dozen times.
Eventually the kid got with the program. There was a glimmer of intelligence. Active participation even! Buckets of ash were dumped more or less where they should have gone. Tools were picked up and not left for the lawnmower. Whining continued but progress was made. Light at the end of the tunnel!
I disassembled the fireproof vacuum and gave it a good cleaning. The cat tried to help. I disassembled the stove and gave it a good once over. The cat tried to get stuck in it. The teenager whined “it’s so dusty”. (No shit Sherlock it’s called “ash”.) Door gaskets were repaired and when I missed the cat I opened the door to let it out. Fittings were re-fit. Knuckles were scraped.
Eventually the job was done. And it was good. I apologized for my gruffness and refrained from an explanation of “get the lead out”. The kid vanished in search of a shower. At the retreating back I said “thank you”. There was a grunt of acknowledgement.
I should have been happy. The chimney was in superlative shape. The cleaning was more a safety check than mandatory maintenance. We’ve been burning cleanly and it shows. Elapsed time? Maybe an hour or two. An onerous task was done and one more bulwark against deadly winter is assured; but the whining had drilled into my brain.
Squirrels. Fuck them. Climbing down the ladder I’d notice a few squirrels running around one of my tractors. The little cretins are probably eating wires or storing nuts in the tail pipe.
I decided I needed to hunt squirrels. Or rabbits. Or grouse. Or basically anything edible.
I bid farewell to the kid, who was slowly merging into the couch, and grabbed my Grandfather’s old shotgun. I’m a lousy small game hunter. Who cares? It’s all about not being in the house.
Halfway across the lawn I’d bagged a squirrel. Half an hour later I flushed a grouse. We played cats and mice all over a patch of forest until it totally outclassed me. Laughing that something with a brain the size of a grape outsmarted me I sat down to watch the show. It has been a fine fall. Leaves fell. Chickadees came by to investigate. I spooked a couple of deer. (I hate disturbing deer before the big game season but not enough to stay inside watching TV.) I hiked around for no good reason, across a swamp, around some trees I ought to have made into firewood, through some brush. Finally a second squirrel was so obvious I pretty much had to bag it. Beyond that it was just an armed walk.
Around dusk I returned with two squirrels and a smile on my face. Kids are kids and things move at their own speed… even when you’re on the damn roof. It had been a good afternoon after all.
P.S. I’m not the only one who needs “woods time” once in a while.