Eric’s a pretty decent bloke. A retired teacher and UK import, he’s been living on our little block since 1968. Always quick with a wave or a clap on the back, he and his wife were first at our door to welcome us into the neighbourhood, gift-basket in hand. Since then, he’s been the consummate gentleman, nodding attentively when I’m describing my plans for the place, never intrusive, respecting our privacy but always politely interested in how we’re doing. The perfect neighbour: Fred Rogers could take lessons.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t care if he was a semi-reformed axe-murderer with a peacock-sanctuary in the backyard and a penchant for three a.m. amateur bagpipe practice – he’s got a pickup truck.
Greater love hath no man than this; that he lendeth his pickup truck unto me. Yea, may his days be filled with the light of grace, just as I have surely filled the bed with this old couch, and some lawn trimmings, and these two dead cedars, and assorted.
As many of you know all too well, home-ownership is a never-ending stream of minor improvement schemes, referred to as “projects”, or the “honey-do list”, or, in my case, “Oh What The Hell’s Broken Now?”
However, a fumble-fingered DIYist such as myself has little need for full-time pickup truck ownership. Much will fit in the capacious boosted-lego-wagon, and really, anything too big for a Subaru wagon shouldn’t really be attempted by Yours Clumsy. At least, not without help.
Once in a while though, I find myself faced with a heap of debris that can’t be
simply flung over the back railing carefully placed into our well-managed compost heap. And, at the same time, there are those slightly more ambitious projects that require materiel too ungainly to strap to the roof of a compact car.
In such times as these, I have but to wander next door and find out when Eric doesn’t have a golf game to go to. He’s only to happy to hand over the keys and, for a few hours, suddenly I’m possessed of an honest-to-goodness truck.
When I’m driving my car, I’m usually race-prepped: seat bolt upright, elbows at my sides, looking through the corner, eyes always shifting, rev-matching on the downshift and generally pretending I look like a rally car driver and not an enormous toolbag. Climbing into Eric’s truck has an entirely opposite effect.
There’s no cool to be had here: the damn thing’s full of bears! The bench seats are spongy and redline’s at 4 grand. The interior is an unrelenting sea of greyish plastic with panel gaps you could lose a schnauzer in, and the air-conditioning ran away to join the circus about four years ago. Stick the column-shifter in D and off we toddle, windows down and crackly tunes coming through the feeble stereo.
Avian editorializing aside, this thing is great: such an honest, unpretentious machine. It’s Sheriff Andy Griffith in two-tone teal-on-grey. Just ease back in the seat, stick your arm out the window and try to stay out of the way. I wonder why all these folks are in such a hurry. Must be something real important.
Me? Well, I’ll get there when I get there. We’re moving fast enough to have a little breeze going on this hot July afternoon, and the dump’s just down the road a-ways. Just watch out for those who want to dive in front – these brakes aren’t exactly about to stand the Chev’ on her nose – and keep on truckin’.
Yard clippings get shovelled off into the green-waste pile and that old couch (a bit of a college relic) gets bunged into the general refuse pile. A few other folks are unloading trucks or utility trailers while big, steel-spiked front-end loaders wait impassively to crush and compact everything up for transport to some far-off land-fill. No time to muse on the unsightly byproducts of consumerism – off to the hardware store.
As you’d expect, the Silverado’s got the turning circle of a bulk cargo freighter, but leave it a little further out in the parking lot and you won’t have a problem. Home Depot’s the usual Sunday-afternoon zoo, but we’re in-and-out in about ten minutes (pretty well a record) with 8-foot sheets of corrugated roofing secured for the upper balcony.
Back in the saddle and homeward, with a brief stop to put a few bucks in the tank as is only common courtesy. My father and I have been at this project since early this morning, so we’re both comfortably dirty, and I can feel a bit of that coming tiredness that leads to a genuine, untroubled sleep.
I’m no working man, and this isn’t my truck, but as I grasp the wheel with callus-free hands, it’s like feeling the well-worn handle of a spade, or some other blunt-purposed tool. Somewhere, far off in my genes, stir the shades of men who once laboured in the Irish bog, slicing turf with quick, curt cuts.
Tonight, I’ll dine well, out in the backyard where I can see the fruits of the day’s labour. I’ll have hung my hammer back up in the shed, stacked the leftover lumber neatly against the wall, gathered up wayward nails into an old plastic peanut-butter container.
And, with a hand-shake and a murmured word of thanks, the keys to Eric’s pickup will be handed back and once more hang upon their peg. Until the next time.