May 20, 2019

That’s Just How It Works

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

My wife and I have agreed.  Finally.  We’re replacing the garage roof this fall.  Hallelujah!  At last.  About time.  If only we’d done it earlier, perhaps the ceiling inside would be in better shape.  But of course we had to wait until Hurricane Isaac dumped four and a quarter inches of rain.  At least half of that wound up inside.

Yeah, we were late.

That’s just how it works.

I took Wendy out to show her the mess.  “I put another two gallons of roofing cement over the cracks and holes the day before Isaac.”

She glances at me, eyebrow lifting.

I answer her unasked question.  “No.  It didn’t work.”

In front of the garage we look up.  A patchwork quilt of asphalt-stitched roofing strains gaping seams and drips black at us.  “I’ve flashed, patched and patched the patches until there’s nothing more I can do.”  I wave at my garage.  “We have to reroof it.  We’re going to lose the building if we don’t.”

My wife is cautious.  She knows I struggle keeping this farm but, let’s face it, she’s done far better with her dogs than I have with traditional farming.  Helping me means cuts to the bread and butter of this operation.  If we spend money here, there won’t be any for there.  This is why she’s our chief financial officer.  Because I don’t just hate budgets, I’m bad for them.

I watch these thoughts flash across her face and move to forestall argument.  “If  you think it looks dire from the outside, wait until you see the interior.”

I lead the way into the first bay.  Water puddles the concrete floor.  Footfall splashes echo.  Spackling stalactites dangle from ceiling joints.  It appears we’ve entered a subterranean cavern complete with soaked, glistening walls.

A rectangle of saturated sheetrock has came down, sodden and limp in the corner.  Blown-in insulation that used to occupy the attic snowed fiberglass drifts over the molding, shattered gypsum.  Flakes float in the puddle, turning slowly sodden.  “Ta-da!” I exclaim, arm out, indicating the storm.  “You see?  I’m not making this up.”

My wife shakes her head and capitulates.  “Why not call Donny Vinson.”  She says it in a single exhale, a sigh of lament.  Donny is a local carpenter who’s been kind enough to help us on previous occasions.

Before she can change her mind, I do exactly that.


Predictably, Donny is busy.  All the good contractors are.  He’ll get to us, but it will take some time.  Typical.

I spend the next hour studying the long-range forecast.  It looks as though the fall rains, long delayed over this past summer’s drought, are here at last.  Yeah.  There’s lots of precipitation in the foreseeable future.  Of course Donny can’t work here in the rain.  Likely, he can’t work at the other jobs ahead of him ― and us ― in the rain either.  That means the garage ceiling, already surrendering, will be a lost cause before he arrives.

But that’s not Donny’s fault.

It’s ours.

Yeah.  We were late.  Again.

I sigh and admit the truth.

That’s just how it works.