Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment
By: Leo N. Ardo
Fifty feet from the traffic light it changed to green. Gina Rollins transferred her right foot from the brake to the accelerator. Thirty-two days from her 90th birthday, the date she promised to stop driving. Passing the last cross traffic lane, the high-speed blur caught her eye, but it was too late. The force coming from the right side rammed the car into oncoming traffic. The driver’s door popped open, and she continued to fly after the car stopped; because the seat belts had not been clicked for the past seventy-three years.
Gina thought about that morning in 1939. Snow filled her shoes as she escaped from her new mother and brutal father in upper Wisconsin. At the Ashland bus depot, sixteen-year-old Ginetta Boltreau bought her ticket under a new name, Gina Boltan, to begin a new, untraceable life. While hoping the delayed bus would leave town before her father began searching, she met Harknas Rollins, who had Americanized his last name at immigration from Rolinanetti. Harknas was twenty-three. It was love-in-four-days as they talked on their journey to Durango, Colorado.
Harknas, the gentle giant, asked Gina to marry. He was so kind, respectful, and handsome she said yes. Like other mining families, improving their living conditions required frugal money management and many do-it-yourself projects. Their original, small, three-room home had a separate outhouse. Over time, rooms were added: bedrooms for the kids, full bathroom with indoor plumbing, and the family dining area. Gina felt lucky to still be living at home with her son’s family. Sawyer and Cora moved in after Harknas died from pneumonia at age 87.
Suddenly, she found it difficult to maintain a stream of thoughts—they were short and random. How did I get here? Where is this room? How long? Why so fuzzy? Where am I? Is that Amy? My back is numb. Maybe it’s Jill. Why won’t my arms move? Why is Jill the only one here?
Jill noticed the slight movement of Gina’s body in the hospital bed. “Grandma, it’s Jill. Please be still. You have been in a car accident. Your back is broken. The doctor said you will be okay. We are moving the wedding date so you can be there. I am here to help you.”
Three days later, Cora, the daughter-in-law, was the family aid.
“Cora, please go ahead with the wedding. I cannot be the reason to delay their lives. I want great grandchildren. The wedding could be in the hospital chapel. Or, you were married in our home. Maybe the doctor will allow me to go home. Please consider it. You are always a practical thinker. You know I am right.”
Later that evening, Jill arrived to replace Cora. They discussed the wedding date and relocating it to their home, if the doctor approved Grandma’s release. Gina kept her eyes closed and listened to their conversation. Now she had to work on the doctor. She smiled.
Sawyer and Cora had three children: Jill, twenty-years old, was marrying Thomas, the dragline operator, this Saturday. Maximilian, eight years old, was the quiet twin. He did his homework and played with his action figures. Much to Sawyer’s dismay, his son played with dolls and needed a daily reminder to do his chores. Amy, the social twin, talked about anything at anytime with anyone. She scrambled her words more than most eight-year-olds, and the only thing that quieted her was feeling hopeless.
Three weeks to the wedding. A Saturday, Sunday afternoon, and two evenings were used to re-route the wiring from the fuse box, around the future pocket doors, to the dining room outlets and chandelier. The second week Sawyer installed the new chandelier that required bracing installation to handle the additional weight. Sawyer was not satisfied with the location of the wiring next to the future right door. I think this wiring should have been over to the right more. I am running out of time. I can’t finish if I move the wire again. The doors need to be installed, and I have to prepare the wall then paint. This is going to be close.
* * * * *
Thursday before the wedding, Amy attempted to sneak in the house and went right to her room. Cora knew something was wrong. Amy was the child that talked about everything.
Cora knocked gently, slightly opened the door, and asked, “May I come in?”
Being upset, Amy replied with a staccato, “Yes.”
“How was school today?” Cora asked, using her best mom voice.
“Oh, it was okay until we got this assay assignment. Here, look at this assessment sheet,” she said with less emphasis. Cora’s best mom voice was performing its magic.
Cora organized the key points as she read the assignment sheet: essay, 200 words, double-spaced, any subject matter, due Monday.
“This will be easy,” Cora encouraged.
Amy quickly retorted, “Nothing ever happens here! How can I write about nothing?”
“Amy, you are such a lucky girl. Your sister is getting married this weekend in her home so Grandma Gina can attend.”
Amy thought a few moments. I can just write what I see. A smile replaced her frown as she said, “Thanks, Mom.”
* * * * *
A neighbor advised Sawyer that pocket door installation was difficult. With that advice, Sawyer hand picked the straightest wood studs with the fewest knots. Aligning, hanging, and testing the doors took two evenings. Hanging the sheetrock, another evening. Taping and sanding required two more evenings. Prep and masking took four hours, then another hour to paint.
The masking tape was removed the following morning, and Sawyer smiled with pride. He had finally replaced those two cumbersome sun-bleached doors with space efficient pocket doors.
The wedding was in four hours.
Maximilian was preoccupied with his new action figure. Sawyer was losing his patience, having requested twice that Max dress for the wedding. Cora instructed Sawyer and the other men to leave so the ladies could get ready for the wedding. She would help Max with the tuxedo.
Sawyer rounded up the men for a trip to the Buffalo Hills Coffee Shop. They met Thomas “Digger” Louden, the groom; Dan, his best man; and Art, a groomsman. Continually rubbing the back of his neck revealed Thomas’s groom jitters. Additionally, he had ordered ten coffees, then opened one sugar and one creamer packet into each cup. This was a black coffee family. The men understood Thomas’s condition and drank without comment. A couple toasts were offered to Thomas using the “contaminated” coffee.
Bill Buffalo answered his phone, and then carried it to Sawyer.
“Hello,” Sawyer said.
“Max dropped the wedding ring in the heater vent. Amy said she heard it tumble down the vent,” Cora explained. Sawyer could hear the stress in her voice.
Sawyer checked his watch—two hours until the wedding.
End of Part One of Two
What else can go wrong? Read part two “Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay”
Part One: Comedy of Repairs – The Assignment
Part Two: Comedy of Repairs – The Wedding Essay
Leo N. Ardo: – I am a thirty-five year veteran of small business, and author of the Jon Hersey – Industrial Spy series. I enjoy photography, fly fishing, biking, and embellishing our travel experiences in journals titled Exaggerated Tales of an Ordinary Man.
We call Utah and Wyoming home.
Visit our website www.LeonardoStories.com
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Hoping life blesses you with good stories!