Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 8:07 p.m.
I haven’t had a day like this since my daddy died.
They happened all the time when I was a kid, and he was in his natural prime. Daddy would ask me to help him with a couple things, say it wouldn’t take 30 minutes, and he would proceed to kill the whole afternoon. I didn’t say anything. I’d just mope. I didn’t want to give him an excuse to get all bent out of shape, but I wanted him to know he was ruining a perfectly good sunny day.
I got a Nikon camera / I wanna take a phhhhhotograph / Oh, Daddy, don’t take my Kodachrome away …
Apologies to Paul Simon. In the song, it was Mama. In the song, there was Kodachrome. Now it’s all digital.
The first task of the day was to get my ailing printer working. It’s not old. It just stopped running. It won’t turn on. It hasn’t been mishandled. It hasn’t been overused. There’s just some poor connection. I talked to a fellow on the phone who said bring it up.
He looked at it and said, “No, this doesn’t have a brick.”
A brick. I felt like the kid in the insurance commercial who doesn’t know what a lug wrench is.
“I can’t do anything with this. I’m good working on laptops.”
“I might bring one to you. It’s the little one I take on the road,” I said. “It’s a tablet you plug into a keyboard. The touch screen stopped working.”
“I don’t know anything about tablets,” the man said.
Get ready. Here it comes. I hear it over and over.
“If I was you, I’d just run up to Walmart and buy me a new one.”
I don’t go to Walmart. It’s against my religion. I walked around the corner and up the street to buy a new printer. I got a better deal than Walmart would have offered.
Task two. Get the mower running. This required buying a battery. The right-rear tire was slack. In an incredible stroke of luck, I had a fix-a-flat can that wasn’t empty. I used it to pump up, and theoretically fix, any leak. I made it two times around the yard, and the tire went completely flat.
I own a small air tank. I may not have used it in 10 years. The amount of dust on it was incredible. I took it up to the place where, minutes earlier, I had purchased the battery. Back in the work bay, a man said he’d be glad to fill up the tank. I told him I had to settle up on the battery, anyway, so I’d come back and get it. When I came back, I couldn’t help but notice that either the gauge was broken or the tank was empty. The fellow said it wouldn’t take air and that he’d put 100 pounds in it, and it ran right back out because it didn’t matter which way he turned that red screw, it didn’t keep the air in.
I took the air tank up to True Value Hardware and said it wouldn’t work. Three people said they didn’t know where they had the … apparatus? … valve? … whatchamacallit is what one said … that would replace the whatever it was that was already on it. I left the tank there and asked them to look at it all they wanted, and I’d check back tomorrow.
I have a new printer, a new battery, exactly two rows of the yard reclaimed from wilderness, and, quite possibly, tomorrow I shall have a new portable air tank.
Another way I cobble out a living is with my books, a wide variety of which are available for sale here.
The new novel, my eighth, is called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Lightning in a Bottle is now available in an audio version, narrated by Jay Harper.