Alex's Most Excellent Idea
by Margaret B. Davidson
"Dad, Maria wants a shed in the back yard for our lawn mower and stuff. Can you help me build one?"
"He wants my advice." Phil's grin told me he was chuffed. After all, it wasn't so long ago that Alex went to remarkable lengths to avoid accepting the most minimal advice about anything from his father. I did wonder, however, whether the word advice had actually cropped up in the conversation. Wanting help and wanting advice could be two entirely different things, but I kept that thought to myself.
The following weekend we drove the eight hours to Alex and Maria's new house in Virginia. As we pulled into their driveway there was no sign of the kit Alex had said would be delivered earlier that day.
I called Home Depot and they promised it would be here by six," said Alex.
Maria glared at him. "I told you to get it delivered a couple of days early. You never listen!"
I hid my grin.
"I know, I know. I should have taken your advice."
He's putty in her hands. I love my daughter-in-law.
Home Depot didn't deliver the merchandise until early afternoon the next day, leaving only a day and a half for the guys to put the shed together before Phil and I headed back to Rochester.
"No problem, Dad. We'll get the base down today, put up the sides and the roof tomorrow."
"It's not gonna go that quick, Alex."
"Sure it will."
"It'll never get done if you stay here arguing about it," says Maria.
Maria is an artist and I love her work, especially her paintings, several of which hang in our own living room. That Saturday I stayed in the house and helped her with a furniture refinishing project. Through the open window we could hear nails being pounded into wood, occasional curses and more than a few arguments.
"Do you think it's possible they'll come to blows?" Maria asked.
"Oh, this is nothing compared to what we went through when Alex was a teenager."
"We want a baby soon, but I don't want to cope with what my Mom went through when Luca was fifteen."
"Your brother turned out to be a nice young man in the end."
"Yeah, but my Mom's never been the same. Will you listen to those guys? Jeesh!"
The guys did get the base finished that day, and even a couple of side pieces went up. They were pleased with their progress.
At ten the following morning, Phil and Alex came into the kitchen, oblivious to the sawdust drifting from their clothing onto the kitchen floor. Their argument was more heated than usual.
"I told you, Dad, we can't rip up the base and start over. It'll take the rest of the day to pull it up, let alone relay it."
"You can't leave it a half-assed job."
As those well-practiced words tripped from Phil's tongue I had a sense of deja-vu. Had it really been fifteen years since they'd been his daily mantra to his son? Silly me for thinking we had gotten beyond that point.
"Look what you're doing to the floor!"
"Forget the freaking floor, Maria. We got a problem."
"The base is down in the wrong direction. The door's gonna have to be around the side instead of the front."
"You're kidding me. That'll look stupid!"
"I agree," I said. "If the shed were behind the house it wouldn't matter, but being right next to the house it's going to look weird."
"We don't have time to fix it, Mom. You and Dad are leaving tomorrow."
Phil ran his fingers through what was left of his hair. "We can probably pull it up in a couple of hours. Then if we get the sides up all you have to do is get the roof on next weekend."
Maria swept the sawdust from the floor in short, angry bursts. "I can't believe you, Alex."
Alex ignored her. He was thinking. After a few seconds of concentration, he slapped his thighs in triumph, sending up another cloud of sawdust. "I've got it!
"I can't wait," muttered Maria.
"Maria, you're an artist. You can paint a door on the front! From the street nobody will be able to tell the difference."
"What! Have you lost your mind? What kind of stupid idea is that?"
"Come on, Maria. You're an art--"
I grabbed the broom before she could hit him with it.
The four of us managed to rip the base up in only a couple of hours. Then, although it took them until dark, the guys finished reassembling the side pieces. Before we left the next morning there was much back-slapping between father and son, and promises of further help from Phil with future projects.
Alex did indeed complete the project the following weekend. Maria has put aside her worries about the future and is pregnant. She's asked God for a girl.
Margaret B. Davidson was born and raised in England. She now lives in upstate New York with her husband and cat. Margaret's husband provides moral support for her writing endeavors, while the cat helps with the typing. Contact Margaret.