Man of the House

I love Jay. He’s a handy guy to have around. Given the right tools and the time, he can fix or build just about anything. When we finished the upstairs of the one and only house we ever owned, he did most of the work. He finished the drywall, installed the bathroom fixtures, and even put in a beautiful flight of red oak stairs. I’m convinced that the finished upstairs is what sold that house for us.

Jay is also quite the auto mechanic. Until just recently and unless it was something really big, he always performed our vehicle maintenance. He changed the oil, the belts, the fluids, rotated the tires – you get the picture. Just last weekend, Jay replaced the carburetor in his 1964 Chevy pick up. It’s a beauty – a candy apple red step-side with a wood paneled bed. I love driving that truck and watching mouths drop open as we roll by.

Jay chose a Holly to replace the old Edelbrock carburetor. The Edelbrock caused Big Red, as we affectionately call the truck, to stall and rattle, and you just can’t have that in such a handsome vehicle. The day the Holly arrived was like Christmas. As soon as the package landed on the porch, Jay was out the door, scooping it up. He carried it with great care to the dining room table and slit the tape with his pocket knife. He lifted out the packing paper, and there, gleaming, lay the Holly double-pumper, the stuff of every gear head’s dreams.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Jay asked, as he gently lifted the carburetor from the box and held it to the light. “Uh, yeah…it’s…great,” I said. He looked at me with annoyance for my lack of enthusiasm, put the steel vehicular heart back in the box with all the care a surgeon who’s just harvested an organ places it in the cooler for transport. He gingerly set the  box on the floor and announced that he’d be busy Saturday making the transplant.

On Friday about lunchtime, I arrived home to see Jay’s truck parked in front of the house. His office is only about ten minutes away, so he usually comes home for lunch. As I entered the front door and walked through the foyer, I looked to the right into the dining room, expecting to see Jay at the head of the table, feasting on last night’s leftovers and reading the news. What I saw instead made me gasp! There was Jay with the carburetor’s box open and pushed to the side on the dining room table. The Holly lay before him on his placemat where his lunch should have been as he squinted down at it in concentration, attaching the fuel line.

“What do you think you’re doing?” I demanded.

Jay looked up and distractedly answered, “Oh, hi, baby. I’m putting together Big Red’s new heart.”

“On the dining room table?!” I asked, shocked. Now, I feel I should point out that this is no ordinary dining room table. It’s a handcrafted Amish oak table that seats 10! It’s virtually irreplaceable. The faint smell of gas fumes flared my nostrils.

“I smell gas,” I said.

“Well, yeah, they test ’em before they ship ’em,” Jay answered, still looking at the carburetor, brow furrowed. I just stood there, waiting. He finally looked up.

“What?” He looked confused. I just stared at him. “What?! The table?” I nodded slowly, eyebrows raised, a look that said, “Yeah, dummy, the table!”

“It’s fine. I put a placemat down,” Jay said, sounding as if that settled the matter as he turned his attention back to the job at hand.  My shoulders slumped. Shaking my head, and acknowledging defeat, I went to the kitchen and made some lunch. I tried to sit in my usual spot to Jay’s right, but the smell of gasoline drove me to the other end of the table, where I sullenly ate and watched Jay work.

Afterwards, I took a picture of Jay at the table with the carburetor and posted it on Facebook. We got quite a few “likes” and “laughs,” especially since I’d posted a picture back at Christmas of Jay sharpening his chainsaw blade while the saw sat on the coffee table in the living room. His excuse that time was that it was cold out, and there was a good movie on. He’d put a towel down on the table under the chainsaw so it wouldn’t get scratched. I wasn’t sure if he meant the table or the saw.


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