Saturday, April 24, 2010


He always saw better with his eyes closed. You can feel the wood that way. Little else mattered now, the doctors said he hadn’t much longer to live. He always saw better with his eyes closed. What really mattered now? Well? What else was there? Nothing. So he got out of bed because he had one more day. He left his room because he had one more day. He went out to his shop, because he had one more day. One more day to see the world, to feel the grains, to hear the sound sandpaper makes when it runs over the Pine skin. Smoothing it, like grit of life inextricably glued to the paper of his existence preparing him for the end. Preparing him for…well? It was about process, something about process. Something about enjoying the ride, about doing something and enjoying it while you did it, not just doing something for the sake of killing time. That was the way he saw it now, what a fool. Oh how he wished he could go back now. To relive his days…but this isn’t that kind of story. He went out to his shop, closing the door behind him, sealing it, and then he started his last project. His own coffin.

A carpenter never dreams of something like this. Never. Never in a million years do they ever think about doing something this morbid. What else is there? What could possibly be more morbid than building your own coffin from treated pine, and hard maple? He inspected the boards, much like his own frame, some grains neatly in line with what you’d expect from a specimen of wood, others misaligned, knotted spots, like marks on a reputation. Still, mostly good; Good enough. He mercilessly threw it on the sander. Life hadn’t been nearly as kind with his father’s divorcing his mother – shattering his family early on. He had been ten. He threw another piece on. The death of his grandparents. Trauma – makes you smooth – takes off the roughness, his had been mental – the board cried out as the sander hit a knot. Suffereing, it sharpens you. He kept reasoning. He kept working. He kept thinking. Because he had one more day.

He took out an old jigsaw – the oldest in his family – the same things that had plagued him at the beginning – would plague him now. Still the same fights, just different patterns, different kick backs, different jarring moments when the saw would jump off the wood sending splinters into his memory. What else is there? He put the saw back on the board. Pulled the trigger – moved the long electric cord – kept going. Why? Because he had more day. Because it was the right thing to do. Because it was all there was to do. You can’t quit. You can’t give up. You might be at the end, but as long as you have breath? Well? What else is there? He grabbed some finishing nails. The best kind – some left on reserve (but what was the point of having reserve now? Or insurance? Or even policy? Or protocol? Or even a title on his house?) The best kind he had. Set them aside. No need to stain it – what was the point? He finished the cutting. That was it. Right when you thought a piece was finished, right when you thought everything was going to be okay. Everything was going to be fine – going to be a light at the end of a tunnel – that’s when the nails start. That’s when the four cornered steel blades precisely split you without mercy. He had flunked out his first year of college. Stranded in the middle of some town no one could remember. That nail…one he’d never forget. Then when it’s done driving itself home, you get another – bills. And another – news. Well? What else was there? There was always good. Always good with whatever happened. He joined the two boards, set the glue, clamped it shut. The glue seeped out – things that freeze splinters; a pay raise, a tax break, his projects, a girlfriend. You always had to have glue. Keeps things together. He joined the sides – the pain was over. He knew what nails would come. He took the hardwood maple and started the sanding and the cutting and the thinking…all over again.

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