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COMMENTARY: All decked out.

Someone building a deck in your world? Perhaps you can relate.
deck
Humour columnist Helen Row Toews offers thoughts on deck-building. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

A chill is stealing through the poplars outside my window. It won’t be long before their leaves turn to shades of yellow and drop sadly to the ground. In truth, I suppose it’s me that’s sad they’re dropping, not the leaves. (I knew it was one of us.) Summer is quickly turning into autumn and harvest is beginning.

Tom, my husband, has been busy building a deck. As a result, I can honestly say I know a fair bit more about the structure of a deck than the average disinterested woman. I’ve heard of nothing else for several weeks. If there was even the slightest opportunity to turn a normal, everyday conversation into a discussion over the merits of 2x8 construction, or the correct method used when calculating stair tread depth, he took it.

“Tom, would you hoist this bag for me?” I said one afternoon, as I struggled up the stairs with 30lbs of dog food. 

“Floor joists you say?” he answered absently, staring out the window at a pile of pressure treated lumber. “They’re spaced every 16 inches.”

“Look Tom,” I squealed, another time, “Aliyah’s reaching for her graduation certificate.” 

“Hokey Dinah!” he countered, pointing in the opposite direction. “Do you see the railings on that house over there? I wonder if they’ve used 1x6 or 2x2s. Quick! Take a picture so I can examine it later.”

One day this August, the Saskatchewan Writers Guild asked me to read a portion of my book online, from home. I was a little anxious about it. Would I mumble incoherently, or grin into the camera with a hunk of lettuce between my teeth? Perhaps my young daughter would burst into the room to announce the cat had vomited in her shoes. These were the sort of wild thoughts that ran through my head. 

Why this sudden change of topic you may ask? Hang on. 

Prior to this event I had spoken privately with my husband. “Please don’t work on your deck for the next half hour,” I’d asked, looking full into his eyes and enunciating each word clearly. “I’ll be reading into a microphone on the other side of this wall.”

It got off to a fine start. I introduced myself with a winning smile and tried my best to look at ease. After the first few paragraphs, I started to relax and enjoy the experience. 

“This is going well,” I thought happily.

Then, the hammering started. 

BANG, BANG, BANG. 

I raised my voice to be heard over the din. 

BANG, BANG, BANG. 

My smile became forced and my eyes flitted to the window and back to the screen all shifty-like. 

BANG, BANG, BANG. 

In my heart of hearts I wished for nothing more than to leap through the glass and strangle the man. 

BANG, BANG, BANG. 

I laughed in a demented sort of way as the chapter drew to a close, and made some garbled apology as the incessant hammering continued. 

It’s a dandy deck, don’t get me wrong. Upon completion, Aliyah and I stepped outside and gladly voiced our appreciation for all the labour involved in its construction, and exclaimed at its true magnificence. 

Forgiveness was a little harder to bestow. Apparently Tom had avoided using his power tools during the time of my reading, but thought a little hammering wouldn’t be noticed. 

Yeah—wrong

Helen Row Toews writes about the humour of everyday rural life. See more at myprairiewool.com





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