I am currently between jobs. Or, as I prefer to put it, between contracts. This is mostly true, as I hope to obtain a teaching contract by this coming Fall which will give me what is considered to be a paying job and/or gainful employment by most of the masses within America. For isn’t that what we are truly measured by? “What do you do?” is a question that I really no longer have a straight answer for. The reality is that I take care of my four month old son while my wife, who has been named “Best Wedding Photographer” in Virginia two years in a row, works her magic with her camera and computer equipment, making beautiful brides more beautiful, and is there such a thing as an ugly bride? I think not, so her job is mostly enjoyable and very rewarding.
So is mine. I feel productive when I’m writing something such as this while little brown eyes grins and coos at me from his favorite perch in my office, which must also include his brown stuffed bunny, roughly the same size as him, his pacifier equipped monkey, which I feel mostly sorry for as he (the stuffed monkey) has a pacifier permanently jammed down his throat, a special little blue blanket constructed of the same material as his Mommy’s robe and assorted colorful plastic toys that also float. (My mind skitters to the line “WE ALL FLOAT” for just a moment and I then toss it aside, for the sun is shining and his bouncy chair also plays music and vibrates. I sometimes wish I had one.)
So we’ve established my job is pretty cool. Long hours are involved, and Nolan gets up really early, but he is still rather attached to his mother for early feedings so I can generally sleep in until seven or so before conjuring up some sort of breakfast. I then take a couple of hours to pretend to hunt for the elusive ginseng while Laura does magic in her office. The reality of the situation is I have no earthly idea what ginseng looks like and wouldn’t if it were chewing on me in the forest. My grandfather was famous for his ability to locate this elusive root, but as I ponder on the past I realize he never seemed to have any and was usually drunk. I wonder at the coincidence. I’ve tried to teach my dog Axl to help look for it, but he has proven to be most unfit for finding this magical plant. He is wonderful at finding other people’s gardens and trampling about in them while I apologize profusely to angry neighbors. I wonder why he hasn’t been shot. He is also very gifted at locating and eating roadkill. I’ve learned to give him plenty of time to vomit everything up before returning home as to not spoil the rest of the day.
I’m also given tasks to accomplish by my wife. This would be relatively easy were I trained in one specific field or trade. Instead, I’ve been a geologist, an engineer, a writer, a coal miner, a teacher, a cook and a very poor excuse for a carpenter. So while I am quite convinced I can accomplish most any task, my training works against me.
For example, my wife asked for a chicken coop. I assumed chickens were included. This requires research, extensive research, for there are my childhood preferences, which may or may not be suited to this microclimate, heritage breeds which are preferable to all other breeds, as they are just cooler because Daniel Boone may have eaten one of their great-great-great-great grandfathers or something. Then there are “ornamental” birds which I assume don’t do very much until Christmas, so they are out.
Then there is the matter of the coop, or chicken house. The engineer in me wants it to be able to withstand a small nuclear strike and have a moat. Complete with genetically modified crocodiles (which as an activist, I am totally against) who have a taste for coyote. The geologist in me wants it built with matching, continuous, uniform sedimentary rock types that all strike in the same direction. (In this case, strike means direction, not a work stoppage. The coal miner in me would never allow such a thing) As an environmentally conscious and dedicated human being, I need to make sure all waste is disposed of correctly and redirected back to the coop as a potential emergency backup energy system while abiding by all applicable permits from the Army Corp of Engineers, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Depeartment of Homeland Security and whatever other Acts Obama has deemed necessary. As a teacher, it needs to be constructed to maximize teacher/student/parent interaction while enhancing SOL’s. As a writer, the coop needs to spin slowly about its three apparent axis’ while simultaneously opening hidden doors to facilitate murders and escapes for the wily chickens so that I may observe and write a NY Times best seller on the previously unknown escapades of chickens.
I’m so excited I overheat the breast milk stowed away in the fridge for Nolan. He gives me a pitying look while my loving wife berates me for not setting the timer. It’s not my fault I’ve just discovered that there are giant breeds of chickens! Unfortunately, I underestimate both the food costs and their ability to forage for the giant chickens and they don’t survive while I am designing the foundations for the moat. The slope stability calculations are a bitch, too, so I order some ornamental chickens to pass the time and help stimulate my thinking.
I now have ornamental, heritage breed, (new) giants and banty roosters all inhabiting our five acres. My neighbor, a tall man dressed in worn Carhartt pants with lots of tools in them burst into laughter when he gave me the crate with the roosters. I thought he was very generous and thanked him profusely while vowing to find Carhartt pants on line. He must have been a nice fellow, for he was still laughing as he walked away.
My new Carhartt pants made me feel quite the farmer the next morning, hung as they were on my favorite chair. I stood them in the corner while making breakfast, admiring their apparent toughness. My wife rolled her eyes. She never takes me seriously.
After I hammered the pants for an hour or so, I was able to put them on the dog. He was then no longer able to move but I assured him they would break in soon, at which point I would do the honor of wearing them while providing him with all the glory of being the first on the farm to don Carhartt clothing. He did not seem to appreciate what I was doing for him.
I entered the yard to find that the ornamental chickens has eaten the rest of the chickens, all the feed, dug a moat and commandeered a very strategic command central. There was one rooster left, which we located at the very top of the house. He refused to come down. I immediately began a 3-D plan set for a tunneling device to access the far side of the moat. As I excitedly rose to this new challenge, I noticed that the dog was waving his Carhartt pants in surrender while marching very slowly towards the moat. Traitor.