Off the Wall
Tornado damage not as bad as marriage
November 1, 1999
“You always said you wished you had more light in this room,” I say, head tilted back and watching a jet fly over through the exposed rafters in my cousin’s roof.
“You’re not helping,” Cuz says. Ever since the tornado turned her house into a convertible, Cuz has really been humor-challenged.
Sweetie, Cuz and I are standing in the middle of what used to be her cozy den. Soggy Sheetrock, shingles and wads of pink cotton-candy insulation are piled everywhere. It looks like the Pink Panther exploded.
“I don’t even know where to begin,” Cuz mutters.
It’s not easy being single. Sometimes a girl needs someone to share the load, a man she can bounce things off of. And as long as my friends understand that touching below the belt is not allowed, they’re free to pound on Sweetie all they want.
“Do you think I should repair the garage,” Cuz asks, biting her lip, “or rebuild?”
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Bending down, Sweetie stares at her garage through the hole in the den wall. The garage is leaning at a 45-degree angle and twisted like a corkscrew. The only way she could park in it would be to turn her jeep up on two wheels.
“I’m no expert,” Sweetie says, squinting as he takes a thoughtful drag off his cigarette, “but I lean toward blowing it up.”
“I don’t know,” Cuz frets, forehead folded like an accordion blind. “The contractor says he thinks he can fix it.”
Cuz is really into preservation antique furniture, historic buildings and old boyfriends who should have been demolished years ago.
“Follow my finger,” Sweetie says, holding up a finger and waving it in front of her. Head turning from side-to-side, Cuz looks like the pendulum on a cuckoo clock.
“Your eyesight seems to be OK,” Sweetie says. “You’ve just lost your mind.”
“But the garage was built in the ’50s,” Cuz defends.
“And it was an ugly piece of junk when they built it,” Sweetie says.
Grunting, Sweetie hoists the couch upright, pushes it back against the wall and props a book under the missing leg. Meanwhile, Cuz, shoulders slumped, stares in a stupor at all her 50-year-old trees, which are now sticking out of her neighbor’s roof like posies in a Greek Revival pot.
“The main reason I bought this house was because of the trees,” Cuz says, voice cracking.
“Replant,” Sweetie says, as he tosses a mattress off the TV.
Bending down, Cuz pulls a splinter of mahogany kindling out of the rubble and wipes it off with her sleeve.
“This dining room table belonged to my grandmother,” she says.
“Look on the bright side,” Sweetie says, as a guy stealing Cuz’s Weedeater darts across the back yard. “You get all new stuff.”
“I don’t want new stuff!” Cuz suddenly squeals. “I want things the way they were!”
“Look,” Sweetie says, taking Cuz firmly by the shoulders, “you’ve got two choices in life step up to the plate, or get out of the game.”
While Cuz chews on this, Sweetie digs under a pile of Sheetrock, pulls out the remote, aims it at the TV and flips on the playoffs.
“Now,” he says, dropping onto the couch, “what’s for lunch?”
“Honey, it could be a lot worse,” I say, arm draped over her shoulder as we pick our way toward the kitchen. “You should count your blessings.”
“Yeah,” Cuz sighs. “Thank god I’m single.” (Copyright 1999 P.S. Wall. Distributed by Universal Press Syndicate.)