Some people, when they’re depressed, seek solace in viewing the faces of small children or animals. Others find comfort in the gentle murmur of waves upon the shore or the sylvan sounds of a babbling brook. Not me. Nothing lifts my spirits like a pile of wood. When I’m down I head for a skid full of two-by-fours.
I like working with my hands. When I need to clear my mind, I’ll pound nails into a plank just to relax. I’ve worked with pine, oak, walnut, spruce, even zebrawood and cocobolo. Name a type of wood, and I’ve probably drilled a hole in it.
Recently, I decided to fix up my apartment. I thought I’d put up some paneling, or maybe make some bookshelves.
My project turned out to be very ambitious. I bought so much lumber there wasn’t enough room to store it in my apartment. I decided to put it outside, close to my back door. I live on the ground floor, and there’s an area under my back porch that is dry, spacious, and partially concealed.
I continued to work, and it gave me great satisfaction. But shortly after the commencement of my task, a problem occurred. At first, I thought it was my imagination, but it wasn’t. Someone was helping himself to my lumber.
He wasn’t stealing a large amount. It wasn’t even my best lumber, just odds and ends, scraps that I had cut from a piece of paneling or a plank. Nonetheless, it perturbed me to think that someone was invading my space and taking my lumber.
A few days later, the bold thief helped himself to a six-foot two-by-twelve. I’d developed a particular fondness for that two-by-twelve, and I was very upset by its loss. In fact, it really ticked me off.
I lay in bed motionless, listening to the sounds of the night, trying to discern if there were any irregularities in my backyard. I live in an area of the city where there are a lot of bars and tourist traffic. Drunks are always shouting and making noise, but nonetheless, I attuned my ears for the possible sounds of my lumber being disturbed. The thief’s arrogance gnawed at me. I worked hard for my money and bought good lumber with it. Now I’d probably have to bring it back inside my apartment because some guy was ripping me off.
I wouldn’t have an inch to maneuver. I would be tripping all over the stuff. I decided I would not capitulate. I would hold my ground.
The next day, I tacked a note to the remaining pile of boards. It read, “To whoever is stealing my lumber…. Don’t…. Listen to your conscience…. Please cease and desist.”
The following night the thief stole the two-by-four, and the note.
I was fuming and wrote another note: “Oh, lumber thief, go ahead, enjoy another piece of my lumber, because I know soon you will die.”
I sat in the darkness of my kitchen, silent, motionless. My ears were poised to intercept any sound that might be that of my avowed enemy, the lumber thief. Like a desert fox, I listened to the sounds of the evening unfold. I heard the merry antics of bar-hoppers and passersby. This night was a busy one. There was a great deal of foot traffic.
The next morning the second note and more lumber were gone.
After night fell, I lay alone in the darkness. I was about ready to fall asleep when my ears picked up a rustling in my backyard. The sound was coming from where my lumber was stored. I alighted my bed.
The fateful showdown had arrived. In a few seconds I would be savoring the ultimate confrontation on the battlefield of good and evil. I snapped on my Kevlar bulletproof vest. I loaded the hollow points into my .38-caliber Smith-and-Wesson revolver. Soon my adversary would be standing in front of me and I would saying, “You pathetic, sniveling, degenerate sneak thief…. You lowlife…. I’m going to have my way with you.”
I opened the door and stepped into the darkness. In the shadows an intruder lurked. The veins in my neck were bulging like garden hoses. I cocked the hammer of my revolver and snapped on the back porch light.
The face of my prey congealed into a frightened, timid ball. It wasn’t the lumber thief, however; it was a prostitute blowing a trick.
I was so angry I blurted out, “Get one drop of come on my lumber, and I’ll kill both of you!”
Well, you should have seen the look on their faces. I could just imagine what was racing through their minds. They were probably thinking, “This guy is pretty sensitive about his lumber.”
Yes, I am pretty sensitive about my lumber.
They looked at me, their eyes a mixture of fear and terror. Obviously, these two were not the culprits. I was disappointed that I’d been deprived of my confrontation with the thief. But I also felt badly that I’d spoken so aggressively, and I lowered my pistol.
“I’m sorry I came on so strong,” I said, pointing to the pile of boards. “It’s just that these planks mean a lot to me.”
My self-reproach grew. I said to the trick, pulling out my wallet, “How much is this costing you?”
The trick carefully watched my actions. He said, “Uh, one hundred dollars.”
I thought, this guy is no shrewd shopper. He must have been an out-of-towner. Call me old-fashioned, but $100 seems pretty steep.
I looked but didn’t have one hundred dollars, so I gave him a fifty and said, “I’m sorry I burst in so suddenly. I am not going to pay for the whole thing, but I will pay for half. I believe that’s fair.”
The trick’s face brightened.
“But,” I said, “Remember….”
The prostitute said, “Not a drop.”
The prostitute and the trick said they didn’t have a problem with that.
I’d done the right thing. I felt so good that I wanted to offer the prostitute and the trick some lemonade or an iced tea. Instead, I just said, “Well, goodnight. I’m going to bed now.”
They waved goodbye. They seemed happy, and their happiness touched me.
Alone in my bed, I was glad I hadn’t shot them, or anyone, for that matter. That would have been murder! What if the lumber thief had been a little kid, pinching the lumber to build a tree house, or an art student, needing the wood for a blue-ribbon sculpture? I could have gone to prison for murdering an art student.