Saturday, January 17, 2009
Snatching Wood, Part 2
I needed wood, so one Tuesday morning I finally broke down and called some guy who advertised in the paper. I ordered a half cord. He said he’d be over first thing Wednesday morning. He finally showed up Wednesday night after dinner. He had to back down the incline at the side of the house adjacent to the railroad tie stairs my dad built. He upended the bed of his truck and the wood roared out to form short, poorly executed teepee.
I wrote him a check. The cost was about half of what I had left in my savings. Because he was a nice family guy who seemed really busy with his new wood business, I didn’t notice when he explained the wood was freshly cut and ready for burning. Because it was dark I didn’t notice the green of the wood. A lot of it was also encrusted with snow, so it was damp. After he drove off I brought in a few armfuls of wood and dropped them in the greenhouse.
I started to lay a fire in the woodstove, trying to build the biggest and hottest fire I could to heat up the house. I started properly with lots of newspaper and kindling, and then I placed a couple of smaller logs, and one larger one on top. I lit the paper and waited for heat. The paper burned, and the kindling, but the logs wouldn’t catch. They were both too damp and too green. I had bought wood that wouldn’t burn.
I spent the next afternoon stacking the wood in a long flat-topped pyramid, running it along the side of the yard. I brought in the smaller logs that would fit in the stove, and took to chopping the larger logs that wouldn’t fit. I had been splitting logs for a few years. I enjoyed it and I would rather do it than watch my father, although he was fine at it. It was just hard to watch. (To this day I can’t watch someone using a knife or other sharp instrument). It was hard work and I worked up a good sweat. Maybe I could just split logs to keep warm.
I was sure that there was no way I would convince the guy who sold me the wood to come on back with his truck and take away this green cord and leave me a seasoned one. I was the sucker. I had laid out good money, and I had to learn from this mistake.
A few days later my friend Jeff from school came to visit. It was my birthday and he didn’t want me to be alone. I told him, Come on down, I’ve got wood now. On his first night I tried to get a roaring fire going. I got a few logs to burn, but I wouldn’t call it a good fire and for the nights that he stayed it was freezing in the house. He slept in a sleeping bag on the floor by the stove. He didn’t mind.
After Jeff went home I continued work on the screenplay. On sunny days the house was always warm and I sat at the dining room table that I had moved to the middle of the living room, right in front of the stereo speakers. I listened to music all day while I wrote. I made coffee in the morning and drank Pepsi all afternoon. By mid-afternoon I was ready to get out of the house, so I’d take Muffy for a walk or drive her to the beach. With this schedule I finished a first draft of the screenplay by the end of March.
By the time the weather broke, the wood was actually in decent shape. It was still pretty green, but not fresh, so I found more and more logs that would keep a decent fire going. When my parents returned, it was mid-April and the snow was long thawed and the winds were warming. They thanked me for buying wood and apologized that they hadn’t left more wood for me.
I stuck around the house for a few more months finishing up the screenplay. On July 7th 1990 I struck out for Los Angeles in my ’79 Honda Prelude that I had bought from my brother-in-law for $700.00. A couple weeks later I hit southern California at the tail end of a heat wave. I remember driving across the Mojave Desert in plus hundred degree weather, windows down, hot wind whipping through the car, the frigid cold of a Cape Cod winter long past.
By October when my parents built their first fire of the season, the wood was perfect and lasted the rest of the winter.