The top bar of the hour number on my digital watch has disappeared; when I wake up in the middle of the night I don’t know if it’s 1:23 or 7:23 and there’s a solar eclipse. Regardless, I got to work on time only to discover that it would rain all day. Rain days on the maintenance crew of Camp War Eagle are joyous affairs.
Since the winter has been unreasonably warm, we’ve been able to save most of the inside jobs for today. Yesterday we built a gravel bridge in short sleeved shirts and finished in time to play Maintenance Soccer. The hourly workers play Maintenance Soccer when all jobs have been finished but there are still five minutes left on the work day. While I have terrifically bad depth perception, Neal played goalie in college and Juan is from Mexico. Juan, our fifty year old and heavily weathered mechanic, actually played minor league baseball in Mexico. One game he pitched over three hundred balls; in a major league game, six pitchers share two hundred. His shoulder has stopped working.
This morning when my boss Rob gave me an assignment list, it had another name on it. I turned to Juan and said, “It looks like we’re working together today, Juan. Up top!”
“No,” he said slowly, pulling the word apart. “I work…alone.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay. It’s whatever. I’ll just speak Spanish to myself.”
The first listed item was to clean our new refrigerator. After a ten minute wipe-down I moved on to inventory. While counting trash bags, Rob approached me and said I needed to revisit the fridge. “Not Cass clean,” he said, “but Holly clean,” in honor of my wife.
Then I spent the next two hours scrubbing the first two layers of paint off.
As I cleaned, Juan moved wordlessly onto inventory. He only interrupted me once, holding half of a pair of garden shears. “What is this,” he asked.
The tool room only has one machete, so when Neal and I go vine hacking only one of us gets it. I deconstructed the garden shears so I too could have a machete, because Neal and I like to pretend that I’m a British explorer and he is my mute Hindu guide who must always have his earphones in.
“I have no idea,” I responded to Juan, “but we shouldn’t try to fix it.”
When I finished the fridge I started restocking it and discovered that, once all of the old tupperware was composted (500 years to garden fresh tomatoes!), it was very empty. With one look at lonely Juan compiling a list of spray nosels, I decided to put off my work as long as possible and stock the fridge for my coworkers. As my grandfather used to say, give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Give him a million fishes, feed him for life.
Because camp is hibernating, most of the food meant for anyone is frozen solid and will be long expired by May. It is free game, if you can find it. After visiting the camp store, craft center, and the old head of maintenance’s house, I came back with a box full of soda, a wide selection of ice cream snacks, mixed berries, and two frozen pizzas, which I brought home to Holly.
After lunch as I stomped around the attic looking for hand sanitizier, Rob yelled from downstairs. “Fridge looks nice,” he said. “Good job with the food. You’re a regular scrounger.”
Thus I have become my idol, Henley, the scrounger from The Great Escape – that guy in prison who can get anything for a pack of cigarettes, no questions asked.