My paternal grandfather died when my dad was 18. He’d been an old man before his sons were born, a chronic worrier and an avid smoker. He’d also owned a series of hardware stores. He sold the first refrigerator in Spokane. My dad found a photo of his father in front of a store he’d owned on Monroe with a bunch of washing machines lined up on the curb. The revolution of modern conveniences.
When I was a kid, we visited my grandmother a handful of times and what I remember most clearly is the basement of her house. Work benches. Tool boxes. Knives of every description. Screws and nuts organized in baby food jars. I remember the smell of sawdust. Hardware stores are erotic the way bookstores are erotic. I get the same wired feeling when I’m in one. The sense of infinite possibility. In this place, I might discover anything.
The clerk at Ace Hardware yesterday fretted when he saw the screw and nut in my hand. “Watcha got there is a wood screw with a machine nut. That’s no good.”
In fact, it was perfectly good. It would have worked just fine. And no one would have known I’d mixed the species because the nut would be hidden by the fire pit’s handle. Nevertheless, I let him show me all the machine nuts and screws. Why rush when I could wander a bit longer? Mary had disappeared down the paint aisle; I could linger here in this ordered trove.
“You wanna stick with the winged nut?” he asked.
“Sure. That’d be swell.” Who wouldn’t want a winged nut? I wanted a jig saw and a band saw and a new weed whacker, too. I wanted a more powerful drill. I wanted to forget what Sen-Sen tasted like, and the time I’d nearly severed the tip of my ring finger with my dead grandfather’s boning knife. How can this shit not be erotic? Screws and wing nuts and boning knives? What is our purpose except to get at the center of things? To wade into the muck in search of joy. Here where everything is ordered to help me locate what I need.
I like that the space around him is defined by his absence. The way I’m defined in this room by potential. Alive. Given all this to fuck up, dismantle, and screw.