Thursday, October 13, 2011

Duct Tape Improvisations

From the Archive:

A few weeks ago, on a rural/suburban road I noticed a pitiful mailbox that had been hastily repaired. It’s a simple, stubborn fix, born of a determination not to let the wreckers win. That’s a sentiment my father would have appreciated.

We lived in the middle of a long dark stretch of woodsy road, and our mailbox often fell victim to the excessive exuberance of youths with unsafe levels of testosterone and beer in their veins. Once, a family who lived four miles away called to say they had found our mailbox, crushed to sheet metal, and tossed onto their lawn in the middle of the night. It was the fourth time that summer our mail box had been assaulted. Once it was blown to shreds with an M80.

In response, my father fell to clenching his teeth and muttering down in the basement. He had something more substantial than duct tape in mind. For weeks he worked to construct an impenetrable mail box fit for the great age of the vandals. He added steel plates to the ends of a heavy gauge steel pipe. One plate was mounted on a heavy spring so the Mailman would have to pry it open to insert the mail. What my father had in mind was Roadrunner and Coyote. In particular, the scene where Coyote raises his baseball bat, but the Roadrunner suddenly steps aside. Coyote, swinging for all he’s worth his a big rock instead of Roadrunner. Cartoon shock waves travel up his arms until his whole body shakes. My father planned a stealth execution of this script. He intended to wrap the steel pipe with a regular, vulnerable-looking mail box to lure the villains. Unfortunately he died before he could put the thing up. I often wondered if the extra stress contributed to his early death.

In Dad’s reckoning, making needless work for someone else, was a theft of their time and effort. “Don’t make work for you mother,” he was always telling me sternly. We put up the steel mailbox for a few months without its stealth covering. As fate would have it, a plow knocked it over. Though the plow driver apologized, the original vandals were never found. Now, twenty-five years after the great steel mailbox caper, I wonder if somewhere, somehow our vandals have mailboxes of their own, and a baggy-pants, spiky-haired teen with ear buds dangling is unknowingly getting even for Dad with a quart of green slim or a quarter-stick popper.
---- Mar Walker, 12/3/2006