In Over His Head

The big guy cleans the fish.

That’s Wayne Mashburn, Mary’s dad. Oh, he’s shown Shop Boy a million times how to do it. He even gave me a really cool knife, one of those military issue, G.I. Joe deals with the ridge in there so you can hold it in your teeth while crossing a swollen, snake-infested river to neutralize a drug lord’s lookout or field dress a wild boar that made the bad decision to attack. At least that’s what it could do if it ever left the leather holster.

Shop Boy’s just not feeling it.

Instead, each time we catch fish — trout, usually, at North Catamount Reservoir near the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado (real pretty place) — Shop Boy requests one final demonstration. It’s become a joke: I catch all the fish, he cleans them.

OK, or he catches all the fish, he cleans them. Seems fair, right?

Wayne doesn’t mind. He’s a great cook and probably figures Shop Boy’d just mess up his fillets. And besides, he knows payback is coming. See, he and I have done a bunch of household remodeling projects together through the years. He’s another real good guy to have around. (Typecast Press is collecting them — if you’re handy, you might want to steer real clear of us.) Wayne doesn’t talk much, but he’s smart, creative and experienced at building stuff and very, very tall. He painted the ceilings of the Denver house Mary and Shop Boy bought some years back … and didn’t need a ladder. One problem: He doesn’t do low anymore.

So, whenever a project involves getting up close and personal with the floor, he asks for a demonstration of how a less-vertically-enhanced dude — say, Shop Boy — would contort himself to handle the task. Even though he’s seen it, like, a million times. Geez.

There we were just after Christmas, in fact, going over who would handle which part of getting the new wing of the Typecast Press studio painted. Negotiations went something like this: He takes the high stuff; Shop Boy kisses the tile.

Man, Shop Boy had no idea how much wood trim it took to finish out this place, which we lucked into when a local illustrator, Andy Snair, decided to be brilliant elsewhere. Shop Boy also had no idea how many sharp metal shavings or how much dust and oil — from moving in the presses and other stuff — had accumulated along the baseboard down there.

By the time we were through, my hands were filthy and sliced up, my shoulders, hips and knees ached, my hair was a dust mop.

But the sucker was painted.

Wayne didn’t dare suggest a second coat on the baseboard trim. Shop Boy would probably have bitten him on the ankle. Again, smart guy.

Still, Wayne did make one big mistake on this trip to Baltimore: letting Shop Boy pick the pool hall, one with several tables almost as short as the skirts of its waitresses. See, I have almost no shot on a long table, but shrink the field of play and … well, let’s just say Shop Boy left the joint feeling about 10 feet tall.

As with the home/shop jobs, though, these things have a way of evening themselves out. Mary’s folks are taking the long way home to Colorado as we speak, which means that Wayne’s about a week from beginning his next “project”: finding the longest stinking pool table in Colorado Springs … and the bait that’ll get Shop Boy there.

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