COLUMBUS _ "Well, I'm going to do it, retire tomorrow," I told Uncle Chet last Thursday, then pulled on the thick braided wire that ran up and down the chimney.
A pulley squeaked, and the worn wire-brush rose three feet, scraping at the soot. I took a quick breath, pulled again, and the air around me began to fill with flecks of creosote.
Uncle Chet stepped back, said: "That's a nice set-up. I should have done that on my chimney."
"I can't imagine climbing this one," I looked up into the midday sky, then pulled again, and the brush did its dirty work.
"When's the last time you cleaned it?" he asked.
"I guess it's not too bad," he said, "although it's a little dirtier than I expected."
"I'll have more time to do things like this when I'm retired," I said.
"Naw, you'll be as busy as ever."
"I doubt it."
"You ought to get into politics," he said.
"When I'm retired, I'll have time to read, read a whole book, all in the same year," I said. "I haven't done that for 30 years. And I was talking to cousin Bruce, and I guess we're going to raise chickens."
"Either of you ever raise chickens?" he asked.
"There are pitfalls." His eyebrows arched behind silver wire-rim glasses.
"You can come over and supervise."
"In exchange for six birds, I will," he said.
"We'll work that out later."
"And why don't we start a blog?" he said. "You know, you're going to wake up Monday, ready to go to work, so why not do some reporting on the depression? It's all around us, isn't it? People on the edge, people on fixed incomes, people living on Social Security? How many are behind on their taxes, behind on their mortgages, working two or more jobs and still going broke"?"
"What's this `we' stuff?" I tugged again, and the brush hit the stop at the top of the chimney. I pulled on the other side of the loop, and it scraped down, faster in this direction, sending a foul cloud out the iron chimney door frame.
"I'll be your idea man," he said.
"You know what they say about success being 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration?"
"They were talking about idea men."
"You might win a Pulitzer if you really got into it," he said, "into the cause and effect, the villains, the victims, the consequences playing out all around us. Do it in video, I think that's the future of news: video on the Internet."
"People still like to hold that paper," I said.
"We could launch it on Facebook."
"Paper, in the hands, paper moving around the room with you," I said. "Cut out the photos of your kids in school, of your parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and the rest is perfect starter fuel for your wood stove."
"They said a lot of that about books, too, and look at Kindle books," he said. "They're already outselling paper books."
"I'll buy used books," I said.
"You're an old dog, but you might be able to learn a new trick," he said, "how to hold a camera instead of a pad when you're reporting."
"I think your first idea was better," I said.
"Which one was that?"
"Never mind. What did you do when you retired?" I asked him.
"I went fishing," he said.
"There, I said, "I rest my case."
Cooperstown bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. This is Grace's final column. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace.