COLUMBUS _ ``Getting pretty good with that knife,'' said Uncle Chet as he squinted up at my spackling job.
``The closer you get, the worse it looks.'' I reached high into a corner at the top of the stairs.
``No one's going to look up there too closely,'' he said. ``How tall is that ceiling?''
``Over 12 feet.'' I felt a stab of anxiety, glanced down, realized that if I fell I'd probably land on the drill case and break my back!
``Want a beer?'' Hon asked him.
``I'll wait for him,'' said Uncle Chet.
``How much longer?'' she called upstairs.
``Not long.'' I eyed the seam I was working on. It was too wet for a sponge, too dry for the blade, too aggravating to play with any longer. ``As a matter of fact, I'm done.''
I climbed down the stepladder carrying the stainless-steel mud pan, washed my hands in a bucket of water, then went downstairs and joined them for lunch.
``So, did you watch the grand white party and the beauty queen?''
``Read about it.'' I took the proffered Rolling Rock.
``A legend was born,'' said Uncle Chet. ``She's the new Davy Crockett.
``Born on a mountain by the Bering Sea, biggest state in the land of the free. Stayed in the woods till she knowed every tree, skinned her a moose when she was only 3. Sarah, Sarah Palin, queen of the wild frontier.''
``She was born in Idaho,'' Hon said dryly.
``Don't get lost in facts, it's the lies that might elect her,'' he said, ``her and angry old Mr. Budweiser.''
``I can't believe the country's going to fall for this,'' said Hon.
``It's really a national IQ test.'' I raised the cold green bottle. ``Do we want affordable, national health care or thermonuclear war with Russia?''
``According to today's polls, it's 49 percent for health care, 48 percent for war,'' he said.
``And we failed the last two national IQ tests,'' Hon noted.
``I came over to get cheered up, and you guys aren't doing it,'' said Uncle Chet. ``Remember: this was never going to be easy. We're trying to put a black man in the White House, something that seemed impossible most of our lives.''
``He's not black and he's not white,'' said Hon. ``He's American.''
``You're right, but he looks black,'' said Uncle Chet. ``And that's five points off. There's no affirmative action for this job; it's the opposite, a black man's got to be twice as good. And in this case, he is. Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard; McCain was a goofball, near the bottom at Annapolis. He's actually less of an achiever than Bush, but do you ever see the candidates compared that way?''
``No,'' said Hon, who was grilling cheese sandwiches.
``And you're not about to,'' he said. ``The media are giving the POW a pass, focusing on burning issues like Bristol's baby. Stay tuned: Will she keep it, will he marry her? Just keep your eyes on the Soccer Mama from Wasilla and don't look over here at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Chinese bankers who about to be bailed out by the American taxpayers.
``And forget about that trumped-up trillion-dollar war; good job, Johnny. Forget about global warming; good job, Sarah; it's not people, it's God's who's frying the planet. Forget about the dominance of billionaires and the prostrate middle class, the fading days when one breadwinner could support a family while the other ran the house and minded the children. Forget that this is a pluralistic society, where freedom of religion and tolerance of diversity have roots deeper than the Constitution, let's just cheer 'em on neocons and forget ...''
``Enough,'' said Hon. ``Why don't you forget about it for 10 minutes and have a sandwich.''
``Just can't let up; there's too much at stake,'' he said, but took a plate. ``The choice is as plain as black and white. We can vote for Obama, make peace with the world militarily, while we challenge it economically. We can keep the Internet free, go green and reform health care.
``Or we can go right off the cliff, like drunks with a credit card, shedding American jobs, devaluing the buck, ignoring science, and `bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb-bomb Iran.'''
Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week.