COLUMBUS _ The little miscreant was graduating from high school, going to college. We were having a party here in just four days, but we were power-sanding in the kitchen, making a dust cloud that filled the room, coating everything as it sank to the floor.
I'd started to panel this wall with locally milled tongue-and-groove boards, but the project was far behind schedule. Now, finally everything was up, but the boards were a little rough, dinged, not ready for finishing. To make them decent would take hours of hand sanding, but two guys with orbital sanders could do the job in about a half-hour, I estimated.
That was too optimistic. We were at it almost an hour before Uncle Chet hollered: "Hey, I can't breathe in here. This is ridiculous." He turned his sander off.
I was kneeling on the other side of the room, smoothing the last of the bottom boards.
"It is thick,"
I agreed and shut mine off, too.
"That's good enough, anyway.," I said. "At least I think so."
I took off my glasses, wiped them on an undershirt. When I put them on again, the wall passed a brief inspection.
"Don't strive for perfection," he cautioned.
"Let's turn on the fan and blow this smog out the window," he said. He twisted the knob and the big box fan whirred loudly, immediately began to funnel dust outside.
"Should have thought of that earlier," I said.
"I think I'm going to take a breather outside," he said.
"How about beer?"
"We can do beer," I quickly opened the fridge, grabbed two bottles, and we retreated to the backyard. It was a cloudy, muggy, mid-morning. We were in between thunderstorms and found two fairly dry folding lawn chairs.
"I think I'm done for the day," he said, settling into one. "The ticker says that's enough."
"Is there a problem?"
"If there was, I wouldn't be drinking this," he said. "Just a feeling that that's enough."
"Then you're done."
"I know you have to hustle, so you don't have to hang around and drink a beer with me," he said. "You've only got five days."
"Four," I said as I took a long pull at the frothy, pale drink.
"So, here we are in upstate New York, witnessing a typical rural vacation, where the wage slave works twice as hard as usual doing all the things he never has time to do," he announced to the open air.
"That's about the size of it," I said. "So, what are you, comfortably retired on a public pension, going to do the rest of the day?"
"Ouch. You'll pay for that," he replied as he pushed his glasses up on his forehead and wiped his eyes.
"I'm going to read up on Michele Bachmann, the former IRS tax lawyer, and figure out some way to derail her before she gets to Pennsylvania Avenue," he said.
"She's a lot more credible than Caribou Sarah."
"Not as attractive, though," I said.
"No, but she's older, and she's attractive enough," he said. "You have to hand it to the Republicans: they always come up with a babe, and this one stays on message."
"Yes, and after seeing how close Palin came, you know more than a third of the country is going to vote for sound bites and good looks, never look beyond the cover."
"It's all about image," I said.
"If the Republicans go with Romney-Bachmann, the Democrats are going to need a more attractive couple, or they're going down in flames," he said.
"Obama's a good-looking man, on the go, cell phone to the ear," I said.
"True, but Biden's looking shopworn at 68," said Uncle Chet. "I'm only 69, and I'm tuckered out after an hour's work."
"His wife still looks good."
"She's not running, but the Democrats have the perfect successor for Biden. She's young, brainy, a better lawyer than Bachmann, tight with money, liberal on social policy, and she is a very attractive blonde."
"I know who you're going to say: Kirsten Gillibrand."
"Just imagine Obama and Gillibrand," he said. "They might sweep 40 states."
Cooperstown bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week. For more of his columns, visit www.thedailystar.com/tomgrace.