It was not my intention to write a COVID-19 pandemic story, but all stories are pandemic stories now. Every story is told in the shadow of the coronavirus.
We all live with apprehension, unease, a foreboding that something will happen but we do not know what it will be. Most of all, we worry about family and friends. And there is nothing we can do to control the madly careening direction our lives are taking. Nothing.
So I built a box.
A small box. A box vaguely intended to serve as a humidor for cigars, although this box may never be used for that purpose. Mostly, I needed to do something — anything — practical and constructive. Something positive. Something productive.
I have built several boxes, always from scrap lumber. Handles and old rusted hinges from a screen door, sometimes with a coat of paint, sometimes not. A few of these boxes have had an actual purpose. Storage for work gloves or tire chains, that sort of thing. But for the most part these boxes clutter the garage, getting underfoot, unused, until they become a nuisance and are thrown out with warped faces, split corners, broken lids.
This time-of-pandemic box was built using the blades from a ceiling fan, replaced a year ago when it was wearing out, making an ominous click with each rotation. The fan was ill-suited to our kitchen, so we did not think of repairing it. Its garish four-globe cluster cast way too much glaring light. We never screwed in more than two light bulbs, which resulted in some overly bright corners of the room and some gloomily dark ones.
The motor seemed of little use, so it was tossed in the recycling bin, but the fan blades offered some promise. Who knows when a two-foot long, six-inch wide, quarter-inch thick, laminated, plastic-coated piece of lumber might come in handy? I removed the blades and stacked them in the scrap wood pile.
Months later, morose and pensive in the first wave of the viral pandemic, I was trapped inside on a rainy day, puttering in the workshop, sorting and stacking the scrap lumber, when I came across those fan blades. They looked like a box to me.
With the table saw I cut the six faces, drilled holes and pegged them together with wire brads, and glued the seams. I sanded the faces with a belt sander to roughen them, fitted the lid, and stained the sides and lid in what I facetiously called a distressed antique pattern. After the stain dried the following day I applied six or seven coats of spay-on polyurethane satin finish and attached a faux brass lid-top handle.
Not my most craftsman-like piece of work, but functional. Eventually, this box may serve as a cigar humidor. Or not. But for the past few days it has given my mind and hands something to do. An escape from my sullen mood.
If only I could pack all my worries and anxieties into this box and clamp on the lid.
More essays and stories about life in the North Country are published in my six collections of essays, available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page