VIEW FROM THE PORCH - There's a time and purpose for all things ...


Annie asked me to deliver a cookbook and a cupcake tin to a friend in town.

"Sure," I said. (Marriage is a partnership. I like to be helpful.)

Annie brought me two suitcase-size bags.

"What's this?" I asked.

"The cupcake stuff."

"All this? I thought Becky wanted a cookbook and a baking tin. There's a box of Cracker Jacks in here and a knit cap and dental floss and a screwdriver and band-aids and antibiotic cream and a dog leash and goodness knows what else. Does she want all this?"

"Sam, honey, I keep all my cupcake baking stuff in these bags. The Cracker Jacks are there in case I get hungry while I'm baking. The hat's there in case I get cold. The furnace was on the blink the last time I baked cupcakes, so I keep a hat in the bag. The floss is there in case I get Cracker Jacks stuck in my teeth.

"That's the screwdriver I use to pry the top off the chocolate icing cans in the bottom of the bag. You can never tell when you'll need Band-Aids. The antibiotic cream's there in case I need a Band-Aid. And Yoda's leash is there because I took him into town one day, but forgot his leash. He had to stay in the car. So I keep an extra leash in the bag in case I need one."

"There's chocolate icing in here? I can't find the chocolate icing."

"Lordy, Sam. Just take the bags to Becky. Think you could do that one simple thing without asking so many questions?" Annie shook her head. "Men!"

You might think that was an unusual conversation, but around our house it's not. We have conversations like that all the time. It's what we do for entertainment.

Where would you look for a shovel? A right-thinking person might guess the tool rack in the barn next to the rake and the hoe.

"The shovel's in the cottage leaning against the wall behind the hot water tank in the kitchen closet," Annie said.

"I dropped a glass and couldn't find the broom, so I got the shovel and scooped up what I could. I'm keeping it there till I find the broom, which may be under the bed. I was sweeping dust bunnies off the storage boxes under there -- the ones with the Halloween candy and Christmas tree lights in them -- when somebody came to the door ... "

"Where does this go?" I asked, picking up a broken coffee maker. (It's been on the floor by the front door for several weeks.)

"Just leave it there, Sam. I'm taking it to my car."

"This year?"

"Not funny, honey."

"I'll take it out for you." (As you already know, I like to be helpful.)

"Not a good idea," Annie said as I toted the coffee maker out the door.

Anybody looking in Annie's station wagon would think she's homeless. There's no room in the back.

"Don't open the tailgate, honey. We'll never get the thing closed. That's the recycling."

"How long have you been collecting it?"

"It's been in there a while. I'll take care of it," Annie said.

There's no room in the back seat.

"That's the stuff I'm taking to Marshall for their house. Should have left it when I was there visiting last week, but I forgot. Put the coffee maker in the front seat."

This is the stuff in the front seat: a box of graham crackers, six or seven empty egg cartons, one carton with three eggs in it, a box of brand-new boots with the receipt (dated March 2009), a cake tin, six cellphone chargers (none of which fits our current phones), four pairs of sunglasses, four gloves (no matches), a hammer, and two coffee cups (something purple is growing in one of them).

There's a huge stack of towels and bed sheets on the floor, plus an empty graham cracker box, several Tootsie Roll wrappers, and a dust buster.

"Put the coffee maker on top of the towels," Annie said.

"What's the dust buster doing in here?"

"I use it to clean out the car."

"Right," I said.

If you'd like to read more interesting stuff about Sam's life, get a copy of his latest book, BIG APPETITE.

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