Lary is at a loss as to why I'd turn down his offer to burn down my house. He thinks it would be the answer to all my problems. "And this is the perfect season for arson, too," he insists. "Homeless people all over the place are lighting fires to keep warm; no one would even question it. You can blame it on a crackhead. A homeless crackhead. They're great scapegoats. How could you pass this up?"
"You worthless sack of maggots," I fume. "I cannot burn down my house and blame it on a crackhead."
First, I don't even live in the house Lary wants to torch, I just own it. Second, it's not even the house itself that is giving me problems; the house itself is a great house. It's the first house I ever owned, and it's got an oak tree in the back yard that was planted the day my daughter was born. So it's not the house itself, it's the water pipe in front of the house, somewhere under the sidewalk, that busted. My water bill last month was almost as much as my mortgage. I called the city water department to report the leak, but the woman on the other end said the leak was on my property, which I doubted because, unless I own the sidewalk, I don't see how it could be on my property.
"I see that you don't want to hear what I'm saying," the water-department lady quipped, but I did hear what she was saying, I just disagreed with it. So I called back first thing the next morning and got another water-department lady who told me it said right there on her computer screen that I was told there was a leak on my property, and I took issue with that, too, because of all the people telling anyone anything, I was the only one who actually laid personal eyes on the leak, with my property way over there, and the leak way over here, and again, unless I own the sidewalk it was not on my property.
"I'm telling you," Lary keeps insisting, "just fling a few crack lighters around for the firemen to sift out afterward, and no one will question a thing."
Lary has been hoping I'd burn my houses down for years now, in one way or another, as he's feeling harried because he is usually the second one I call during the constant storm of broken crap that is home ownership. Grant is usually the first, because Grant is really good at getting out of fixing things. He has numbers to call and a passel of reliable fabrications to claim, and before you know it the entire citywide infrastructure is lining up to take the blame and send trucks to make things right.
Also, he's usually pretty generous about imparting this wisdom to me. But I'm not talking to Grant these days, because he banished me to the storage closet of his gallery during the holiday art tour at the loft complex where he lives. All I wanted to do was set up a little stand to display my books and maybe a few homemade pot holders and possibly some finger paintings by my 7-year-old. Lord Christ, what was so bad about that? But Grant said it was his show and even if he gave me a tiny space in his gallery it would make everything be about me, and the one thing that pisses the crap out of me is when Grant accuses me of being self-involved just because I want to commandeer his special event.
So it's straight to Lary this time, because for all his felonious bloviating, Lary is really good at finding what is wrong and fixing it. The problem is that he fancies himself a creator, not a fixer, and he would rather burn the broken thing to the ground in order to build a whole new thing. A bigger, better thing with turrets and whirligigs. I used to be like that, too, but no longer. Now I like to keep the things I have and simply fix them when they break. I never knew how to fix things before, but I've been watching Lary fix stuff for 15 years, and now I fancy myself somewhat handy. I even have a tool belt. We never covered leaky underground pipes, though.
"I'm not burning the house down," I tell him.
"Then call Grant," Lary suggests. "He was just saying yesterday how bad he felt for hurting your feelings."
I immediately call Grant, but he's damn discourteous for someone in the throes of regret. "Bitch, I see that you don't want to hear what I'm saying," he says. "I am not sorry." But I do hear what he's saying, I just disagree with it. So we scream at each other for a few minutes until things are better between us. Afterward I still have a busted water pipe, but at least I also have these two beloved bottom fish who are my friends, one who didn't get burned to the ground and replaced, and the other who is good at finding what is wrong and fixing it.
Hollis Gillespie authored two top-selling memoirs and founded the Shocking Real-Life Writing Academy (www.hollisgillespie.com).
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