COLUMBUS _ Hon had ladders up, a sheet of plywood lying across sawhorses, a cordless drill in her holster. As the silver pickup rolled down the driveway, she was hoisting a sheet of galvanized steel onto the roof deck of the entranceway.
Buddy and I were out behind the barn this gray Saturday morning. We were sitting on big cold rocks, shooting the .22 at a pizza box some 50 feet away. The nine-year-old drew the stock against his shoulder, steadied his left elbow on his knee. He squinted at the target, trying to stop the wobble as his right index finger curled back slowly.
Suddenly the gun barked and the box top twitched in a puff of smoke.
"Good one," I guessed, but we got up to inspect the target, a black, spray-painted bullseye, more closely.
"Someone's here," he said as he looked toward the road. "I think it's Uncle Chet." We circled back to the house.
"Do you think he wants to shoot?"
"I doubt it," I said as I removed the clip and cleared the chamber. "We can shoot again later."
After we had skirted the barn, there was Uncle Chet in his brown Carhartt coat and old red-and-black checked hat, holding an edge of galvanized roofing as Hon fastened it with screws.
"Well, Grandpa always said, `Never get any more work than your woman can handle,"' he drawled. "And you've got that down pat."
"Grandpa was a smart man."
"We were shooting," Buddy said.
"I can see that," Uncle Chet said as we all went inside, which was like a sauna because the wood stove had been cooking.
I reheated coffee on the gas stove.
"I like your portico," Uncle Chet said as he sat down at the kitchen table.
"I want to get it done today," Hon said. " The plywood's been out in the rain for a week."
"With the crew you've got, you're in trouble," he said.
"I told her to call me if she needed me," I said from the stove.
"I didn't," she said. "I just can't stay long now because I've got everything in my head, everything set up."
"Then get back; I'll bring you a coffee," I said.
"Thanks," she said as she reached for her coat and went back outside.
"You've got it made," Uncle Chet remarked as I poured the coffee.
"Half a day a week I do," I said.
"Well, the day I want to talk about is Tuesday," he said. "We've got the best president in generations fighting for his political life. The Republicans are trying to rub him out, him and Nancy Pelosi, for trying to save the middle class."
"We've got to get off our tails and vote," I said.
"You betcha! We've got to vote to thank Obama for winding down the Iraqi War, Bush's gift to Haliburton and Blackwater. Thank him for averting a depression, turning the ship around in just 21 months, though the big money and all the GOPers were against him, hoping he'd fail, hoping we'd fail."
"How about driving down the price of a student loan, making education more affordable for millions by cutting out the loan sharks?"
"Music to my ears. You're talking to the father of a high school senior."
"And we haven't even gotten to taking on the health insurance industry, putting the brakes on runaway rate hikes, allowing children to stay on their parents' plans, creating health insurance exchanges, even if the new rules don't kick in at once."
"He's lucky to get what he got," I said.
"Of course! He's had to do it with billionaires like Rupert Murdoch in his face, the media in their pockets, and with a right-wing Supreme Court corrupting politics in the name of free speech."
"That Citizens United case could be his undoing," I said.
"Our undoing," Uncle Chet said, "because we won't get another Obama in our lifetimes, a man who's on the workers' side despite the death threats, the birthers' slander and the guilt-by-association lies spewed by the rabble, those tools of the ruling elite."
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