The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 7

After a year and a month of raising chickens, the mf has finally cracked an egg in his pocket.

This happened right as he was putting the last things away after building a chicken coop door. In the rusty wheelbarrow lay two shiny steel staple guns, a trusty Phillips head screwdriver, and a never-say-never drill with a 3/32″ drill bit, all rarin’ to go on a road trip across the little farm. The wheelbarrow was excited too because the mf had just fixed its wheel the day before and so far it hadn’t yet wobbled that much.

Q: Is the mf becoming handy?

A: Let’s evaluate whether handy is the word we’d use by taking a close look at that new chicken coop door — but first, we must come to terms with the cracking of the egg.

The mf knew as soon as all-purpose momentum from all the measuring and sawing and drilling and screw-driving; all the putting hinges on upside-down so the bolt fell out, finding the bolt amid the straw, which was like finding a needle in a haystack so a form of living in a fairy tale yet also exasperating; putting the hinge back on right-side-up this time, but not the next time because live-and-learn is not to be taken for granted; making dots with a Sharpie so he’d know where to drill, which actually worked as planned, hooray! — this sustained burst of concentrated activity all led to the forceful swoop of the mf’s powerful right hand to his egg-filled left pocket.

Why the mf had put the egg in his pocket, we don’t know and never will. He heard the crack and he knew the streak was over. A full year and a month beyond of never breaking an egg, despite the countless times he was discombobulated or carrying the lazy man’s load; i.e., too much at one time. The mf considered himself an exemplary protector of eggs and honestly still does. One broken egg every thirteen months? By any reckoning, that is a low broken egg percentage.

While we can permit the mf to consider himself a Cy Young contender in regard to egg care, let’s make sure to look squarely at the gooeyness of the broken egg. Though but the yolk and white of a single egg, it felt like primordial ooze, and the drip down his sturdy leg felt the first emergence of life from that ooze; and if you’re wondering what that feels like, it feels like an army of caterpillars marching down your sturdy leg.

I am not sure why the mf walked around as long as he did with egg goo cascading from pocket to shoe. Dehydration often plays a role in his more inscrutable outdoor activity. He had also recently been concentrating hard on not swallowing any of the hinge screws he had stored between his lips, and sometimes when we have been concentrating hard for a long time, all of a sudden, we just lose it.

And when I say “we,” I mean: I love you! You, my faithful reader, and also, all humanity. The feeling just came over me. Second cup of coffee, yum. Third cup? Yum!

It was a calculated risk: the possibility of ingesting a screw versus the likelihood of dropping one into the straw, where the mf had already had enough of living in a fairy tale and now simply wanted to get the job done right. He did not want this door to be ramshackle.

No, God, please, no: not ramshackle. That was his constant thought. His wife had intimated a preference for things in the garden not to look ramshackle or to look in general as though assembled by someone who was discombobulated.

Thus, the mf was so vigilant about non-ramshackliness, he let down his guard in regard to the egg.

This sounds right.

And now that we have considered the egg, let’s take a look at the door and render an opinion as to whether the mf is becoming handy.

***

I am awarding the mf a 9.8 for coop door handiness in the Beginner Category.

And the crowd goes crazy!

It is pandemonium in here. The crowd — the scuffed baseball on my desk, the scrawled-on post-it notes, the many coffee cups, the countless ballpoint and gel pens, the woodblock for percussion when drumming along to “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” — all of them are on their feet, stomping.

I see a loose knob from a drum kit freestyle dancing, the little bit of water at the bottom of a glass waving, and the shiny wire of a medium-sized binder clip glinting, glinting, glinting. The scene here is truly one of molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles all whizzing around. We are going to have to call in the laws of physics and chemistry to maintain even the semblance of control.

Whew.

Close one! There is still some glint and waviness but things have simmered down to the point where I can report on the many fine details of the mf’s handiwork. In awarding him the 9.8, I overlooked the obvious fact that the door is so far out of skew that it renders the very notion of what it means to be in skew beside the point.

Varmint be-gone

The point being that the door, consisting of two mismatched pieces of plywood the mf’s wife scavenged from one of her work sites, is not hanging on by a literal thread. Ho-ho no. It is hinged; quadruple-y hinged; two hinges on the bottom; two hinges on the top. The two panels have been staple-gunned together, that’s obviously ricky-ticky but whatever, for now, the door has stood the test of time, which consists of overnight, during which time no hens got out and no varmints got in.

This may largely be due to the safety features the mf built into his handiwork, such as the wire threaded through 3/32″ holes the mf handily — ding, ding, ding! — there it is, used in a sentence — drilled in the plywood door and the corrugated aluminum siding covering the rest of the opening. He twisted the threaded wire together as a fastener.

Q: Did you say “threaded”?

A: Yes, I did say “threaded,” but that is not how the door is affixed. This is the crucial distinction. The door is affixed with hinges and secured by a wife — oops, I meant to type “wire” — threaded through the holes but made of metal, not gossamer.

As someone who has seen some extremely gossamer constructions thrown up by the well-intended but let’s call it what it is — discombobulated — mf as a poor excuse for a coop door, I proclaim this current door a huge improvement. It opens and closes. You can walk in without bending over, without kneeling, without crawling.

The very tablecloth covering the desk where I write is virtually flapping like hen wings while chanting “No More Crawling!” It feels… historic.

Another safety feature is the chicken-wire staple-gunned to the bottom of the door, where there was a gap that looked like a handwritten invitation to varmints.

Dear Varmint: Please come in and eviscerate one of my beloved chickens.

Not anymore. A varmint will need to contend with two layers of chicken wire. I’m not saying the door has been permanently varmint-proofed because that would be hubris, but I am saying the weakest link has been significantly reinforced.

And here the tablecloth changes its chant to “No More Hubris!” It feels… hallucinatory, in a good way, like especially strong sunbeam-through-cloud.

You may be wondering if the coop door is so messianic; why only a 9.8? Well, I’ll tell ya. The mf really could pinch off the exposed screw tips with some pliers. The exposed screw tips are an admittedly raggedy look. And really, I know he did beyond his best, and we also said it was beside the point, but whoa, that door is seriously out of skew.

That said, the mf’s wife had intimated that she would like him to make a door for the coop, and he did it, using power tools and safety goggles and straw-colored hinges. The door functions as a door. He also covered it with a leftover swath of white netting that has been drifting around the garden for several seasons, ever since it proved unsuccessful in keeping critters away from pumpkins, and later as a design element in a failed, gossamer-based coop door.

Still, the mf kept it handy (!) because he thought the white netting might come in handy someday, and that day has now come. He staple-gunned it to the mismatched plywood to add a spectral effect. It looks like a ghost door or bride of ghost door. It will sway in the breeze. The mf loves it.

The crowd goes crazy

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

One thought on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 7

  1. I believe the take home is:
    “One broken egg every thirteen months? By any reckoning, that is a low broken egg percentage.”
    And, the the mf is becoming, by all carpentry standards, handy.

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