Our Town – November 7, 2019
The Soupster's carpenter-friend is distracted by a "patriarch".
The Soupster’s carpenter-friend is distracted by a “patriarch”.
Originally published November 4, 2004
“Hand me that laser level, will you,” the Soupster said to Charley, a carpenter friend who was helping him. “I want to do a professional job hanging these pictures.”
The phone rang. Looking at the display, the Soupster recognized the number of his old friend Zack, who worked with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration as a meteorologist.
“Soupster!” Zack said. “My ship is in town for repairs for a few days. We’ve been out studying the weather.”
“I didn’t know NOAA was here studying the weather,” said the Soupster, who also didn’t notice Charley listening closely to his side of the conversation. “So, what’s NOAA’s forecast?” he prodded Zack.
The Soupster listened to the answer in silence and then said gravely. “That does seem like a lot of rain, even for here.”
Zack then described in detail the $300,000 NOAA was spending in Our Town, with another $3.9 million scheduled for the vessel’s shakedown in the spring.
“I hear ya,” said the Soupster. “NOAA is building quite a ship.”
If the Soupster had turned around, even for a second, he would have seen the stricken look on Charley’s face. But the next day, he noticed a change in Charley’s behavior. For one thing, the usually fastidious carpenter began missing nailheads and denting beams. After Charley started spending more time apologizing than working, the Soupster suggested that his friend go home.
And the following day, things didn’t get much better. For most of the morning Charley found ways to annoy the Soupster and slow the work. Charley seemed on the verge of saying something, but then so was the Soupster – on the verge of losing patience.
The phone rang in the next room and the Soupster picked it up. “Soupster,” said a cheery Zack. “My entire extended family has come to visit me on the ship while I’m in port!”
“That’s a quite a menagerie you’re bringing on board,” marveled the Soupster out loud.
“My two daughters, my parents, the two cousins and at least two other groups,” said Zack.
“Two by two by two by two,” said the Soupster. “Good luck with all those unpredictable creatures.”
Zack laughed. “Thanks!”
When the Soupster went back to the worksite, Charley was gone. And for the next two days, no Charley. As annoying as Charley had become, he made time go faster. The Soupster went to his friend’s house to find him.
He saw the light on in the biggest shed. He heard sawing and pounding inside. He walked in and saw Charley working on what looked like a huge floating tank.
“Charley, what are you doing?” the Soupster asked.
Charley pointed to the stout craft he was building. “Noah tells you it’s going to rain heavier, he’s building a boat and stocking it with animals! There’s something you’re not telling me, Soupster, and I’m getting ready for it!”
“That’s N-O-A-A,” said the Soupster. “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”
“Oh,” said Charlie, and a long minute passed. “Well, see you tomorrow at work, then.”
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