Stop me if you’ve heard this one…
A few years back, Ali’s brother, Jimmy, was staying here at the Lamb and Lion Inn. He needed a change of scenery from Florida life, and, as he happens to be the best handyman we’ve ever known–as long as he has one hand wrapped around a cold can of Budweiser–we were happy to put him up.
During his summer with us, Jimmy built a lot of wonderful things, including a beautiful outdoor shower (locally referred to as a “Cape Cod shower”) in the Inn’s courtyard. Everyday we check guests in, we point out the hot tub, we talk about the solar-heated pool (the heating panels were added simply to warm the pool economically, however in more recent times when we mention the panels guests comment about how we are helping to save the planet–I love it when “thrifty” is confused with “heroic”), and of course, we talk about that wonderful shower.
One very hot and humid July day, I mentioned to Jimmy that one of the heat-censored exhaust fans at the far end of one of the Inn’s attics wasn’t working. The attic runs along the west side of the inn and stretches over 5 guest rooms. It is 100 feet long, and although the ceiling was high enough for Jimmy’s lanky 6′ 4″ frame to stand up in, one of us was going need help getting tools and a flashlight from one end of the attic to the other. We both got our work clothes on–Jimmy in blue jeans, and me in a pair of shorts and paint-speckled sneakers (remember this, it becomes important). We grabbed 2 flashlights, any tools we might need, and, of course, 1 ice cold Budweiser. Pulling down the extension stairs, Jimmy suggested we leave the tools in the hallway to surmise the situation first. As we entered the dark attic, Jimmy suggested that he take the long, slow walk to the fan first, just to see what was up–no need for both of us to go on the first trip. Who was I to argue? So off Jimmy went, slowly pushing the mounds of loose, itchy, gray insulation that was blown in years ago from the 2×4 board he was carefully balancing on.
|The mural painted hallway. Between the lights in the ceiling, is the pull-down door to doom.|
A few minutes later, Jimmy’s flashlight beam started heading back my way. When he got back to the top of the ladder he was sweating like a politician on To Tell The Truth. “The fan needs to be replaced,” he informs me, “So I’ll need your help getting it out. We’ll just need a screwdriver for now.” Grabbing a couple screwdrivers from the hallway, I race back up the ladder, eager to get this over with. “Listen, Man,” he instructs me, “There’s only 2×4’s running the entire length of the attic. No other flooring. There’s also a ton of this shitty insulation covering everything, so go slowly…feel your way with your feet...”Be The Board.” Understand that Jimmy is an aging, out-of-place hippie, and when he talks like that it’s always very endearing. So, off we shuffled. Jimmy first, and me right behind him.
The one thing Jimmy forgot to mention–and the one thing that I should have been smart enough to figure out ahead of time–is anytime you’re in a situation where you’re walking along a 2×4 that’s resting upon perpendicular thin beams, that 2×4 is going to have to shift over the amount of its own width in order to let the NEXT 2×4 rest on the same beam. In other words, that next step I was going to take? The board was actually about 4 inches from where my foot was heading. The next sounds you will hear will be depicted, as best as I can, in the order that I remember them…
“FROOOMP!” (My entire left leg going completely through the floor)
“AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!” (The woman in room #4′ s blood-curdling scream at the surprise visit from a hanging appendage)
“WHAT THE $#@&?!?!?!” (The woman’s husband–less than thrilled about the new, hairy chandelier)
“MY BABY!!! MY BABY!!!” (OK, I think, they have a baby…I don’t remember checking in a baby…)
“MY BAAAABYYYY!!!” (Yes, now I remember…cute baby).
What was going on above their head would not have soothed their anger one iota, with Jimmy laughing so hard that he’s practically wetting himself. I, on the other hand, am panicked, thinking that the piece of ceiling under my foot landed on the crying baby. I am also stuck, big time. I have no leverage to get my entire leg out of the hole. Adding insult to injury, my private parts seemed to be the only thing between me and meeting this family face-to-face. I was in a bit of pain, to put it mildly.
But Jimmy can’t get it together and is laughing like he just inhaled an ounce of California Gold, which in turn, gets me laughing, not helping any attempt at an extrication–the chaotic screams from below growing angrier. After about 30 seconds of maddening shouts echoing over uncontrollable belly laughter, Jimmy finally managed to pulled me out, and I raced down the ladder, fully expecting to immediately throw myself on my awaiting sword in room #4.
But they were still in their room with the door shut.
Nobody had come out.
The baby was crying…and I could tell as I stood frozen in the hallway, that he or she was OK. The wife was still screaming at the husband–something about “asbestos”–and the husband sounded like he was getting dressed and ready to dole out an ass-kicking of Olympic proportions.
Then it dawned on me…The only part of me they can I.D is my leg and my paint-speckled sneaker! With every ounce of speed I could muster–and with my nether region feeling like it was stomped by the Minnesota Vikings–even I was impressed with my speed! I ran across the courtyard and past a very confused Ali, who stood in the kitchen wondering what was happening, and what that cloud of gray matter was that was trailing me. I got to our bedroom, ripped off my sneakers and shorts, pulled on a pair of jeans, and slapped on my trusty black clogs. Before heading back down to the chaos, I knocked off whatever insulation was still clinging to me, and took a second to get my mind around what I was about to do next.
On my way back through the house I practiced my surprised approach. “What happened?” was going to be my entrance. “They wha? Who fell through the ceiling”? I told them not to work up there when we had guests!! Damn those louts!!” Yes, it was going to be an academy-award winning moment.
But, I was never to get that time in the spot-light. In her concern, rather than follow me up the stairs, Ali made a B-line to room #4 during my quick change. As I raced across the courtyard, I could see Ali speaking to the guests in the threshold of their room. Everything went into slow motion…NNNOOOO!! I could hear myself thinking…don’t saying anything, hon! Dooooonnnn’t!!
|Lair 4 (before the carnage)|
But it was too late.
I stood undetected in the hallway once again. “Let me ask you, did the worker have shorts on or was he wearing jeans?” Ali inquired, like Magnum P.I standing over a corpse. The answer, of course, was the former. “Oh, that was Tommy. He and Jimmy were fixing a busted fan.” And shortly, “No, I don’t think that’s asbestos.”
Now what? I thought. Looking outside I could see Jimmy walking in the yard with a giant shit-eating grin, sipping his beer, and wiping the tears of laughter out of his eyes. I stood listening as the couple ranted and raved. Everyone was fine. It seemed that the baby was, in fact, directly below me, but none the worse for wear. Mom and Dad were inconsolable, wanting a speedy check out and a full refund. They weren’t asking for my head on a stick, so I figured, why deliver it? So I did what any responsible innkeeper would do at that moment. I quietly shut myself in the darkened garage, found Jimmy’s beer stash, sat on the cooler, and waited to hear their car pull out. 20 minutes later, they were gone.
As I walked back into the Inn, Jimmy had already started telling Ali his version of the incident, and the laughter started all over again. They turned and looked my way. Jimmy collected himself, placed his beer firmly on the kitchen counter, and gave me this lasting little bit of advice. “Next time I tell you to ‘Be The Board’…Man, you’ve really got to feel it.”