The Roost

roostWith my wife away on business, I am on my own.

People around here find that a little suspect. When I drive into town for lunch, the women who run The Roost Cafe fuss over me. They are certain that leaving a man to his own devices is folly.

Every day we go through the same ritual.

“I’ll take the daily special” I will say.

They nod knowingly to each other as if men are simple beasts who know only to eat what is dropped in front of them.

Then they start to peck.

“Don’t you get lonely living in the woods by yourself?” they ask.

I tell them no, I have the cats to keep me company and we throw beer parties every night, thought I add, the cats are mean drunks.

They laugh, but then get serious.

“People say they hear your chainsaw.”

“Yep,” I tell them, “I’m clearing Buckthorn,” referring to an invasive tree that has overgrown my woods.

The waitress brings my lunch from the kitchen. It is a mound of shredded beef wrapped like a burrito but it tastes more like a fajita.  She hesitates at my table, forcing me to look up and give her my full attention.

“You shouldn’t be running a chainsaw alone,” she says. She isn’t just being friendly; it sounds more like a command.

“I’m careful,” I assure her.

Then I notice how quiet the room has gotten.

I am the new guy in town and my arrival at The Roost often has a dampening effect. The chatter dies and people suddenly prefer to listen than to talk. They quietly pick at what’s on their plates, filling the time until the next spark of conversation.

An old guy wearing a heavy woolen shirt despite the heat of the day, breaks the calm. “My brother tripped and fell on his chainsaw,” he says, then he looks at me, “and he knew what he was doing.”

He is a distant relative of my wife; I’ve seen him at gatherings. Everyone else at The Roost knows this, so there is authority in his assumption that I’m a complete idiot.

Thus begins a long recitation of tales about otherwise benign agricultural equipment that turned violently upon its operators without provocation nor remorse.

It is serious stuff and I listen with respect. There is nothing abstract about what they are telling me. They know each of the people in their stories. The fact that I do not know these people means that I have not paid the price it cost to learn the terrible lesson they are imparting.

That is why I cannot be trusted around anything mechanical.

Eventually the conversation lightens up.

The women fuss some more. I suspect their taking me under their wing is not done out of generosity. In their world, a man without a woman is utterly helpless and they confirm this by providing me sustenance and protecting me from danger. It is yet another reminder that despite the bluster of men, women make the world go around.

So there I sit in The Roost, useless at home and not to be trusted in the world of work; a man without purpose.

And soon, I realize I am not alone in that thought.

The waitress asks, “Before you moved here, what did you do up in the Twin Cities?”

I’m asked that on a regular basis.  I answer but it never registers. They will ask again tomorrow or next week because whatever I did, it couldn’t be important.

After all, a guy who can’t be trusted with a chainsaw…..

Author: Almost Iowa

45 thoughts on “The Roost”

  1. Gahahaha! This is genius, Iowa… nothing like being mother henned by an entire community! Poor you… 🙂 But we women take our fussing seriously. As it happens, I shudder every time my husband – very much a white collar dude – gets out his chainsaw. No severed limbs so far, but… well, chainsaw…

  2. We live in the country too and there is nothing that strikes terror in my heart more than when BH comes into the house and says “Now don’t panic!” Usually his hand is wrapped in some filthy rag and there is blood. No chainsaws and no ladders!!! You boys cannot be trusted on your own.

    1. The way we figure it is, if we survived our youth, we can survive just about anything. The most dangerous phrase in the English language is, “Hey dude, wouldn’t it be cool if we…..”

  3. “That is why I cannot be trusted around anything mechanical.”
    What if that ISN’T why? What if…there’s something they’re all just too kind to tell you, AI? Another reason they speak to you the way one would to a child…

    Good, solid storytelling. Smooth transitions into and out of the serious section. (Sorta shaped like a reverse checkmark, huh? No–more like a ski jump, come to think of it.)

    1. Half of these guys have full machine shops in their sheds. They learned to tear down and rebuilt diesels in grade school. In Junior high, they began handling half-a-million dollar combines…. Given their mechanical knowledge, few of them would trust me with a coffee cup. 🙂

      1. I attended church with a bunch of those guys, now in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and relocated out to So. Cal. And when I first moved here, I interacted with a different bunch of those guys, moved up here from Latin America–minus the million-dollar combines, but sometimes plus the head-of-factory-floor experience, now stuck mowing lawns.

        I’ve been on the receiving end of that look, and more, being female. But I merit it: Just last night, I spilled my teacup in my lap.

        (I really wanted to take artistic license and make it coffee, but I am a truth-teller.)

        1. but I am a truth-teller.

          I have agonized over this. I do my best when I write fiction in the first person – but I also write best when I fictionalize my experience. So what to do? I do not want to be tethered by the truth, nor do I want anyone to believe what I write is actually true. So I mix in a healthy dose of fantasy. I talk to animals. I animate the inanimate. I make magic. I turn life into a caricature, a cartoon. It is fun to do and it works for me.

          1. But you are writing more in the Twain vein, so license is licensed, whereas I am writing more…um… You haven’t read my attempts at humor-on-purpose, like the Luck Magnet series, but I’d say that my first attempt,’WWJD if He Lived In a Condo’, was more in the style of… nobody special. It is just that horrible truths are presented as if they’re not horribly painful, and that surprises people enough to shock them into laughter.

            I stray from truth only to protect anonymity or, in one small adjustment, avoid a future lawsuit. Which reminds me: I have got to add a “memoir and the nature of memories” disclaimer to my blog’s first page or libel is liable to loom in my future.

            1. I like to write in such a way that people can say, “Hey, that’s me” when it pleases them and “No way that’s me when it doesn’t.” Except for my wife and pets, it’s always them.

    2. The pattern of the story follows the pattern of cafe conversation: humorous, light, serious, light and humorous. People do not want to begin or end on a serious note.

      1. We Aspies don’t swing that way. We hurt, we blurt. Sucks, though. Even I appreciate some build-up.

        OTH, we make up for it by telling the blurt for a REALLY long time. I guess that’s delivering a type of humor to those around us, if not the one directly in our path.

        Oh, wait: There’s no one left around us. Or in our path, now. AImost, are you there? Almost…?

  4. To begin a story or a post with: With my wife away on business, I am on my own. We know the main character is going to be in trouble. It’s like the words: Don’t go down into the basement. Any fool, that would go down in the basement, deserves what he gets.

  5. LoL. Your neighbors must think you’re either incompetent or practicing up for the next big chainsaw massacre.
    Don’t expect things to change. I hail from one of these little hamlets in mid-America and in 25 years’ time – you’ll probably still be the “transplant” in the cafe – but maybe your grandchildren….

  6. I’m thinking you bite the bullet and hack off a fingertip or maybe a foot; eventually (a decade or two) when you’re finally accepted as a ‘regular’ they’ll talk about you as one who ‘knew what he was doing’ instead of a greenhorn fool. Worth a try, eh?

    1. I considered going that route – but then there was the pain to think about. I could fake an injury though. Seriously though, farming is a very hazardous business.

      1. Yes, I know it is. I had several uncles who farmed and we spent a lot of time escaping serious injury playing as they did the same working.

  7. You know, I’m married to a perfectly capable guy, and yet, when I leave, I become genuinely concerned that when I’m gone he won’t remember to feed himself. It’s silly, but I think it’s engrained in some of us. I’m the same way now that my parents have split. I actually check the contents of my dad’s fridge.

    1. My daughter knows better than to check my frig. All there is in there is bacon. Whenever my wife leaves for any period of time, she always asks, “Do you have enough bacon?” And I always answer, “can a man ever really have enough?” 🙂

  8. When you live out in the sticks – we did that for 15 years down in the West Country where my wife heralds from – I found that the locals were all related to the missus in some way and (as the old English saying goes) all wanted to know, ‘the inside of a duck’s arse’ about new arrival in the form of ‘me’ the then newcomer. It is good to see that these country folk extend to you land also!

    1. I am sure you experienced this..but the eeriest part about it is that everyone and I mean everyone knows your name and you hardly know anyone. Aside from that, you have history you know nothing about. You will get the cold-shoulder from some guy you never met because of a hog-barn deal with your brother-in-law that happened decades ago… Still, I love every minute of it.

      1. Because I came from London the few locals who weren’t related to my wife would only speak to me when I was in her company yet would blanks me when out alone! Also in the small place we lived you couldn’t fart without the whole place knowing! All got a bit too much for me

        1. It’s getting easier to fit in here because of all the immigrants. We are about a 100 miles from /the Twin Cities, yet a substantial number of our residents hail from Somalia, South Sudan, Myramar, Ethiopia, Mexico and Central America. Because of that, a city boy is not all that foreign.

  9. Great story. I can recall going through that experience. Now I’m in the South and we’re having a 6” blizzard. This makes me the expert. And my expertise tells me to stay inside where it’s warm. I have no need to go to work until March 21. I’ll shovel once the snow stops. The neighbors look at me like a freak when I shovel. Being from the north I know what happens when snow is not removed. sd

    1. Out here in Almost Iowa, I never shovel. I traded four acres of hay for snow removal, so everything it snows, my neighbor shows up with his bobcat. Life is good!

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