It was a big construction company. There were several excavators, dump trucks, and the like in a large muddy parking area in front of an industrial building. They were obviously in the business of building roads and such. No sign of firewood. I roared into the huge lot with my hefty dually truck and the mismatched tiny little “pony” trailer; spun around in a big circle kicking up dust and leapt out of the truck.
The door of the office burst open and a pale skinny woman with bleached hair hurried toward a battered Ford Focus parked next to a dirt pile. She and the Focus had both seen better days. She was lighting a cigarette and tossed the match my way. Only then did she see me.
“Julie?” I grinned across the expanse.
She startled. I assume she turned pale but she was already pale to start with.
“I brought an onion sandwich. Want half?”
Without a word she jumped in the car and careened away. It was missing a back window and had a few dents. Julie was probably not the best driver.
Inside the office I found a guy with a calculator scribbling numbers on a calendar at a furious rate. I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Curmudgeon.”
The guy looked up. “I’m Jake.” He looked out the window at the ragged sedan heading out of the lot. It was probably in third gear and was definitely gaining speed. It jounced over terrain that would make a goat stumble with wild abandon. “Dude, she drives like it’s a mission to kill that poor car.”
“It looks like she’s succeeding.”
“Ha ha ha… you’re right.” He glanced at a bowl on a desk. “Look, mints. Want one?”
He grabbed a handful. I accepted a few. They were pretty good. Jake was staring at the bowl. “There’s never food here. Hmm…”
I decided to cut to the chase. “I’m here to buy one cord, 4’x4’x8′ of cut, split, dry, oak firewood. It’ll take my truck and trailer combined. You have a bobcat to load it. You want $100. Is all that right?”
I handed Jake $100 cash. Jake stuffed it in his pocket.
“I’m gonna’ need a receipt.”
“Oh sure.” Jake got out a receipt book and a battered pen and started writing.
“I want it to say ‘one full cord’.”
Jake wasn’t worried. I was wondering what the next trick would be. The wood was in Juneau? The bobcat was actually a housecat?
Jake handed me a receipt. It said ‘one full cord oak firewood’.
I had no idea what would constitute the next part of the adventure so I waited. Jake wiped his hands off, grabbed a scrap of paper, and started drawing with a Sharpie.
“OK. You go down route 14 right?”
“Hang a left here.” He pointed to a hand drawn diagram with one line crossing another. “Then two miles on route 9.” He paused to steal more mints from Julie. “Past the railroadbut before the lake… there’s a right hand turn.”
“Take the turn?”
Jake looked up like I was the dumbest thing he’d ever seen. “Why would you do that?”
I smiled and said nothing.
“Right at the turn is a dirt road. Just built it last month.” Jake said it slowly, like I was particularly dense. “Go almost to the lake, and go right onto the new dirt road. If you get to the lake you’ve gone too far.” I nodded. Jake handed me another mint. I accepted. He scooped a handful in his mouth and kept talking. “It’s two point three miles on that dirt section. It’s dry. No mud.” He grinned around the mints, obviously proud of the road he’d built.
I interjected “At this location there is firewood?”
“Yes!” Jake beamed, like I’d learned a new concept today.
I continued “And that is where I can get a guy with a bobcat to load cut, split, dried, oak firewood?”
“And this guy who drives the bobcat, he will know how much to scoop to make up a 4′ x 4’x 8′ cord of wood?”
“He won’t have a fuckin’ clue.” Jake nodded grimly.
“Yeah, they’re idiots.” Jake sighed with me. “Just give ’em shit until you’ve got a full load. Tell ’em Jake said a full goddamn cord.”
We shook hands. I drove off seeking my firewood…