The retrofit of a decrepit garage was going poorly. The Curmudgeon, being Adaptive and all, realized the solution to this wasn’t in the present. It was with the dipshit that made the mess in the first place. So he retreated to his mad scientist’s laboratory (you mean you don’t have one?) and built a time machine.
The 1970’s. A redneck with two teeth and a can of Bud light is working on a garage. It’s new construction. The walls are bare 2″ x 4″ studs.
The man has a net worth of eight dollars, and that includes his car. Orbiting the man are 37 children of all ages. A crooked wheelbarrow is propped against a barrel. There’s a twelve pack of beer in the wheelbarrow. A child is in the corner peeing. An AM radio is playing a speech by President Carter; “This intransigence by Iran will not go unpunished. Also I have lusted in my heart.” As with all things Carter, nobody listens.
The man is happily flailing away with a saw. Then he drops it in the mud and motions toward some kids. “Get me that paneling.”
Seven children charge over to a huge pile of freshly purchased paneling. It was on sale at the lumber yard for a very steep discount. It has been sitting in the rain for a week. The kids drag a floppy panel through the mud to their father. In a swift motion he slaps it against the studs and without the slightest pause tacks it up with 245 tiny nails. On one side it overlaps the stud. On the other side he has nailed it over a kid’s foot. The kid extracts her foot and scampers off.
He holds out his hand for the next panel. This one he hammers up even faster. It’s not quite flush with the other one so he adds more tacks.
A six foot sphere of plasma expands from a pinpoint and takes form. Children flee, the redneck drops his beer and curses, six dogs and a housecat run for their lives. As suddenly as it forms, the sphere vanishes. In it’s place, fully clothed, carrying a backpack, and holding several items, is your’s truly; The Curmudgeon.
The redneck is terrified. He’d run in fear but first he reaches for his dropped beer can. The Curmudgeon steps beyond the can and plants his booted foot on the redneck’s outstretched hand.
“No!” Commands the Curmudgeon.
“My beer?” Squeaks his victim.
“I am from the future.” Booms The Curmudgeon, “And you have pissed me off!” The Curmudgeon kicks the beer can out of the way, reaches for a device from a hidden pocket, and extracts a cattle prod.
“Do I have your full attention?”
Rubbing his temple, the man nods.
“Good, from now on I’m going to refer to you by your proper name. You are ‘Dumbass’.”
“Actually I’m Bob…”
“…Dumbass is fine.”
“Listen carefully Dumbass. This is for you.” The Curmudgeon hefts a large tool box and drops it on the man’s foot. The man hops back and accidentally crushes his dropped beer can.
“In that tool box you will find several tape measures, squares, small levels, and a big level. A good hammer. New drill bits. That sort of stuff.”
Confused, the man nods.
“Use them!” Orders the Curmudgeon.
Waving with his cattle prod, The Curmudgeon indicates the wall, 2″ by 4″ studs, now with two flimsy sheets of paneling tacked on.
“Are those on 16″ centers.”
“More or less.” Whimpers the man.
The Curmudgeon strides to the wall and pulls a tape measure from his pocket. “It’s 3/4″ off!” He barks.
“Well that’s close enough?”
Grasping his electrocuted genitals, Dumbass collapses on the floor. Meanwhile The Curmudgeon is checking the studs with a level.
“I check five studs and three of them are out of level? Now, before you’ve even finished construction? You bastard!” Curmudgeon drops the cattle prod and draws a pistol.
An expertly fired 9 mm round goes through the AM radio. Jimmy Carter’s voice, which had been saying something about ‘negotiate with Iran’ is silenced. Dumbass wets himself.
“Man I hated the ’70s! Fuckin’ Carter.” Curmudgeon growls. Suddenly, as if reminded of another terrible menace The Curmudgeon whirls to check the driveway behind him. He sees a rusted Buick, a broken Chevy, and several parts of a snowmobile.
“Do you own an AMC Gremlin?“ The Curmudgeon hisses. There’s a dark look in his eye.
“No! No! I swear.” Dumbass begs.
“Good, if I saw a Gremlin I might get upset.”
“What’s with AMC’s?” Dumbass stutters.
As if to answer, The Curmudgeon reaches into his backpack, pulls out a 3′ wrecking bar, and with a single motion, tears a sheet of paneling from the wall. It splits in half at his feet.
“Hey, I just bought that.” Dumbass whines.
Ignoring him, The Curmudgeon reaches into the mess at his feet and tears a tag from the paneling. He begins to read. “5/32 inch Bungalow Paneling...“ Curmudgeon spits the words out angrily. “Precautions: One, Bungalow Paneling is for interior use only… …it may expand or contract with changes in humidity.” He faces Dumbass, “Are you going to heat this garage? Every day? All winter long? Every year?”
“No.” Dumbass is surreptitiously reaching into the wheelbarrow.
A bullet hole in the fresh can of Bud Light Dumbass grabbed is spewing crappy beer everywhere. Dumbass instinctively drops it. The Curmudgeon barely looks up from his reading.
“Two, panels must be installed over a solid dry wall...“ the Curmudgeon leers menacingly at Dumbass and continues, “…Do not install over open stud construction.”
Waving with his pistol he indicates the wall. “Would you say that is open stud construction?”
“Yes.” Dipshit really wishes he had a beer.
“And would you say you’ve installed this crap assed Bungalo shit over open studs? You’ve nailed it up where it doesn’t belong. You’ve built everything in a haphazard manner! Your failure is such that it will piss off future generations.” The Curmudgeon is screaming now. “Some poor bastard in the future is going to have to un-fuck the disaster you’re making right now!”
The Curmudgeon pauses, draws a breath, counts to ten, and begins again with no appreciable reduction in rage. “Wouldn’t you say that I ought to stop you from your utterly dipshit nature? How can you deny that if I shot you between the eyes… and maybe replaced you with a human being, maybe one who knows how to assemble a proper wall and use a damn tape measure… who could deny that your untimely, bloody, death would make my life, in the future…” The Curmudgeon pauses, trying to manage his emotions, “…better.”
“With today’s visit to your time,” The Curmudgeon continues, “I’m beginning the process of un-fucking the future.” With that he strides to the pile of new paneling, reaches into his backpack for a handful of flares, ignites several, and dumps them on the paneling… which bursts into flame.
The Curmudgeon still has several unlit flares in his hand. “You sure you don’t have any AMC products nearby?” He asks this as if nothing could be more perfect in the world than a road flare jammed in a Gremlin’s gas tank.
“Sorry, couldn’t afford one.” Dumbass shudders.
“Right then.” The Curmudgeon glances at a chronograph on his wrist. “So I’ll be going. Here’s some cash.” Curmudgeon tosses his heavy backpack on the ground at Dumbasses feet. It’s filled with a mountain of quarters, nickels, and dimes. Dumbass looks at the huge pile of change, opens his mouth to speak, and thinks better of it.
“It wasn’t easy to get 40 year old paper money.” The Curmudgeon shrugs. “There’s about $500 there. Spend it on good materials and decent tools. No more ‘Bungalow Paneling’. Be a man and use plywood or something. Also two words, ‘vapor barrier’. And learn to use a goddamn level you chimp!”
Dumbass is delighted at his newfound wealth.
“One more thing. Buy an ounce of gold. It’s like $150 bucks.” The Curmudgeon pauses and gets a far off wistful look in his eyes. “Stuff the gold in the wall somewhere. I’ll use that to get your stupid historical quarters.”
Dumbass is disappointed to know that some of the mountain of change is not his to spend.
“When I get to the future” The Curmudgeon continues, “I’m going to check the garage. If it’s still built like an ignoramus might slap together a mud pie, I’m going to come back and flatten this whole structure… with you in it. But if it’s straight and true and well built, you’ll never see me again. Also…” At this The Curmudgeon speaks slowly, as if to impart a fact of great import, “If the garage is in perfect shape in the future I’m not going to go knocking walls down looking for a stupid gold coin. I’ll just assume the coin is inside it somewhere.” The Curmudgeon winks as he says ‘assume’.
A sphere begins to form around The Curmudgeon and he begins to fade. At the last minute Dumbass realizes what is happening and scrambles to his feet.
“What else can you tell me about the future?” Dumbass pleads.
“Don’t buy Betamax!” Comes the reply… as if from a great distance.
The present. An Adaptive Curmudgeon is in his garage trying to fix a carboretor. Mrs. Curmudugeon steps in. “How’s it going?”
“Not bad.” He smiles. The workshop is spotless and well appointed. Everything is where it should be. Outlets are plentiful, properly grounded, and evenly spaced. He leans against the solid, well built, workbench and grins at the perfectly smooth and well maintained drywall. He sets the carburetor on one of many, ideally situated shelves.
“Didn’t you say something about ‘retrofitting’ the garage?” Mrs. Curmudgeon asks.
“Nah, why bother? It’s fine just like it is.”