Friday the 13th

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Looking down from the top of my ladder, I saw a black cat with big yellow eyes lying underneath, staring back up at me. Right then, I should have known things were going to go awry. Moments later, the lights shorted out and The Wife heard a loud thud reverberating from upstairs. The thud was me falling off the ladder after shocking myself and shorting out the lights.

She ran up the steps and looked down at me with concern etched in her face; the eight-foot step-ladder I was climbing lay next to me. Our black cat with big yellow eyes sat atop my chest and meowed. She was looking down at me too, although I didn’t notice concern etched in her face – too much fur.

This was just the start of my attempt to install a ceiling fan. One trip to the doctor’s office and an Ace bandage, an ice-pack, a prescription for pain medication, a stern lecture about the dangers of electricity, and eight hours later, the ceiling fan was finally installed.

There’s a lot to say for the English language. First of all, most of us can read it and speak it, although some more elegantly than others. English can also be a very useful tool, especially when it comes to assembly instructions — if you’re one of those people who actually read instructions, that is. We already know, I’m not.

The Wife and I bought the fan from the hardware story with the orange roof. Sporting giant oak leaf blades and a large, frosted globe light, it would lend the perfect ambiance for the writing studio, a.k.a. the bonus room over the garage. The bonus room used to be The Boy’s room, but he’s off at college now, and kids who go off to school never come back. Or so we’ve been told.

Installing a ceiling fan should have been a simple enough task. I went to Briarwood High School for five years and attended Auburn University. How hard could it be? If I got into trouble, all I had to do was read the instructions or call best friend fix-it man Mitch for help — unless he’s hurt again.

Arriving back home, I lugged the heavy box upstairs, opened it and pulled out all the pieces. There was so much stuff it looked like someone had dumped all the parts from three fans into one box. Then I did what any real man would do. Looked around to make sure The Wife was nowhere near, opened the instructions and tried to read them.

The instructions were a 20-page book printed in five different languages, with excellent illustrations that really would have helped — if one of the five different languages it was printed in was actually English. Frustrated, I threw the instructions in the corner. The black cat with yellow eyes immediately thought this was an invitation to play “shred the instruction booklet into a thousand little pieces.”

With all hope for any kind of instructional help now lost, I removed the old light fixture. Now I know you’re supposed to cut off the electricity first, but I did cut off the light switch. This, I soon found out, wasn’t the same as cutting off the electricity.

To make sure the heavy fan would not fall, I used two four-inch screws to secure the bracket holding the fan to the ceiling. The screw went through the ceiling. It went through the wood 2 x 4 in the attic. And it went right through the wire going to the switch – which was still energized. That’s how I shorted out the lights, fell off the ladder and landed with a thud on the floor.

I don’t know if The Wife wanted to make sure the black cat didn’t get hurt or me. But the rest of the day she stayed in the bonus room under the guise of working on the computer. She said she was filling out forms for government loans so The Boy could keep going to school. Sounded rather important, but so was installing the ceiling fan.

For the next hour, we both worked on our tasks, me installing the ceiling fan, The Wife filling out the loan applications. Finally, I proudly walked over to the light switch and announced, “The fan is now installed.”

In the eight years of our marriage, some of the things I’ve done haven’t been too smart. Cutting on that light switch falls into that category. The instant the switch was pushed, the breaker in the basement tripped and all the power to the bonus room cut off. Along with all the unsaved government forms The Wife had been working on for the last hour. The black cat with big yellow eyes wisely exited the room.

The Wife said, “Just call Mitch for help before you burn down our new house.” I’m sure she was mad; I just couldn’t see her because the lights were out. I started down the steps to make the call and tripped on the cat that was lying in wait for me on the landing. I fell the rest of the way down the steps, and landed in a crumpled mass with another thud.

After we got back from the doctor, I called Mitch and he told me how to fix the fan. He said unfortunately he couldn’t do anything about the government forms being wiped out by the electrical shortage. Now what really worries me is all of this happened last week on Good Friday. Today is Friday the 13th, and my black cat is still staring at me with those big yellow eyes again. No telling what’ll happen today.

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