I stand in a yard.
Be strong, I tell myself.
The sky is yellow, like a storm is approaching. I exhale sharply and wipe my brow.
“You said you could do the job – so do it!”
Stand strong, don’t back down.
I pick up the hammer and a piece of white picket. I begin hammering again. The wind whips my hair into my eyes and mouth. I attempt to spit it out.
“You want to build the whole fence? Show me you can fix part of it first!”
I keep hammering and manage to affix the top half of the board to the fence…right before the wind rips it off and into my chest. I lose my balance trying to catch it without stabbing myself with a nail.
“Sheesh…doesn’t look like you’re cut out for the full job…”
Do they mind?! I think, before reminding myself not to give in. This is just how the game works. I push myself back up, squat behind the fence again, and attempt to put the board back in place.
I feel the first few drops of rain hit my face.
“You’d better hurry if you want to finish this before the rain comes.”
I can hear them from across the yard. I can’t see them, but I know they’re standing on their front porch. Dry as a bone, I’m sure. Shielded from the rain and weather.
Well, at least I don’t have them breathing down my neck now, I suppose.
I pound the top of the board back into place again, and manage to get the bottom secure before the next gust of wind. I turn to my pile – five down, only thirteen more to go.
“It’s looking good, although I must admit, you’re not as good as your website makes you seem. You just don’t seem very fast at this. You might want to change your marketing.”
I’m glad they’re standing behind me so they don’t see my eyes pop out of their sockets.
This person I’m currently working for is overhauling their backyard – adding a nice deck, flowers, a little garden, and a hot tub – so they asked me to build a fence for their yard before they started working on it.
The only kicker was, they wanted to see the quality of my work in action first. So I agreed to come fix their front yard picket fence at a reduced cost.
I didn’t know I would be fixing eighteen planks, though. I sigh once more, looking at my pile. I gave them my word, and I’m not about to back out, as much as I want to…and I desperately want to…no, no. I won’t give in. I’ll finish the job.
“You really seem to be lagging there. Are you sure you’re capable of doing a full fence?”
I roll my eyes – yes. I am. – grab another board, and start hammering once more. The wind somehow gets even stronger, and, to add insult to injury, they let their dog out. Naturally, it runs straight to me and starts barking and jumping on me.
“Sorry, Killer gets really excited by people in the yard. I’ll put him inside once he’s done his business.”
Breathe. Breathe. You can do this. You can totally do this. I keep hammering. Two more boards done.
“C’mon, Killer. Let’s go. C’mon, boy!”
Killer the dog keeps sniffing me – I’m not sure how much he can actually smell since it’s raining pretty steadily now. Another board finished. I grab another one and crawl a few steps to the next patch and –
“Oh, watch out for that –“
– sit my knee down right into some dog poop. Great. My current ‘boss’ start laughing somewhat heinously.
“Oops…sorry about that! But you have to admit, it’s really pretty funny!”
No. It really isn’t. I finish three more boards before they stop laughing.
Keep breathing. Keep going. Only seven more. Stay strong.
“Does that one look a little crooked to you? I think it’s crooked.”
If my eyes could roll 360 degrees, they would. I go back and look at the board in question – definitely not crooked.
“It’s definitely crooked.”
Again, not crooked.
But I kneel down anyways, pry out the nails, and ‘straighten’ the board.
I pick up with the new boards once more. I hear the first rumble of thunder and the rain starts falling harder.
I will finish this. I WILL finish this.
Six boards left…
“You’re doing a pretty okay job, but I know someone who’s a carpenter who could totally help you out and give you some pointers.”
Five boards left…
“Do you think we’ll need to paint these boards? Not today, obviously – I don’t want to stand out in the rain. Plus, the paint would wash right off anyways.”
“How long do you think these boards will last before they need to be replaced again? Or should we just gut and replace the whole fence?”
“How’s that knee doing? You’re probably going to want to throw that straight into the wash when you get home…and shower twice, while you’re at it.”
“Is this something I could do myself? Now that I’m watching you, it doesn’t look very hard.”
I’m done. Finally – done.
“Are you done? Hey, look at that! I’d come over and take a closer look, but it’s just raining so hard, so I’ll scrutinize it tomorrow.”
I use all the energy I have left in me to heave myself back upright. My back is killing me from bending over, and my legs feel like they’ve fallen asleep.
“Uh…you okay there?”
I raise one arm halfway to give a thumbs up as convincingly as I possibly can.
“Honestly, and I’m being real with you because I like you, I’m not entirely sure about this for you. You seem awfully tired, which is, frankly, unprofessional.”
I stand in the rain, soaking wet and chilled to the bone, with dog poop smeared into the knee of my pant leg and a body so sore that I’m surprised pieces of it haven’t started falling off.
And yet, here they are, telling me that I’m the one who’s doing a poor, unprofessional job?
“I mean, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, I’m just trying to be honest.”
This whole process has felt like a sham from the beginning, and yet somehow their words are just now getting under my skin…
I’ve done what they’ve asked. I’ve played their game. I’ve gotten rained on and pooped on (sort of) – and I still stuck to my commitment and finished the repairs.
And for what?
“You know, thanks for doing those repairs, I appreciate your time out here, but I think we’re going to go with someone else.”
I’m standing in the rain, fuming, thinking about all the ways I could go off on this ‘customer’.
And then I stop.
I look up at the sky, toward the horizon, and I see a small break in the clouds. For a fleeting second, I think that I might see a rainbow.
It disappears quickly from my sight, but it lingers in my mind – reminding me of the choice that I have. The choices that I always have.
I turn around and face the porch with a smile.
“Not a problem. Glad I could help you out. Let me know if you ever need anything else.”
I give a small wave before turning back around to pack up my supplies and equipment, then head out the gate to load them into the car.
I throw a towel down on the seat, and turn the heat on full blast in an attempt to dry myself off. As soon as I’m one step drier than sopping, I put my foot on the break and throw my car into drive.
And I make the choice to spend my remaining energy driving away and towards the next opportunity. The one that sits under the opening in the clouds – rather than the fighting the one in the middle of a rainstorm.
… … …
Hey, thanks for reading! It means so much to me! If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my blog to stay up-to-date on my latest posts, especially since I do not share them on social media. And if you really enjoyed it, you could consider sharing my blog with someone you think would like it, too. And if you really REALLY enjoyed it (aw, shucks! *blushes*) and know of any writing or other creative opportunities, please feel free to send me a message and pass them along! It is my dream to ultimately work full time as a writer, so any support you can offer means the world to me.
Photo credit: Randy Fath from Unsplash