Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pumpkin Carving and Coffins

When it comes to pumpkin carving, I'm like Charlie Brown when he made his Halloween costume.  Instead of a ghost with two eyes, he resembled pale Swiss cheese.  I'm just not good with knives.  Whittling was a total catastrophe as I couldn’t even make toothpicks or sharpen pencils.  I can’t even use box cutters properly to open packages.  I shudder at the thought of malpractice suits if I had become a surgeon.  Of course, I get squeamish just watching Bones so playing doctor is as far as I will go in the medical field, but still, it's a nerve-racking thought.  Jack-O-Lanterns should be scary, though, so I suppose my lack of skill works in a Friday the 13th sort of way.

Yet, I envy those people who can carve the entire nativity scene on the face of a pumpkin.  I can't even accomplish a simple triangle.  Seriously.  It comes out half trapezoid and half pentagram, which is somewhat fitting for Halloween, I suppose.  At least, halfway.

A few years ago, they came out with stencils that you put on the pumpkin in order to trace these elaborate diagrams.  You could get a perfectly hideous witch's face, a haunted mansion with bats, President Obama, anything that would frighten young children when it was lit up.  They didn't help.  I can't even trace a picture on flat paper and they want me to Etch A Sketch a diorama on a bumpy pumpkin?

I'm not good at cleaning the mutilated pumpkin out, either.  First off, I hate it.  It's like finding a dead animal and swishing your hand around inside the carcass and pulling intestines and veins out.  I refer you back to the first paragraph and my squeamishness.  The whole process is gooey, slimy and gross.  People who enjoy this type of thing grow up to be the special effects people for low budget horror movies.  Of course, the inside of my pumpkins always looked like stringy spaghetti dripping from the ceiling.  I was never able to scrape all the pumpkin guts out, so it appeared like my creation had vein problems in the eyes.  I don't scrape my plate and I'm expected to scrape the brains out of a pumpkin so the candle sits flat?  Is a tilted candle really going to affect the eerie glow that much?  I would think warped lighting would add to the creepy factor.

It's not just pumpkin carving or knives where I fail. I'm pretty unsuccessful with saws as well.  We were watching this television program that taught people how to create Halloween decorations and I felt inspired when I saw the homemade coffin.  All I needed was some 1 x 2's, plywood and screws.  I wouldn't even have to paint it giving it a more rustic appearance.  Put a life-size dummy in it with fangs dripping red paint and I'd have myself a genuine homemade scare.  I even started envisioning motorized hinges and recorded screams coming from within.  Or, better yet, skip the dummy and put Zac in the coffin and have him zombie-walk out as the little kids bounced to the door, begging for my candy.  The screams would be worth the cost of chocolate!

But then, I remembered it was me that was going to attempt this project.  If I can't carve a pumpkin, I sure can't build a coffin.  I know because I've tried.  Okay, it wasn't a coffin I attempted back then, but rather a small wooden pantry for my new bride.  It had the same materials, which brought flashbacks of incompetence. You may think I'm kidding about my lack of skill with tools, but I assure you I'm not.  For the first few years in our marriage for presents people bought me books, those meditative water falls and candle sets.  They bought Char tools.  I'm not joking, drills, socket sets, hammers.  You name it, she got it.  And we preferred it that way because fewer people got hurt.

However, I did try.  It was early in our marriage.  We had just moved into our first house and Nathan was just over a year old.  The house was huge, except for the kitchen.  Char's biggest complaint was that there was no storage space.  So, being the loving, though inept husband I was, I decided to build her a pantry.  We already had the material in the garage although I have no idea why.  It was God's idea of a joke more than likely.

Anyway, I gather the wood, the nails and hammer and the skill saw.  The thing with a skill saw is you really need skill to make it work right.  So in my case it was a spinning saw on the verge of removing fingers.

"Are you sure you don't want to call your dad?” Char asked as she put Nathan in his swing on the other side of the house, as far away from the impending crisis as possible.

"How hard can it be?  Walls, top, bottom."

“No shelves?”


"Didn't you say it was going to be my food pantry?"

"Well, yeah."

"Am I supposed to just stack everything on top of each other for four feet?"  I wasn't building a big pantry and didn't see exactly what the problem was.  So, she had to shuffle things around a bit in order to find a can of corn.  Is that really a big deal?  She was getting a pantry, after all, because she needed more room.  Now, she was just being picky.

Still, I was building it for her so it only made sense to construct it in a way that made her happy.  How hard could it be to put in a couple of shelves?  So, I picked up my hammer, scooped up some nails and pounded in the shelves.

I stepped back to admire my craftsmanship, placing a can of cut green beans on the shelf.  It slowly slid from one side to the other.

"Did you mean it to slant like that?"

"I didn't have a level.  I tried to eye it."

"You do remember you're almost blind?"

I pried the nails out and pounded them back into a straight line before trying again.  The green beans slid the other way.  Char came over tilted it on its side and tossed one of Nathan's toy trucks inside.  "A toy box!"  At least my creation had a purpose in the end.  That is, until Nathan hit it with his toy hammer and it all fell apart.  I bought him a toy box and cut the fiasco into firewood.  No skill needed there.

I finished watching that Halloween special on homemade decorations with envy.  They made it look so simple.  When it was over, I snatched the keys from the counter and started for the door.

"Where are you going?"  The girls asked with trepidation.

"To the Halloween store to buy some decorations."

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