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My Robot Is Pregnant theme song!

tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

September 22, 2006


This is the rough draft, when I’ve made the changes I’ll erase this warning. Feedback welcomed.

A house settles down like an old man in a chair, and the years give it a lean, the parts grate against one another and all corners wear down. An empty house sitting empty from death in a family, a final generation dead in the ground or hard times turning a family away from their shelter, more hopeful under the stars than in that pathogenic home.

This is where the carpenter found himself. An old home, broken windows cataracting, liver spots of bare wood coming up through faded skin of paint. The house was empty, save for the carpenter and his tools.

His tools were instruments of healing. With a jack he raised a corner of the basement, up in the attic rafters were strengthened with fir planks, insulation pumped between walls gave a new warmth to a creaky shivering carcass, like a strong nip of whiskey would throw heat into thin blood.

At night he spent the longest time sharpening his tools. Blades on chisels, teeth on blades, the razor edge of planes. Tools of a remodeler. Someone with patience. Someone who will work around past mistakes.

A chisel has many edges. To cut with ease the back is flattened. It does no cutting but must be smooth to allow the bevel to slide into the wood. The gross edge of the blade is hollowed, then an angle instilled into the steel along the tip of the hollow edge. When the tool was maintained his work felt good. He was so intimate with what he held in his hand he could sink it or raise it like the wood was water and the steel could float in it. Work was enjoyable.

There were mysteries that remained, of course. An old thing will look one way on the surface, but years instill surprises. The carpenter dug into the framework of a building with bright eyes of exploration. The carpenter needed to read the danger before it came. Thin nails without heads were highway-men, they could rob the tool-steel edge of all its value. Like bitter insults they sunk into the wood skin to wait, they came out at him violently, as though the carpenter were a stranger touching a sore spot.

This was the house. It played cruel jokes on him, putting stone where it shouldn’t be, hiding rot where there was no water. It was an old man, tired of living, almost ready to die, letting those younger than him suffer his tricks his last curl of zest. Being ripped open was a pleasure, all his wounds were testaments to his trials, and this carpenter was like a confessor, there to hear every last transgression done unto him so he could do unto others. Do unto the carpenter.

The carpenter slept in the empty house at night when his work for the day was done. Wind howled at him through the flue of the chimney, sounding bitter and vicious. An old blanket of patchwork fought back while he slept. Spirits from within the space came to look over his body as it moved in the rhythm of sleep. Spirits of the elements that were stripped from the earth and brought into new forms at the hands of men years ago. The wood from forests, even things men don’t consider to be alive, the silica in the glass, the oil in the paint on the walls. These were spirits that remembered.

The carpenter heard voices in his sleep, his dreams gnashed at him, he woke in the morning. A woman was gone from him. He considered her responsible for the terror of night.

Carpentry can be a dangerous profession. As a saw bites into wood the wood might pinch and spit the saw back out, back at the one who set it in its forward motion. On a roof one could slip, under a house something may collapse. A web of power runs behind the walls, hidden and hiding in wait for the steel tip of a tool.

As this house killed the carpenter he could not understand it was happening. He thought this work would heal him; rebuilding this old home to firmity, loving something abandoned, wouldn’t that restore his own strength?

But the house was slowly choking him, dulling his mind, waiting for him to weaken. Then it put the sharp blade in the Carpenter’s hand and let him take his own life. The Carpenter had no idea. He believed, as the blood ran from his neck, that the thoughts of the woman had distracted him. He was a patient man, and as life pooled around him and became something else he tried to figure out where he made a mistake, so he wouldn’t make a mistake again. He wouldn’t. He would never be given the chance.


  1. I would like to extend a formal invitation to dinner sometime. Monday? How’s Monday? no? Wednesday? Sunday? Nope, sunday’s no good — prior commitment. Okay so Monday then? Great. Lovely. Shit, my beer just errupted all over the desk.

    Comment by john-oh — September 22, 2006 @ 10:22 pm

  2. First, excellent use of simile in the first paragraph (first sentence). Secondly, (and I don’t want to illicit any grimmacing or feelings of discomfort from you, like, “Why is this crazy negro bitch stalking me all the goddman time!?!?”) but I think you are a hopeless romantic and you are CLEARLY using this house as a metaphor for what love does to a man. Maybe you stated that outright in the work. I don’t know. My reading comprehension isn’t what it used to be!

    Comment by e. march — September 23, 2006 @ 2:55 pm

  3. oops…sorry I misspelled “elicit.” My apologies. You should put spellcheck on this thing. I will stop leaving comments. I’m a bit slow…

    Comment by e. march — September 23, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

  4. Hey crazy negro bitch, you too much fun to let you leave!

    What does love do to a man?

    What i didn’t make clear in the story is that carpentry will probably kill you. Or me, at least.

    I’ve been doing it for work since I came back to SF.

    I just read Cormac Mcarthy’s All The Pretty Horses. I was trying to copy his tone in this one.

    Oh Yeah, John – Monday then!

    Comment by jon — September 24, 2006 @ 12:03 am

  5. lol! Thanks for the big up! You rock. Now, my reason for thinking that this was about love is because I’ve often felt that one’s lover provides a haven that feels like home. Home is where the heart is; it’s where you lay your head…where you go to feel safe and warm. That to me is love…the first few paragraphs made me think that this is a man who maybe has been hurt before but he’s doing his best to rebuild and restore his faith in love as well as his ability to do it with an open heart.

    “As this house killed the carpenter he could not understand it was happening. He thought this work would heal him; rebuilding this old home to firmity, loving something abandoned, wouldn’t that restore his own strength? But the house was slowly choking him, dulling his mind, waiting for him to weaken.”
    ******When love is true and strong, it will make even the most guarded man lose his shit. That’s what i got from this passage. It seems like the carpenter thought that the love he was trying to restore would solve his problems and make him happy, but instead it was a suffocating brain fuck.******

    Come on! Am I on dust, here?! This HAS to be about love. This is the most allegorical work I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t care what you say, and you dont’ have to admit it in this public forum, but regardless of who you were trying to “rip off,” subliminally I think you were having an Oprah moment.

    Comment by e. march — September 25, 2006 @ 1:26 am

  6. so are you going to kill yourself in an abandoned house? you seem more like the type to draw attention to the act, dive in front of a commuter train at rush hour.
    this isn’t about love, it sounds more like it’s about autoeroticasphyxiation mixed with a little blood sport.

    Comment by takeabath@hotmail.com — September 25, 2006 @ 2:17 pm

  7. Just seeing if I can end the italic madness…

    Comment by Lyle_S — September 25, 2006 @ 8:15 pm

  8. Well, it didn’t work.

    I think this story could be interpreted a number of ways, though the romantic angle seems a reach. If anything, it’s anti-romance, a man pouring what’s left of his soul into a vacuum. He’s better off dead.

    Comment by Lyle_S — September 25, 2006 @ 8:22 pm

  9. wow, Rolston…this appears to be your most controversial work, yet!

    Comment by e. march — September 25, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

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