"O, O, O," I moan, dropping the "h" to indicate great passion. Anguish
in this case.
"What now?" my wife asks. "You look like a Republican who just got
trickled down on."
"O sure," I say. "Make jokes about the suffering. Ridicule the
sore at heart. Guffaw at the afflicted."
"It's the log-splitter, isn't it?" she says. "You're worried that
you've lost your manhood because of the hydraulic log-splitter."
She's right, of course. I've always liked that line in "Walden"
where Thoreau says that "every man looks at his woodpile with a kind of
affection." I have a woodpile and I not only look at it with affection,
I'm crazy about it. I fondle my woodpile. I hum little celebratory
hymns to it. I sit on the back porch and look at it long and long.
It's partly because I'm a tightwad and I like to think the woodpile
represents stacks of money I'll save in heating my house. It's partly
because I've got a touch of pyromania and the woodpile promises fire.
But it's mainly because splitting the wood with my 12-pound maul
gives me a tremendous jolt of virility. I raise the maul over my head,
then bring it down like a thunderbolt on the log. Thwack-o! And I'm 25
years old again, full of machismo and self-admiration. It's like a
But last month I hurt my back and rented a hydraulic log-splitter
instead. No thwack-o. No self-admiration. No goat gland. Just
another machine doing the work I used to do for myself.
"So yeah," I say to my wife. "I guess it's partly the hydraulic
log-splitter. And my torque wrench."
"Your torque wrench, of course," she says, hitting herself in the
forehead. "How ever could I have missed the tragic significance of your
I gave it to our younger son. He wanted to borrow it because he's
still young enough to do his own work on his VW Beetle. So I gave him
my torque wrench for his birthdaythe kind of gift, my wife says, you'd
expect from a tightwad.
"Here," I said, handing it to him and looking melancholy. "The
torque is passed from the old generation to the new. Happy birthday."
I hadn't used it since 1977 when I bought it to tighten down head
bolts after my older son and I replaced the blown head gasket on my'64
Mercedes diesel. We got so gloriously filthy that it became a
male-bonding exercise, and the Mercedes actually ran for a little while
after that. It was the high-water mark of the
grease-under-my-fingernails stage of masculinity.
But engines don't make sense to me any more, sitting crosswise the
way they do and thus throwing off my automotive geography so much that I
can barely find the oil dipstick when I raise the hood. I feel like
Orville Wright staring at the instrument panel of a 747, an abacus man
peering into the innards of a Macintosh: I feel old.
The Truth, Mainly
"Is there anything else?" she asks. "Is it just the hydraulic
log-splitter and the torque wrench? Or are there other deeply profound
sources of your male aging angst?"
"Well, there is one more thing," I say, ducking my head and looking
at my shoelaces. "It's
it's the hair growing out of my ears. I
didn't used to have hair growing out of my ears. Only old men have hair
growing out of their ears."
"There, there," she says, patting my bald spot. "Don't hold back.
You'll feel better."
"O, O, O," I say again just before I lapse into the English
teacher's last refuge, quoting someone else. "Where are the snows of
yesteryear? With rue my heart is laden. Make way for Oedipus."
"Don't overreact," she says. "You didn't kill your father and
marry your mother. You only rented a hydraulic log-splitter and gave
away your torque wrench. And you have hair growing out of your ears."
"I have heard the mermaids singing each to each," I tell her. "I
do not think that they will sing to me."
"OK," she sighswe've played this game before. "'Tis not too late
to seek a newer world. The best is yet to be. Though we cannot make
our sun stand still, yet we will make him run. Is that enough?"
I stop whimpering. She knows just what to say.
"You're a pretty good husband," she says, "but you do go on. Now
let's eat. I'll cut up your meat for you."
She always knows just what to say.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.