The Contractor

It was one of those Mondays near the end of summer when you realize it’s time to move into a new season of work but you know you aren’t quite there. I grabbed at the morning minutes, wanting more of them before I had to pack up my briefcase and head into the office I call my home away from home, to be with my work family. I know I owe them my best but am not always sure how to give it.

Thunder hits. Sam and Rose both hate the booms and run into the room. I decide coziness and pets are great gifts and resist the pull I feel in my chest to get up and go. Instead, I pull open my notebook to record my thoughts on where I am that day and what needs to be done—a habit I fell into years ago, not long after I started reading several chapters of the Bible each morning. The words I read and my heart’s stirrings sink deeper into me as I write.

Deep is what I want. To go deeper.

Lightening hits and Rose jumps from my lap to take cover under the bed. Sam rolls over, landing on my feet. There’s a torrential downpour outside my window and I’m glad I waited to get on my bike. I close my books, open my computer and try to type the words I’ve been struggling with for months. I delete entire paragraphs and frustrated, stop. It’s too early for lunch but Sam follows me downstairs and I make it anyway.

Our bathroom has been under construction since last spring. Our home improvement, orchid lover, plant saver, artist, craftsman, contractor named John, walks in and out of the kitchen as I eat. He’s sawing tiles down to size in the backyard and carries them back and forth, upstairs and down. He saved my own two orchids—took them home and nursed them for months. He got cited for having noxious weeds in his yard. His argument was that they were wild growing prairie plants that he had planted himself. Someone wanted him to grow grass instead. John won.

He is also Sam’s best buddy. Our dog is emotional, moody at best, full of love but probably borderline depressive. John makes Sam crazy happy.

“Are you hungry, John?” He walks past me and I just barely decipher that he has said he’s starving and could eat anything. I make him a sandwich and he walks back and forth several more times.

I have to urge him, “Come on, sit down John.”

“Wow, this looks healthy,” he says about the big fat turkey and swiss sandwich with lettuce, tomato and mayo on Breadsmith multi-grain that I have made for both of us, accompanied by chips and a handful of dark chocolate Hershey’s Kisses.

He takes a big bite and we start talking butterflies. Monarchs migrate, he tells me. They’re the symbol of hope, I tell him.. But who knew that it takes four generations for them to travel from here to Mexico.

“A butterfly can fly to Mexico?”

“Oh, it’s amazing how the four generations work out so that the monarch population survives.” He’s really into this and starts pulling out his phone. “I found a pupa on the rim of a glass on my porch last week! I’ve got several short videos here of it transforming into a butterfly.”

“Let me see that?” I ask more enthralled by the process than I had ever been in science class.

There it was, a caterpillar hanging upside down, creating a shell around itself. “It reminds me of the beam me up on Star Trek.”

“That’s the chrysalis forming.”

The poor caterpillar really puts up a struggle before it’s entirely encased inside its new green wrap.

“You gotta see this part!” He says clicking on the next video. “The shell turns black! Look at that!” He points. Then we watch together as the incredible little creature starts working it’s way back out. “I had to run to Menard’s so I missed the part when the butterfly first appeared. I was so bummed.” He shows me the next clip of the bright orange and black colored wings folded together and the butterfly just sitting there. Still.

“Why doesn’t it fly away?” I ask.

“It has to pump fluid into its wings and then they have to harden before it can fly. That takes a while.” He finishes eating, says thanks, and heads back to the tiles.

I sat there for a while, stunned by what had just happened. I thought back to the words I’d been struggling with—how to write about my faith—when I realized John had just given me the perfect metaphor.



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