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The Carpenter

(A True Story)

There were those in the village who thought that the Carpenter was, maybe, not the brightest star in the firmament. And others that thought they were probably right. Still, he did his best, they all supposed. He was probably thankful that they were not around to witness an incident which might have confirmed their suspicions.

It was a bright morning in early Spring that he set out for the back of the Lake to collect a load of timber for his trade. It was fresh-cut larch in five foot planks he was fetching, so he left the big trailer and took the small flat-back, attached to the ancient Volvo Estate that had served him well for many a year. Into Coniston, round by Waterhead and down the East side to the Heald below Brantwood. Half the load went into the back of the car and the remainder was lashed securely to the little trailer ready for the slow haul back to the workshop. On the way home, never topping thirty, as was his habit, he pulled in dutifully at all the pre-selected passing places on route to clear the inevitable processions that gathered at his back. The advertisement says that “the car in front is a Toyota”, but in the area of Torver it was usually the Carpenter’s Volvo. Carefully avoiding the usual temptation to apply the boot a little on the Torver Motorway where the old railway used to run, he rounded the final bends and turned into the top of the drive.

It was at this very point that an idea of extraordinary brilliance entered the Carpenter’s head. Knowing that he had other tasks awaiting his attention, and that he would not be available to process the new timber for a few days, why not leave the trailer in the driveway, fully loaded, until he was ready to deal with it? The car would have to be emptied, of course, but he would at least have halved the work of the moment.

Continuing through the gateway and down the drive, another thought should have entered his mind, one, moreover, which would have had a direct and very important bearing on the original idea. But it didn’t. The key to this thought (the one which never occurred) lies in the word ‘down’ as related to the drive ‘down’ which he was now proceeding, the ‘down’, in this case, being at a considerable angle of declination from the horizontal.

The Carpenter stopped the car by the courtyard area outside his workshop, alighted, and placed himself between the trailer and the car before pressing the trigger on the towing arm and releasing the catch from the ball, with the intention of manoeuvring the trailer, loaded with its considerable weight of timber, into a convenient position for later attention.

Gravity is a jolly interesting fellow. Invented by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, it performs the remarkable function of persuading all objects, especially heavy ones, to attempt to abandon their position of the moment in favour of one lower down. And there’s that word ‘down’ again. Observing the release of the towing hitch by the Carpenter, gravity immediately leaped forward to intervene by dragging the loaded trailer similarly forward. The towing arm drove hard into the back of the estate to fetch up jammed against the heap of planked timber therein. Fortunately, this prevented further access just at the point where the Carpenters thighs were pinned firmly against the rear bumper, but about a quarter inch before they could be crushed into splintered fragments by the pursuing trailer-load. The space occupied by the thighs was barely sufficient to accommodate the bones, and wholly inadequate for containing all the soft, squidgy material surrounding them. The resultant compression immediately induced a level of pain which brought tears to the Carpenter’s eyes. Added to this, the precarious nature of his predicament, with loaded trailer held at bay only by the chance contact between the towing arm and planks in the car, frit the very life out of the poor soul and threatened a certain weakening of the bowels.

He decided not to move. Being an honest chap he would have admitted, had he been asked, that the decision was not entirely, or even partially, his to make. That he was not so asked was due to there being no-one in the vicinity at the time, and even if there had been, the Carpenter would not have been pleased to have been asked bloody silly questions at that difficult time.

He tried to push the trailer away, but it laughed off his puny efforts with utter disdain, and after several minutes of deep and serious thought he realised that he had no idea what to do. It was then he was struck by a thought of the greatest good fortune. He remembered that attached to the back of his belt was a walkie-talkie device by which he could summon help if he could but reach it. Unfortunately, his coat tails were trapped between his bum and the car thus sealing the device into a position of utter uselessness.

He was beginning to panic. Then, in his struggles to reach the W.T., his elbow made contact with the little gadget that locks the tailgate in the ‘up’ position, releasing it to crash down upon his head, obliterating whatever small modicum of wit therein remained. At this point he may have uttered a profanity, but as there was no-one to hear it, I think we must, dear reader, for the sake of his soul, give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming that he did not.

The tailgate fell three more times before he finally reached the W.T. and was able to call for help. “Brrriiinnnng.” “Hello!” “Er… I don’t want to worry you, Dear, but I’m a bit stuck.” “How stuck?” “Very stuck.” “Stuck where?” “Stuck here.” “And where would ‘here’ be?” “Outside.” “Outside where?” At this point the Carpenter was beginning to lose his self-control. “I’m stuck in the drive. Now, stop asking bloody stupid questions, you great wassock, and get out here. And fetch the boy.” “Who are you calling a wassock?” “OH, FOR CHR…” “OK, OK. I’m on my way!”

The Carpenter’s wife, arriving at last from the house, wasted several minutes in unseemly mirth, and a further several when his son, the Carver, arrived to repeat the performance. With the trailer wheels chocked with rocks, the Carver carefully drove the car forward and the Carpenter, his legs by this time completely numb, collapsed to the ground and whimpered quietly to himself.

After a few moments, and as the sensation returned to his lower limbs he rolled painfully onto his bottom and began massaging his bruised thighs. He eventually struggled to his feet, spurning all offers of help, and hobbled back and forth, grimacing as the circulation returned and the throbbing increased from mere agony to utter excruciation.

“Are you all right?” This from the ever-loving wife and delivered through the last remnants of a smirk.

“Yes, I’m fine!”

“And who were you calling a wassock?”

“Oh, shuddup!” he said as he limped into the workshop and quietly closed the door.