Like all recent mornings, there is, as I write this, a gigantic jackhammer jackhammering right outside my window. The jackhammer is destroying a 50,000 gallon underground concrete cistern. This cistern, constructed at great expense at the urging of my architect (“you’ve never tasted water so good!”), was meant to collect rainwater off the roof of the bunkhouse. And it did, in fact, collect some of that. It also collected oak pollen, squirrel feces, katydid frass, and the incessant involvement of my annoying handyman, who was obliged to ascend the roof with a leaf-blower seemingly every other day in a futile attempt to combat nature’s natural impulse to deposit its stankonious detritus over every square millimeter of Dreadful Acres.
The fact that rainwater collection necessitated daily interactions with a person as annoying as my handyman made that aspect of the process particularly trying.
The mosquitoes, though, were the cistern’s most truly breathtaking product. In the middle of a 3-year drought, with no other standing water around for miles, my house was a beacon, a spa, a luxury resort for mosquitoes. They spawned like mad in the cistern, where they were protected from both predators and, owing to the intended purpose of the water (drinking), from pesticides. For eight months out of the year any trip outside the house in shorts and a T-shirt was a foolhardy suicide mission.
“You aren’t going outside?”
“But I have to. The horses haven’t eaten since, like, April.”
“Well, here, just slip on this suit of armor.”
“Are you crazy? It’s 102 degrees out there.”
“Then at least spray yourself with Deep Woods Off. The bugs’ll still bite you, but at least you’ll get cancer.”
One would limp back in moments later, stinking of DEET, disfigured by stinging red bumps, scratching bloody divets into the skin, defeated, showing symptoms of malaria.
Meanwhile, a couple of months ago something or someone crawled into the cistern and died. The water went septic. I wonder if you grasp my meaning. The entire house stunk a stink the sheer enormity of which words cannot adequately express. Let me just tell you, you haven’t lived (in hell) until you’ve showered with water in which an unidentified mammal has recently decomposed.
Well, that was IT. With deft and malodorous fingers I texted young Travis, the quintessentially Texan cowboy Brad Pitt-lookin rurally-literate dude I keep on retainer, and gave him the word.
“Let’s fill that motherfucker in.”
Looking back, I probably didn’t actually use the word ‘motherfucker’. It’s irrational, but for some reason I am uncomfortable dropping the good old misogynist curses around godly young persons who wear Jesus fish chokers on leather thongs and call me “ma’am.”
Not a moment too soon. Five days of ceaseless jackhammering can wear a crone down. The contractor who built this place was without a doubt the most drunken chump-ass jacknut this side of Luckenbach, but he was apparently and uncharacteristically somewhat on the ball when he installed the cistern. That thing was constructed like the president’s atomic bunker, and from what I can tell, was also the source of the Great Rebar Shortage of 2005.* In other words, it has resisted demolition at every turn. The jackhammerist is pretty fed up with it. Somehow, when I imagined filling it in, I hadn’t envisioned that it would entail caving in a vast expanse of concrete 30 feet across and 2 feet thick and pissing off 3 dudes with heavy machinery for the better part of a week. I thought maybe they’d drop one of those Monty Python weights on it and shove a bit of dirt in the hole, done and done.
Well, you live and learn. Next time I spend thousands of dollars on a useless mosquito farm, I’ll be sure and put it above ground and on someone else’s property.
* You can’t tell from the photo, because Flickr has apparently done something screwy to the resolution, but that’s about 47,358 rebars in a pile in front of what was once the cistern in question.