Inside Paul’s Discount, I made a beeline for the sparklers. “Look,” I said. “We need these.”
Steve rolled his eyes.
Back at the shovels, I continued to distract myself with everything around us, including my digital camera, while Steve inspected the options with great seriousness. The available shovels ranged from $5 for a wood-handled, sturdy-yet-plain number, up to $21.99 for one with an ergonomic handle and a ledge on which to rest your foot. We settled for a $12.99 one with a rectangular head with the appropriate name: “The Transplanter.”
After paying for our purchases, we followed two Paul’s Discount employees outside to collect our dirt.
“How many bags?” one of them asked, even though he held the receipt, replete with double-digit number, in his hand.
“Twenty,” I said. “We’ll pull the car around.”
They began to load. And load. And load. At one point, when the car was more than halfway full, they counted and realized they had eight bags in the back. Did I mention it was the hottest day of the summer so far?
When they were finished, I tipped them, and we got in the car. Steve fired up Red Thunder and pulled forward.
A noise not unlike the sound of a perpetual zipper shot through the car. Steve braked, then accelerated again. The noise returned, louder this time. We had moved about 20 yards from the pallets of bagged dirt.
“What the hell was that?” Steve asked, looking in the rearview mirror.
The Laughter of Hysteria escaped me. “That was your car.” I giggled uncontrollably while Steve glared.
We climbed out and looked at the back wheels, which we had neglected to check before trying to drive away. Sure enough, the car was so low that the tires were spinning hard against the top of the wheel wells. My giggling picked up its pace.
“Go ahead,” Steve growled. “Take your picture so we can unload the car.”
He stormed off in search of the two guys who had loaded the car. They informed us that we should just unload what we couldn’t carry with us and put it back on the pallets. We left the car where it was, and the four of us unloaded thirteen bags of dirt one at a time back to where they’d started.
“If you stop at a gas station, I’ll buy you a cold drink. And some ice cream,” I said. I know how to soothe the savage beast, when necessary.
While Steve ate his chipwich in the Conoco parking lot, we strategized for the next round. “I’ll come back and get the rest of the bags,” he said. “If you’re not in the car, I’ll be able to distribute some of them in the front, which should help. And you can start setting out the containers where they need to be, and maybe even get the first bag of dirt in the bottom of each one.”
It was a plan. A course of action. No matter that the whole process was supposed to take an hour and here it was, nearly two hours after we first left the house. No matter that the sun was starting to fall in the sky and we hadn’t even unloaded 800 pounds of dirt from our driveway to our back yard. We were on track to save our tomatoes from certain and painful death, even if it was going to take Red Thunder two trips to get all the dirt home.
Steve broke out into laughter. “You do realize the irony of this, don’t you?”
“This is,” he said, “what you wanted us to do in the first place.”