Last week, you came into my shop and told me you’d bought a fine new bed, and we agreed on a day and a time. That night I added up the sum total of our conversations, and determined that I had received more words from you during that conversation than you’d ever given me before. I slept tight in my chair with that fact over top of me.
Two days ago, I poured water into the washtub and let the sisal rope soak. The dog tried to harmonize with my humming. When I asked him to stop, I noticed he needed a washing, too.
Yesterday, I laid the sisal out naked in the June sun, wiped down the parts of my bed key, and then I scrubbed my nails clean and used the washtub for myself. Dipping my gnarled body into the water, starting from the corns on my feet to finishing with the grays on my chest. My shabby clothes and shabbier dog followed. After tossing the bathwater, I walked to Mrs. McLachlan’s garden and plucked some mint without asking. I asked the Lord to forgive my pride for not wanting her to know my intentions.
This morning, I will rush to your house. When you show me into your room, there will be on the floor your birch headboard, two posts, two long and two short support beams with a row of pegs like upside down thimbles on one side of each. I will drop my sisal and my key and get straight to work. As I assemble your bedstead, I will ask your thoughts of the new pastor. At some point, your children’s voices will run through the open window and around and between and through us. When the frame is at attention on the plankwood floor, I will say: My, but your bedstead is grand, Mrs. Putnam. You will smell mint on my breath and smile as you leave the room.
After I’ve woven the rope around each peg and used the key to pull slack from the sisal grid, I will tie hitch knots diagonally from the southwest corner to the northeast and slide your horsehair mattress over my work. I will make a point not to think of you as the Widow Putnam anymore, and I will tell you as I leave about the knots, how they keep the bed from sagging too soon. But, really, they are meant to remind you of my brief presence in your home, how well I fit there, and the comfort I bring.
I am a superstitious man and every little bit helps.