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Four score and seven years ago, we began a project to remodel our kitchen. This undertaking was scheduled for completion no later than Thanksgiving 2007. Over the last year, our general contractor has suffered more deaths in the family than a resident of Basra, fractured his leg (no doubt stumbling over another flimsy excuse), became a father again with his second wife (rumor has it that he tried to delay the birth because his crew was busy elsewhere) and attended more conventions than a state senator accused of sexual harassment.

Along the way, we’ve experienced highs. These include the installation of an island countertop large enough for Navy pilots to practice night landings, a sink with the capacity to baptize Vince Wolfork and a bay window overlooking the leaf-strewn debris of our damaged pool.

And there were lows, to be sure. Among those incidents, I’d count the pocket door to the porch that didn’t exist in the right size (its replacement was, surprisingly, more expensive), the uneven floor finish that had to be re-done (sending us out of the house for a few more days) and the air conditioner that was perfectly positioned to catch rain spilling off of the roof (on every inclement day, the A/C provides a percussive performance reminiscent of the soundtrack to Stomp).

With each lumbering step, the General contractor would call me to ask questions. These interrogatories would fall into either of two categories.

The first would be “It’s Really No Choice At All.” A typical example of this type might be, “Gary, I’m at the house and we’ve run into a problem. The wall between the house and the garage is preventing me from running a pipe. So we can demolish your garage, not have water in the downstairs bathroom, or run the pipe in a different direction.” The only logical option is more expensive, of course.

The other category of questions I call, “I Should Be Asking Your Wife This, But I’d Rather Bug You.” This sort of phone call goes something like, “The backsplash design is a bit busy, so I’d like to take out a couple of the Fleur de Lis and replace them with plain seafoam-colored tiles. Okay by you?” I think he knows that unless he’s planning to embed anthrax spores in the backsplash, I could care less about the design elements.

Well, now with the economy tanking, “Honest John” has resumed the project with renewed vim and vigor. The long awaited hood exhaust was installed a few weeks ago, eliminating my final excuse for not cooking dinner. The initial meal prepared beneath our new fan caused a gathering of the faithful out in the street. It appeared to them that we had, at long last, elected a new pope.

This work was followed, of course, by the customary request for another progress payment. John opined that we should pay him the balance of the retainage, even though he still had some items left on the punchlist. My feeling was that he would be more likely to finish off the work before the end of the Obama administration if we held back a couple of grand, and if that wasn’t satisfactory, then I might as well punch him. John graciously decided to accept my offer.

The only significant job left to complete is putting wood panels on our refrigerator, so that well it doesn’t look like a fridge anymore. I guess if it’s harder to locate, then we won’t eat as much. That’s sort of a good thing. And any criminals, famished from burglarizing our home, will simply have to make their getaway on an empty stomach.

But this task too has turned into a major undertaking. The panels are no longer available for our spacious incumbent reefer. So Kim decided that we should look for alternatives at Lowe’s. I call this memorable Saturday, “The Day of Monotony.” We checked out thousands of refrigerators, carefully scrutinizing their dimensions, attractiveness (a little baffling since its façade was destined to be covered with wood), door style, freezer position, shelf space, etc., until I wanted to climb into one roomy Amana and close the door.

Eventually we narrowed our selection to a few acceptable appliances and conveyed the list to the always affable John who promptly replied that none of them would work. Instead he offered up a “counter-depth” fridge that was too small to hold more than a three-pack.

So, we’re at yet another impasse. And another Thanksgiving. Unlike the rest of America, I’m hoping that the economy continues to fizzle out thereby bringing our project (which I now call the “Big Lie”) to a close in 2009. I’ll be happy to make some sandwiches for those poor souls out on the soup lines if I can just find the refrigerator.

Gary Atkinson is 52, divorced and remarried. He has four children from 27 to 9, with his first grandchild on the way. He moved to Townsend in 2006, just in time to learn of the “catch and release alligator program” in his neighborhood, and has been working at Bemis in Shirley for 23 years. He can be reached at

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