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Man of the House: So far, 2011 is looking good

The dog delivers, and so do the ants.

January 08, 2011|Chris Erskine

You know, it's early in 2011, but I already seem to be in a synchronous orbit with fate and good fortune.

For example, the college girl is still around. She spends her days visiting friends and going to trendy restaurants that specialize in one thing — grilled cheese, breakfast cereal, beer. To make it easier, I suggested we get her those diplomatic license plates that allow her to park anywhere — near fire hydrants, on the front lawn, etc.

"But you might spoil her," her mother cautioned.

When I was done laughing, I made a winter fire.

Now, there is no underestimating the redemptive powers of a great winter fire. It is a spiritual experience. Like when you see a celebrity at an ATM, or find a fiver wadded in your jeans.

In our neighborhood, we are especially fortunate: The firewood delivers itself.

Just after New Year's Day, it rained and rained, then the winds blew in. Our dog, Cujo, thick as a brick, sensed that the tree out front was about to topple. About 9 p.m., the 300-pound beagle demanded to be let out, at which point he stopped at the base of the birch tree to sprinkle it with his warm wonderfulness. Thirty minutes later, the tree fell across the driveway — ker-SMUSSSSSH — root ball and all.

Freaky, huh? It was like when birds sense an earthquake. The beagle just seemed to know he had this one final shot at the birch tree and essentially tinkled it to death.

Did it fall because he christened it, or did he christen it because it was about to fall?

In any case, thank you, God. Next time, maybe you could saw the gift tree into 2-foot logs?

As it turned out, the sawing was left to me — a distant, forgotten stepson of God. Early the next morning, I was out there with a saw. There really is nothing better than cutting wood on a crisp winter's day. As an added bonus, the wood was birch. Birch, the loveliest of all the logs, burns like 100-year-old books.

So, the next day, the rains moved back in and we answered by making roaring fires. It changed the lighting in the house, changed the smell, chased the ants away — at least for a while.

Don't know about you, but we've had terrible problems with ants during these recent rains. Apparently, what the ants did was send around an e-mail to all their friends: "Crumbs under the den table!" Or they might've posted it on Facebook. What the Associated Press is to breaking news, Facebook is to ant attacks.

We had so many ants the other day, I feared/hoped they might carry off one of the kids. Instead, they took my last bottle of Irish whiskey and the small credenza where I rest my feet. They are, obviously, middle-aged ants. I sensed a certain amount of anger but also a steady resolve.

So, as I noted, good fortune abounds in this very new year, if you're just willing to look a bit. The fireplace wood delivered itself, for example, and we have all these ants to help with the cleaning. On Sunday, I achieved a hat trick of good fortune — blitzing a shoulder in my weekly game of touch football.

On the face of it, a bum shoulder might seem to be a negative thing, but my wife, Posh, pointed out that it could've been far worse. She noted that the injury could've been to a part of my body I actually used, then slapped me on the keister, her message resoundingly clear.

Over the years, I've grown used to this kind of overt sexism. What's worse, spousally speaking, is when they just ignore you. She does that too.

Fortunately, I have my fire, perhaps the finest fire a guy ever made. It snaps the good way a branch does when you're walking in the woods. After the initial flames die down, it adopts the hiss-growl of an impending storm.

If I ever build my dream house, I will start with the fireplace. I know that seems an unlikely possibility — my ever building a house — but remember I have a million ants to help me. They are tireless haulers. I will pay them, as I do now, with breakfast cereal and whiskey.

In my dream house, there will be "a princess tower" for the daughters, and a "queen's suite" for their mother. We'll have "man caves" for the two boys and Cujo should have his own lair, with a mini-fridge, maybe a small sauna.

I'm sure, though, that on chilly winter nights he would still sleep with me — in my lap, by the fireplace.

It would be heaven, really — 100 pounds of firewood, 300 pounds of dog.

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