Pergolatory II: Ozymandias revisited

April 30, 2020

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

–Percy Bysshe Shelley

“I’m a victim of soycumstance.”

Carol watched as I completed fastening the top of one of the pergola posts to one of the cross supports. The idea of leaning the post on a steep slant by balancing it on our kitchen step stool in order to reach it and secure it to the cross support had been my idea. That way I could work at ground level and once fastened together, lift both the post and support back into an upright position. It was still a struggle to align the pieces correctly, but I finally succeeded.

“I told you this would work,” I said smiling triumphantly.

Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to believe

“Reid, you have the step stool attached to the frame now,” Carol replied. It was a Curly moment straight out of A Plumbing We Will Go.

My first thought was just to leave it as is, and we’d have the only pergola with a step stool hanging from one corner of it. Happily, there was just enough clearance to slide the stool around the connection I had just completed and down the length of the post, separating the stool from what would eventually be the finished product.

You would think that successfully completing a project that encompassed and overcame such a degree of misstep would create a wellspring of a sense of achievement. And it did. For about an hour. Then the Reid Being Reid element of my life took over, and worry over all that could still go wrong became the fraught that filled my self-abnegating brain.

How much will be left over is not a silly question

You see, I was assigned the job of the final tightening of the 100 plus bolts and washers holding the pergola together. Meaning, as I sit beneath this vaulted arch, it is with the fearful contemplation that it was my hand that last touched each and every fastening, and my sole judgment that each was tight enough…but not too tight.

“Reid, you have the step stool attached to the frame now,” Carol replied. It was a Curly moment straight out of A Plumbing We Will Go.”


Whether a slight fault of design or our own alignment issues, Carol and I encountered instances where holes didn’t line up. It was Carol who figured out how to draw the holes together with a screwdriver, and for me to worry that the resulting tension would increase until the breaking point would suddenly send the over-stressed fasteners shooting out from joints like artillery shells, taking out the eyes of visiting grandchildren and sending careening metal supports crashing down on the other guests.

Did Chicken Little first notice it here?

Yes, these are irrational fears, but they occupy a prominent place in my nonsustaining confidence to build things that will hold up. The two Adirondack chairs I put together have already shed footings, and the arms and legs are beginning to act like an old man’s creaking elbows and knees. I’ve also assembled bookcases and kitchen stools, and the cumulative effect of all that worry over my workmanship might have inspired Shelley’s poetic artistry were he to have ever visited my home and listened to my construction tales.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Just don’t sit down anywhere, Percy. Or reach for a book.

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