It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when Mr. Saint Cyr drove over with his small coil of nylon rope. We had been rearranging the furniture in the upstairs bedrooms and decided that the four hundred pound mahogany wardrobe just didn't go anymore in the room with purple carpeting. Had he understood that our intention was to actually lower it to the ground from the first floor balcony, he probably would have brought more rope, or his beefy farm-hand son, or his John Deere.
So the three of us stood on the balcony, tying the little rope we had around this beast of a wardrobe and discussing how we were actually going to lower it down. We had just enough rope to make a couple of loops around it and tie a knot. But what all of us failed to notice until it was too late was that the rope wasn't long enough to lower the wardrobe all the way to the ground.
But we were strong guys. No problem. True, Mr. Saint Cyr was pushing seventy, but he spent his life running a farm. He had a strong back and a gorilla's grip. Brawn over brains. "Let's lower it down," a confident voice said in French. "Everyone got a piece of the rope?"
We each grabbed a section of nylon and braced ourselves. I glanced behind me at Mr. Saint Cyr whose back was relaxed and straight, holding onto the rope with one hand as if it were a garden hose and he was watering his roses on a balmy summer evening. He was not even wearing gloves to protect from friction burn. None of us were.
"Wait, wait!" I said. "It's not going to hold!" finally realizing the folly of what we were about to do. But it was too late. Muscle had already been put into motion and no amount of brain, however convincing, however true, was going to stop it. We hoisted the wardrobe onto the railing, then prepared ourselves to lower it down on the count of three.
"One!" In two seconds it will be over, I thought to myself. I wonder if it's a male ego thing. I mean, we didn't even have a real plan. We didn't communicate who was going to hold most of the weight. We don't even have enough f-ing rope!
"Two!" Maybe the girls were right. Maybe we should have called for more help. But they could never understand the gravity of such an insult. It's right up there with asking for directions. Maybe my mother in-law should have put her Mercedes underneath like she suggested — to cushion the impact.
"Three!" Here we go. The wardrobe balanced on the railing for a brief moment before tilting towards the ground. The next thing I heard was a flurry of voices — the men on the balcony, the women and kids down below — incoherent voices yelling simultaneously. Then the snap. Silence. And a thunderous crashing of wood hitting the stone patio below.
We peered over the railing, each still holding onto the lifeless rope, and saw that the wardrobe had shattered into about eight hundred indiscernible shards and splinters.
No one spoke. There was a lot of head scratching going on. Everyone seemed so surprised that our plans had failed. Finally Mr. Saint Cyr's voice broke the silence: Mais, ça se remonte. Serieusement! But you can put it back together. Really you can!
Despite its gloomy fate, and whatever may still come of it, I will always remember Mr. Saint Cyr's optimism, prepared as he was to attempt the nearly impossible.
The wood that once made up this wardrobe has since found itself a home in a tidy corner of the garage. Though I fear for its future, I'm sure I will think of Mr. Saint Cyr with a cheerful smile as that old wardrobe is transformed into fire and smoke and floats up the chimney, keeping us warm on winter nights when the temperature drops below freezing — perhaps not the ending Mr. Saint Cyr would have chosen, but a practical one nonetheless.
In memory of Jean-Baptiste SAINT CYR