Friday, July 19, 2002


Long weekend, I'm left alone with The Stone Stair Task.

The Stone Stair Task is one of those labors that mythologically seem to confront only men, in the tradition of Achilles (Troy Task), Odysseus (Golden Fleece task), Hercules (Augean Stable Task et al.), Atlas ("Here, hold this a minute, willya?") and those other mythic guys like we all are, men who normally work at something completely else during the week and then turn around and maintain the rest of the extradomestic world on weekends or vice-versa, men who really have no idea how to go about The Task, which is why it is a Task and must be done, and somebody has to do it and no one else will, and done as soon as possible before some god goes wild and somebody breaks their neck or something falls down or decays irreparably or washes away, or the nation is lost or civilization collapses, stuff like that, an ancient fellowship whose ranks I joined upon tacitly agreeing to fulfill the cosmic need for a stone stairway in my garden, aka The Stone Stair Task.

Similar modern tasks include The Roof Task, The Wall Task, The Driveway Task, The Chimney Task, the Septic Tank Task, and many others. The Task is never a simple one, like the lawn task or the trash task or the dogwalk task (note lower case).

Of course, he whom the gods have chosen could pay large bags of money to someone else to do The Stone Stair Task, but then this isn't exactly building a nuclear reactor or anything, it couldn't be too hard now, could it? It's actually just a piece of cake, I only need a bunch of stones, with which I am filthy rich, to lay atop one another atop some already sloping dirt so that they come out even at the top and don't wobble or shift and present a good foothold even in the dark and when wet, it's impossible I realize at 3am when I see right to the very bottom of everything, where disaster lurks and all appears to be revealed, jabbing me with those little hot needles of incredible difficulty, let alone at my age, of building a stone staircase of three or four or even five steps on a slippery slidey portion of dirt down into the garden that will all wash away in the next rainy season anyway, after I've gotten everything multidimensionally plumb and level and sturdy despite heavy rains and heavy guests, and think of my medical costs.

The Stone Stair Task can only be successfully achieved by Zeus, if Zeus were interested. But as dawn comes it comes to me like light that we are as gods, and like it or not, whoever set up Achilles, saw off Odysseus, dirtied the stables for Hercules and handed the world to Atlas has assigned the Stone Stair Task to me. So after breakfast I brush my teeth, gird my loins and set off into the mythical morning.