American Hardware

Letter From Illinois

Just lay your hardware on the table, cowboy, and keep them hands up high.

Last Sunday, I bumped into Ron at the hardware store. In the central Midwest, where I live, it’s not unusual to meet an old friend pushing his cart full of home repairs, especially on a Sunday.  True Value and Ace are to us what Starbucks is to those in the big city.  There, it’s espresso and croissants; here, WD-40 with a fresh roll of duct tape.  The hardware store is also where everyone seems to go after church; or, more and more, instead of church, plaster replacing prayer on the Lord’s Day.

Ron was coming down the aisle that I was headed up, neither of us looking where he was going, preoccupied.  A pipe was leaking in my basement, and I was scanning the shelves for cement to help hold the plastic fittings tight.  Something always needs fixing in a house, but, after my divorce, the place I’d moved into seemed particularly fragile: holes in the roof, ripped screens, the plumbing gone sour.  If a man’s home is his castle, mine was under siege, but the enemy was within.  I had come to see the cliché about putting your life back together in terms of my house.  Too bad there’s no homeowner’s insurance for sorrow, no “good hands” to be in but your own.  Thus, patching this or that in the old place became a symbol of self-repair, and I’d...

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