Jessie Raymond: Meet Master Overbuilder and Lazy J
I’ve got an idea: I’m going to write a children’s book.
I’m calling it “Master Overbuilder and Lazy J Work on the Garden,” a whimsical tale about a married couple and one of their many adventures. (It is purely fictional and not based on anything that happened at my house two weekends ago.)
The story takes place on a sunny Saturday in late spring when Lazy J, a humor columnist, asks her contractor husband, Master Overbuilder, to make her three trellises for her cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash. She shows him an article titled “A Cheap and Easy Garden Project that a Normal, Non-Perfectionist Person Can Make in 15 Minutes.”
The article explains that you nail four strips of wood into a 3-foot-by-4-foot rectangle, staple some hardware cloth over it and prop up one side with sticks or 2-by-4s like a lean-to. Your vining plants will grow up the trellis instead of sprawling all over the garden and rotting on the ground.
Lazy J figures Master Overbuilder can throw three of these together before breakfast.
Lazy J should know better.
Pictured in the book is Master Overbuilder drinking coffee and sketching plans rivaling those of the space shuttle. He heads to the lumberyard for an astonishing amount of materials and fasteners, and then closes himself in his workshop for several hours.
At this point in the story, I picture a charming watercolor illustration of the outside of a closed shop door with cartoon words plastered across the page: “Cut!” “Screw!” “Staple!” Then, on the next page, Master Overbuilder is seen leaving the shop and driving off back into town for more supplies.This routine repeats over several pages, until M.O. has made four trips to town. (Four trips for such a simple project? Will young readers even believe that?)
Finally, as the sun sets, Master Overbuilder calls Lazy J into the shop to see his finished trellises. They are made of rugged pressure-treated 2-by-4s, with hinged arms that can be folded flat for storage, and molded trim concealing the raw edges of the hardware cloth. They are, Lazy J notes to herself, more carefully constructed than her dining room furniture.
Lazy J showers Master Overbuilder with gratitude, but he will have none of it. Apparently, he is resentful at having given up an entire beautiful Saturday to be stuck in the shop working on a project for what is technically Lazy J’s garden.
Lazy J explains to Master Overbuilder that she never expected him to spend a whole day on this. Master Overbuilder says — for the 389th time in 20-plus years — that there is no point in building something half-a**ed (I’m quite sure children’s book publishers will require asterisks).
If he’s going to do it, he says, he’s going to do it right.
Lazy J says she feels bad; she doesn’t even like cucumbers all that much and is growing them mostly for him. He tells her he doesn’t really like cucumbers either. They share a hearty, if somewhat strained, laugh at that. Ha ha ha. (Lazy J declines to ask him about his feelings on eggplant, a watery, bitter vegetable that is currently taking up a good portion of her garden.)
On the next page, Lazy J attempts to pick up a trellis and carry it to the garden. Given that it weighs only slightly less than a Prius, she throws out her lower back with the first heave. The next illustration shows her, in the foreground, crawling into the house, while in the background Master Overbuilder loads the massive structures onto the tractor and drives them to the garden.
Or is it? No, my story needs one more thing: a humorous epilogue on the last page. It will be a wordless illustration of Lazy J’s vegetable garden as it will look in late summer.
Careful readers will just be able to make out, through the 4-foot-tall grasses and stalks of wild parsnip, the top edges of the three exquisitely built trellises. They have not been so much as looked at for over two months, since the last time Master Overbuilder’s wife set foot in the garden.
“Aha,” young readers will say, closing the book. “So that’s why she’s called Lazy J.”
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