During that first coveted week of spring that seemed like it would never arrive, my family and I fired up the gas grill to have a picnic on our deck. We washed away two seasons of crust from our glass table top, pulled the chair cushions out of their storage box, and rolled out the Sunsetter to block the blinding rays to which our winter-trained eyes had yet to adjust. While I prepared a salad and put the food on the grill to cook, my son and husband set the table.
It seemed in a way unreal. After the punishing weather this winter wrought, we were almost too timid to truly enjoy this change. What if it snows again? It has snowed into the middle of May before, hasn’t it? But we braved potential heartbreak and took our seats to munch on veggies grown in far off lands while the burgers hissed and growled on the hot grill.
The Grill Master was a wedding gift from my mother-in-law, and it had withstood nearly nine years of spring thunderstorms, heavy winter snows and punishing summer heat. I cooked on it in every season, even clearing it of fall leaves before lighting the burners. It was not uncommon to find me dashing back in the house with a steaming plate of grilled chicken a week after New Year’s. Grilled food tastes better, and each bite reminds me of summer evenings and fun times.
Just as we were passing around the salt for our sliced tomatoes, we heard a bang. Upon investigation, we discovered that the bottom of the grill had rusted out and fallen into greasy orange flakes onto the deck. Thankfully, the burgers were done and the dogs just about burnt, so I turned off the grill. It was time to replace my favorite cooking tool outside of my InstantPot.
Later that night I posted my dilemma on Facebook. What kind of grill should I buy? What’s the best deal? Can anyone loan me a truck? The dread of hauling a grill home, up onto the deck and assembling it overrode any desire I had for a shiny new outdoor appliance. Not long after, a neighbor messaged me that she had a grill for sale. A nice one! She was moving and did not want to take it with her. After pictures and money changed inboxes, I was set to pick it up.
My neighbor lives just up the street in a cul-de-sac. In fact, if I leaned pretty far out over my front porch banister, I could almost see her house. I figured the grill had wheels, so I’d just roll it on home.
After her husband removed their back gate, they lifted the grill into the alley. Made entirely of stainless steel, this Jenn-Air was a silver behemoth. Even still, I figured I could manage to pull it down my street and park it in my yard. I waved goodbye to the neighbors and shouted, “This is the most West Virginian thing I have done this week, but it’s only Sunday!” I rolled it down the alley to a hail of laughter.
The alley’s beaten and worn pavement made the grill hitch and yaw, but I am a stout woman like my grammy (Lord rest her soul), so I made it work. Once I got it on the smooth blacktop, it took little effort to roll it around the corner. That’s really when the trouble started.
Motorists were a bit surprised by an overtired woman in her Sunday morning flip-flops and loungewear pulling a large gas grill (with an attached searing station!) down our tree-lined street, but they waved their polite Edgewood waves, and I continued on down Edgington Lane. At one point, a neighbor and her friendly pooch stopped to chat with me, and I suddenly became even more aware of the preposterousness of my undertaking. She encouraged me, though, as she always does, by suggesting that I make a bit of money by selling grilled treats to passersby from my newly acquired machine. I blanched at the thought of the city ruining my business with all their “laws” and “safety codes,” so I passed on the idea and continued to roll down the street.
By the time I arrived in front of my house, I realized with annoyance that someone had parked their car in front of the only spot with no curb, thereby blocking easy access to the sidewalk. I paused for a moment, raised my sunglasses, and realized that the offending vehicle belonged to me.
I grunted and hefted the front end of the grill up over the curb and onto the sidewalk. With a few more shoves and pulls, I had her parked in my front yard, which my husband was mowing. I tried a few times to wheel her out to the back deck and failed after my foot fell into a dip, and I staggered butt-facing into the thorny red bushes in front of my house. I have wondered these past nine years if the previous owners put those there for security purposes or as an excuse to not hang Christmas lights around the front porch. Though they be but little, they are fierce.
I caught my husband’s attention over the roar of the mower, displayed the grill using game show girl poses, clearly proud not only of my purchase but that I was able to drag the whole mess down the street without running into anyone’s car. He nodded, and I went inside for a cold drink and some me time.
About an hour later, the mower quiet, I heard him call to me from the backyard. It was the moment I had been dreading. He wanted me to help him heft the fully-assembled grill up the back steps and onto the deck. Although we have known each other for nearly 25 years, we do not work well together. In fact, well, you get the idea.
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I trudged through the kitchen and out the back door to see that he had built a ramp out of composite deck boards. Crafty, I thought. It’s one of his strengths. The only problem was that one of the boards was half as long as the other and therefore would not go the distance from the bottom step up to the deck landing. I grimaced inside, but put on my eager-to-help-you face when he asked, Which end do you want? I laughed out loud because it reminded me of when our son was a baby, and we would double team him. Usually, I took the front end (boobs, hello!), and he took the back end. This time, I oh-so-generously chose the back end.
He stood there atop the deck platform like a lion surveying his kingdom. I looked up at him in wonder because he had to realize that as a writer I have nearly no upper body strength and a mild case of carpal tunnel. But on I pushed, first across the grass and then onto the makeshift ramps where my king grabbed the grill handle and pulled it up and up until we ran out of board.
After a moment, I heard from somewhere above the grill’s enormous hood: I’ll hold the grill, you hand me the board, so I can put it down on the rest of the steps. By this time, the foreshadowing was as obvious as if Poe had written it himself. I knew it would not end well. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I hoped to be the one without the scar and the Monday morning watercooler story to tell.
I handed him the half-board while holding on to the back end of the grill. Seconds later I was in star-making pain as the composite deck board rocketed down from the top of the deck and into my right ankle. The obscenities I spewed forth into the quiet Sunday air were just enough to keep me from vomiting, and I was ever so grateful that the three Catholic nuns who live next door were safely ensconced in church. I thought for certain that my bone was fractured. When I finally looked down, I saw that a chunk was missing from the front-left of my ankle, and there was blood. My blood.
I danced around the yard in pain as my son jumped off his bike to comfort me. Oh Mama, Mama. I will beat up that board for you, Mama. That board is mean, Mama. And then he tried, out of both empathy and curiosity, to touch the fresh wound, and I screamed, Noooooo! and the red-bellied porch finch whose nest resides above the frame of my Sunsetter chirped and flew back home, fearing the worst for her children, too.
I apologized to my son and told him I appreciated his concern, and then limped my way around the side of the house to the front door. The grill remained stuck halfway up the deck blocking my passage, part of it on the long board and part of it hung by its wheels on the steps. My husband, sweating from exertion and the hot sun-at-last, sneered at me as I hobbled away, leaving him to find a solution to the grill-on-the-stairs dilemma. Once inside, I found saline solution and Neosporin in the bathroom closet and nursed my wound gently. I reclined on the sofa with a baggie of ice cubes on my ankle and a pillow behind my back and waited.
Sure enough, two episodes of Friends later, I heard my name being called again. I pretended I didn’t hear. Then, he sent my son in, which is the only thing I don’t like about have a kid. Dad needs your help again, Mama. I won’t let that board hurt you this time.
I plodded my way through the dining room and then the kitchen as my son dashed out the front door and around to the back to watch round two. I wanted to stomp angrily, but my ankle throbbed at the thought. I opened the back door to see that my husband had taken the racks out and the lid off to lighten the load. This time, I said, I am taking the front end.
A few good pushes later, and the baby, I mean grill, was up on the deck. For a moment, we thought it wouldn’t fit through the gate, but after careful maneuvering (and I helped!), it slid through the gate in all its disassembled finest. And that’s where it sits today — askew — between the gate door and patio table. We shined up the exterior with carnauba wax and then left it to go inside. The pizza guy was ringing the doorbell.
Maybe this weekend we will finish cleaning out the inside and put the grill back together, but something tells me our latest acquisition will sit in this spot until one of us decides we want to use it and rage cleans it. I hope it’s before the snow flies. Although the new-to-us grill has lights in the hood, they won’t do me much good if it’s still sitting on the patio table when the days get shorter.
My ankle is healing up nicely, though the scabbed-over gash looks unsightly with my cute summer dresses and sandals. And all because I chose to take the back end.
• Christina Fisanick, Ph.D., is an associate professor of English at California University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches expository writing, creative non-fiction and digital storytelling. She is the author of more than 30 books, including her most recent memoir, “The Optimistic Food Addict: Recovering from Binge Eating Disorder.” She has been a Weelunk contributing writer since 2015. Christina is a 1996 graduate of West Liberty University and a member of Ohio Valley Writers. She lives in Wheeling with her family.