I left my toolbox in the rain

I WISH I’d never left the toolbox in the rain.

It was a gift. From my wife. If I give her an iron for her birthday it’s insensitive; if she buys me a toolbox it’s thoughtful.

There was a sudden storm while I was tinkering with the lawn mower and I dashed for cover, leaving the toolbox open and the tools exposed.

It was a metal toolbox. I meant to go back for it but evening came on and the next day was a work day and I forgot it.

It rained for a week and by the next weekend the toolbox was transformed to a rusting, hinge-stiffened cesspit of iron-red tools with their moving parts seized into terminal rigor mortis.

My life might have been different but for this one small oversight.

Now I am hamstrung. My arms are tied behind my back. I am gagged and defenceless. If my wife leaves the iron on and I tell her gently that it is a dangerous practise, her back stiffens, her eyebrows arch, smoke scorches from her nostrils and she says: “Well – you left the toolbox in the rain.”

If I suggest a $10 bottle of wine would have been ample and a $15 bottle was a trifle liberal, she says: “So? You left the toolbox in the rain.”

If I suggest she keeps both hands on the wheel and watches the road even when she’s talking because, I stress, I am concerned for her safety, she brings up the toolbox.

The toolbox happened in 1979, for God’s sake!

It’s been 22 years and in our family the toolbox incident has taken on the proportions of a Homeric epic.

By 1990 it was: “You always leave your tools in the rain.”

As the new millennium arrived it became: “H never takes care of anything.”

This is fighting dirty, but protests are useless. My wife has too many allies with a vested interest in perpetuating the myth. She says it to the next-door neighbour who nods sympathetically and says: “I know what you mean. I can’t trust Fred in the kitchen. He always breaks the crockery.”

I’m envious of Fred. At least it gets him out of the washing up. I catch his eye and I can see the truth written there – he broke a saucer in 1962. Probably part of a wedding gift.

I think it’s the personal involvement that distorts the memory. I left a briefcase on a train once. It was ancient and held great sentimental value. But because I bought it myself my wife has never said: “Anyway, you left the briefcase on the train.”

I started keeping diary so I had incontrovertible evidence of the falsehood of these sweeping generalisations. But my wife says that just proves how competitive I am and how I’m always trying to trip her up.

So I’ve given up trying to be perfect, and it’s working. I don’t think they want us perfect. Only gods are perfect and who wants to live with a god? Especially one who’s overweight and has hair growing in his ears.

I’ve taken to always leaving my toolbox in the rain. If it starts to rain and it’s in the shed I take it out and open it up and give it a good soaking.

My wife says: “There – what did I tell you!” But she smiles as she says it and gives me a hug.

It’s costing me a fortune in tools, but it’s worth every cent.