"Just think for two
seconds—what’s the Road to Heck paved with?"
Sitting in my office thinking
about possibly blogging, I saw a shiny new truck pull into my driveway.
Instantly, I shut the curtains, turned off the lights, and cut the
music on my computer.
I was not—absolutely not—going
to let Sam the Plumber know I was home.
Five minutes passed, then ten,
while I waited for Sam to pound on my front door.
Finally, I crawled into the
living room, took cover behind the couch, and peered out the window.
Sam had backed his truck to my
compost heap and was busily pitchforking the entire enormous pile into
A rush of heat filled my head.
Sam was stealing my compost. My compost! Not that
it’s very good compost. I really ought to turn the pile over every
week, but doggone it, that compost is mine, even if it stinks like a
I jammed on my shoes, threw on a
jacket, and stormed outside, bellowing, “What are you doing?”
Sam kept pitchforking. When I
got to his truck, I noticed that it was crammed with junk. A juice
machine. A box of diet books. A treadmill. All of them looked
“Sam, what the heck do you
think you’re doing?”
Sam stabbed his pitchfork into
what remained of my compost heap and scratched his armpit. “’Bout time
you got out here. I thought you wasn’t going to help me stimulate the
“Stimulate the what?” I
wondered if Sam was on some sort of medication. On second thought, I
realized that Sam was acting no weirder than usual.
Sam grinned at me. “You know how
that there new president with the unpronounceable name is talking about
stimulating the economy?”
“Well, I’ve decided to
diversify. Plumbing is plenty lucrative, don’t get me wrong.” He looked
fondly at my house, which has been the source of so much of his lucre
over the past year. “But, hey, there’s just a lot easier ways to make
money than fixing busted pipes, know what I mean?”
I glared at Sam. “Such as what?
He grinned at me. “You ain’t
using it, and I got a use for it, so it ain’t stealing.”
He had a point. The compost heap
had been there for a couple of years, getting bigger and bigger,
stinkier and stinkier. “What are you going to use it for?”
Sam belched loudly. “Well, ya
remember that Bridge to Nowhere thing? Funded by the federal
“What about it?”
“I figure if they’ll pay for a
Bridge to Nowhere, they’ll be jumping all over theirselves to buy my
brand-spanking-new Road to Heck.”
This was the first time I’d ever
heard Sam use the word heck.” Normally, he used
language a lot stronger than that. I almost laughed out loud. “Sam,
since when do you say ‘heck’?”
He shrugged at me. “New Year’s
Resolution. No more bad language. My niece Samantha has been getting
after me to clean it up, so . . . that’s what I done. I ain’t said
you-know-what since last year.”
“Congratulations. But what the
. . . devil does any of this have to do with you stealing my compost
Sam picked up the pitchfork and
started shoveling compost into his truck again. “Here you are the
big-shot writer and you can’t even figure it out. You oughta be ashamed
of yourself. Just think for two seconds—what’s the Road to Heck paved
I thought for two seconds. “Oh.
Right. Good intentions.”
Sam kept shoveling. “You got it,
Einstein. Just look in that truck and tell me what you see.”
I looked. The juice machine. The
diet books. The treadmill. My compost heap. All of them good
intentions. The Ghost of New Years’ Resolutions Past.
“I’m gonna build me a road,”
Sam said. “The Road to Heck, paved with all the good intentions in the
world. And Big Brother ’Bama, he’s gonna pay me for it. Top dollar.”
Sam finished the last of my compost heap and tossed the pitchfork into
the truck. It stuck into the treadmill and hung there quivering.
“Well, I’ll just be off to my
next stop.” Sam jumped into the cab. “You got anything else for me?”
“No,” I lied.
Sam looked at me for a long
minute, then started his truck and raced up the hill toward my house.
He swung the truck around and backed it right up to my deck.
I said a word that Sam can’t say
anymore and dashed after him.
By the time I reached my deck,
Sam was already inside my house. When I got to my office, Sam was
rubbing his hands and grinning like a madman.
“Don’t know where to start,” he
said. “You ain’t doing much with that blog, but I can’t figger out how
to get it on the truck. Where’s yer latest book proposal?”
My eyes swung involuntarily
toward the printer.
Sam pounced on the sheaf of
papers in the tray and flipped through them. “Hmmm, nice marketing plan
you got here—lotta good intentions.”
“I’m going to do them—this
time!” I shouted. “Really!”
Sam folded the proposal and
shoved it into a grimy pocket. “Let’s just have a look at your filing
cabinet.” He yanked open the lowest drawer. A stack of manuscripts and
contracts lay there, unfiled.
“I’m going to file those this
weekend! Or . . . next weekend for sure.”
“I’ll just bet you are.” Sam
blew on his hands, wrapped his huge arms around the filing cabinet, and
lifted it completely off the floor. He grunted. “Dang, what’s in here?”
“I need those!”
“Right.” Sam backed toward the
I clawed at the filing cabinet.
“I’m almost done putting things in order!”
Sam kept moving.
I ran past him into the living
room, climbed on the couch, and jumped on top of the filing cabinet.
Sam grinned at me and kept
going. Through the back door. Across the deck. Into his truck. He
wedged the filing cabinet beside the treadmill and tossed my book
proposal into the box with the diet books. “Anything else?”
I was trying to think what to
say when Sam’s face twisted into a knot of silent agony. His right hand
shot around to his back and he bent over.
“Sam, are you okay?”
Sam fell to his knees. “No, I am
%@#$&* not okay,” he said through clenched teeth. “I’ve gone
and thrown out my back again, and I promised myself I’d take care of it
I stood there in silence for a
long time. Finally, I said, “I think you promised you wouldn’t say
those kinds of words anymore.”
Sam nodded and grimaced. “Look,
do me a favor and call my niece to come get me, okay? My cell phone’s
in my chest pocket.”
I reached into his pocket and
pulled out the filthiest cell phone I have ever seen. It took two
minutes to call Samantha, who promised to come right away.
By then, Sam had popped a pain
pill and was looking a little less green around the jowls.
“How you doing?” I asked.
“Listen . . . I been thinking.”
Sam gave me a twisted little smile. “You want that treadmill? It’s
brand-new—only been used twice.”
I thought about that for a
minute. “That depends. Can I have my filing cabinet back? If I promise
to get those papers filed?”
“I guess so. But you better get
it done.” He studied me. “You serious about that marketing plan for
your next book?”
I nodded solemnly. “Absolutely.
Everything in there. I know what to do. I know how to do it. I know
when to do it.”
“Okay, you can have that back,
too. And you gonna blog every day?”
Sam grinned at me. “Good, cause
I didn’t know how I was gonna get a blog into my truck. It ain’t
exactly a corporeal object, know what I mean?”
I knew. I got my dolly and
unloaded my treasures from the back of Sam’s truck.
We waited in silence until his
niece Samantha arrived. She bullied Sam into the passenger seat, then
looked in the back of the truck. Her nose wrinkled. “What is this
I studied it for a long moment,
then shrugged. “I don’t know. Looks like Sam’s starting a compost