Chuck came over the other night to help me become familiar with my new circular saw. With it, I intend to rip out some patches of plywood subfloor in the basement and saw off some new pieces of fresh plywood to replace them. He showed me how to set the blade depth and where to look at what I'm sawing. He showed me where the "on" switch was -- something good to know, something I had completely missed. He told me about what happens at the end of your cut, which is that the wood you're cutting begins to sag toward the middle and you'd better do something about that and fast, or it will collapse and the saw will plunge to the ground and you with it and it will probably cut your foot off. We talked about how one must proceed in order to saw on a curved line. I have elected not to do that for now.
I believe I understand the saw. Certainly I understand it better than I do my own cell phone. And yet I have not descended the stairs to begin ripping up subflooring today, have seized upon the tiniest of excuses not to. I have chided myself for my laziness, but I know that I am not really lazy. What I am is scared of my saw.
Scared of myself with the saw, actually. That I will freeze with my finger on the trigger and, in my terror, forget how to take it off. That I will forget and grab the blade while it's running, in an attempt to stop it. That something called "kickback" will happen -- kickback happens when you're sawing in a curve, if you're not careful -- and the saw will leap backwards and cut me in half.
Me stumbling up the basement stairs, not screaming, silent and white as a sheet, holding my severed fingers in my one remaining hand. The bounce of the sharp-toothed disc on the hard wood, its savage landing at the base of my thumb, a dark spurt of red blood shooting to the ceiling.
Many who people use saws don't cut themselves in two or lose their hands or feet. Most, in fact. Almost all, really. I am not afraid of much in life, and so my fear in this case puzzles me. It is as if I were expecting punishment for buying the saw, for venturing that far outside my usual sphere. This is not like me; I've never had a usual sphere in my life.
But still, it is as if I were expecting punishment. What kind of wife buys a circular saw without asking her husband? Q asks my daughter and her husband when they stop in, and everyone laughs. The same kind of wife who buys a horse and doesn't tell him, I say, and everybody laughs again. But maybe he's onto something. Maybe it's the wrong kind of wife who does things like that. That would be me.
I will wear my goggles. I will reread the instructions. I will have Q down there with me. I will pray first. I will be certain that I am doing it right before I begin. And I will remind myself that God doesn't punish us for our besetting sins, not like that. Most of them carry their own consequences right along with them. The wrong kind of wife gets other hints of trouble; she doesn't have to saw off her own foot.
That's just an accident.