The UPS truck stopped in front of the driveway. The driver carried a large brown box to the front step. He knocked on the door then raced back to his truck for the next delivery.
Bunny walked out to her mail box as I opened the front door.
“Hi Bunny,” I said waving at her.
“Hi Fannie,” she said with her refined Texas accent walking across the street into our driveway her blond pony tail bobbing in rhythm. “What have you got there?” she asked her tall athletic frame throwing a shadow over the box.
“Richard and I ordered a portable greenhouse last week,” I said, “we decided to try extending the growing season this year.”
“That box is awfully small for a greenhouse,” Bunny said looking at the four foot square box.
“It’s collapsable like a tent,” I said picking up the box almost throwing it. “And it’s very light.”
“This I have to see. Where are you going to put it?”
“We decided to convert the barbecue stand,” I said walking around the house toward the backyard.
Richard, working at his desk, looked up as Bunny and I walked into the backyard. Opening the window he said, “Here comes trouble. What are you two doing?”
“The greenhouse arrived, Bunny wants to see it.”
“I’ll be right there,” said Richard closing the window.
Using my car key I punched the tape on the box. Removing the wrapping revealed a large white plastic case with green piping. Opening the zipper on the top of the case, I handed the instructions to Bunny.
“Richard, help me get this out.”
Richard held open the case while I pulled a three foot diameter compressed plastic disk from the bag. Held together with green velcro it stood 15 inches tall. In the space beneath the disk sat several green hollow poles connected with string held together with rubber bands. I removed the poles to find a bag of tent stakes and twine.
“We should probably prepare the platform before we put the greenhouse together,” Richard said walking to the platform. “Could one of you help me move the barbecue and the other get the umbrella?”
A small cloud burst over our operation as Bunny unscrewed the umbrella from the stand while I picked up one end of the barbecue.
“Watch your step Fannie, this thing is bigger than you are, just take your time,” Richard said carrying his end with ease.
“It’s just awkward. . . I’ve got it,” I said shuffling my feet and panting. Bunny placed the umbrella and stand on the patio.
“You’ve got a few more feet Fannie,” Richard said, sweat beads running down the side of my face.
“Honey, I can’t take it, give me that,” Bunny said taking the barbecue out of my hands.
“Thank you. You know, Bunny, if I were as tall as you, it wouldn’t be an issue,” I said wiping my hands on my pants.
“We all have different blessing,” said Bunny as they placed the barbecue on the end of the patio.
“Here’s what we need to do,” Richard said handing me the broom, “now that the rain’s stopped, you sweep the fir needles off the stand while Bunny and I get the plywood out of the garage.”
They walked back to the garage while I swept the deck. Three minutes later Richard and Bunny returned. They set the plywood next to the stand.
“Fannie, can you grab a gallon of the Thompson’s Water Seal and some brushes while we carry the last three pieces out?” Richard asked heading back to the garage.
Ten minutes later, Richard and Bunny placed a piece of plywood over the framing. Using a cordless drill, Richard screwed the plywood to the platform. Thirty minutes later Richard tightened the final screw.
“Well that took longer than expected,” Richard said. “We’re burning daylight, let’s speed this up a bit before the next shower.”
The sky threatened again.
Richard grabbed the gallon of water seal, walked over to the deck and poured the entire gallon on the platform. Using the push broom he spread the sealant over the deck. Within two minutes the desk glistened as the clouds parted admitting the late afternoon sunlight.
“While that’s drying let’s get the greenhouse put together,” Richard said removing the first velcro strap. As he removed the second strap, the tent uncoiled in his hands with the last piece of velcro saving him from injury.
We stood staring at the greenhouse. It lay on the ground, nine feet wide and eight feet high.
“This should be simple, it looks like the tent-Mahal,” Richard said surveying the structure.
“The tent what?” Bunny asked looking from Richard to me.
“Because Richard is so tall, we camp in an eight-man tent which we nick-named the tent-Mahal for its height and the fact it has his and hers closets,” I said picking up the instructions. “Oh this is weird, did you notice the instructions are in pictograms only?”
Looking down over my shoulders Richard and Bunny followed the instructions with me.
“Does this make sense to anyone?” I asked running my fingers through my spiky brown hair. “It doesn’t even look like what we have in front of us.”
“We don’t need no stinkin’ instructions,” Richard said winking at us. “We’ll just fake it till we make it.”
Bunny and I groaned in unison.
I assembled the poles while Richard and Bunny stood the greenhouse upright. “Bunny what I want you to do is walk backwards until this thing is fully extended.”
Nine feet later Bunny stopped. Richard whistled. “Fannie, its up to you to get the poles installed. If either one of us lets go, the tent will collapse.”
Unzipping the tent flap, I carried a few pole in with me. Looking around the greenhouse, velcro straps hung at intervals along the wall and across the peak of the tent. On the top and bottom of each corner green canvas pockets attached to the wall.
Inserting the first pole into a corner pocket, I followed the velcro in a diagonal path across the side of the greenhouse. The static electricity from the plastic walls causing my hair to stand on end. I could not reach the top pocket.
Richard leaned his head into the tent, “leap, honey, leap.”
“Very funny. Even if I could reach it, the pocket’s at the wrong angle,” I said.
From the back of the tent Bunny said, “Why don’t we lay out all of the pole pieces and see what makes sense for the structure.”
“Spoken like the wife of an engineer,” Richard said holding the flap open as I climbed out of the tent.
Richard grouped the pieces according to size. On the ground lay eight eight-foot-long poles with a plastic cap on one end, and a nine-foot-long pole with four sets of connectors spaced at intervals.
“Richard it looks like you’ll be the one attaching the ridge pole to the ceiling. Could you hold it up while I attach the inner ribs to the wall?” I asked picking up the rib pieces. “Bunny are you okay with holding up an end, while we work from the inside?”
“Only if I can be where I can see you two work, I don’t want to miss the show.”
Richard picked up the ridge pole. Bunny lifted the front of the greenhouse into position. Richard climbed in first lifting the pole into place while I supported the back of the greenhouse behind him.
Attaching the ridgepole to the velcro, he held up the roof. “Okay Fannie it’s your turn.”
Bunny held on for dear life as we pushed and prodded the poles into place. The roof peak took shape. Richard stretch the plastic taunt in order to attach the ribs to the ridgepole. Bunny laughed.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Your hair. It’s following the walls of the tent as you move.”
Richard stifled a laugh.
“Richard, can you help me with the last pole pieces?”
Starting at the ground Richard and I tucked the last two pole pieces into the canvas pockets. Tucking the poles over the door behind the metal spring work, Richard attached the last rib.
The internal framework held. A black cloud burst over our heads.
“Quick, let’s get this onto the platform and save the water seal,” Richard said lifting one end of the greenhouse. Bunny and I each lifted a back corner.
Richard guided the tent over the platform. We aligned our end of the structure. The rain slowed to a drizzle.
“Okay ladies, let’s get this bad boy staked down before the wind picks up,” Richard said handing me the packet of stakes and twine.
Handing Richard the first cord, he attached the string to the rings on the outside of the greenhouse. Bunny took the string and anchored to the ground. Within ten minutes the greenhouse sat secured to the platform.
“So how are you planning on using the space?” Bunny asked looking at the wet floor inside the greenhouse.
“We ordered potting shelves from a catalog,” I said, “they should be here soon.”
“I think we should move the fire pit and have a bon fire this evening to celebrate the new greenhouse,” Richard said.
By the time we moved the fire pit eight feet south, the moon rose over the trees.
Sweat beaded on our foreheads as we watched the flames lick the wood the light dancing on the side of the greenhouse.
“Bunny thanks for all your help today,” I said. “We couldn’t have finished this without you.”
“Fannie, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”