Simple plans always start out, well, simple.
Put in a wood stove. A simple plan, right?
We had a chimney more or less in the right spot so all we had to do was move the thimble, what some people might call "the hole," to the other side of the chimney and we would be as good as done. Then all we had to do was pick a stove from one of the glossy catalogs strewn across the kitchen table and we would be we would have a cozy little stove flickering away before the first snow.
Catherine: "Are you sure?"
Me: "It will be easy."
When Justin, the mason, showed up he agreed.
Af first he agreed but then he got silent and just stood there staring at the space where the stove would be and I sensed trouble.
"What's back there?" he asked looking at the plaster and lath wall. He poked his finger into one of a half-dozen test holes. He asked to see one of tha catalogs.
"Which stove do you want to put in there? This one?"
He flipped to the installation page and began to measure. He measured a lot always looking back to the catalog and the page that showed all the clearances for the stove.
"Can't do it," he said.
"But," I protested. "You can."
No, it turned out, you can't. We were all depressed. Justin, possibly, most of all.
Days passed and Catherine and I were heading in completely different directions. I was ready to just ignore building codes and put a stove in. Catherine, sensing my mood, had hidden all my tools. She called me from the grocery store just to make sure I hadn't taken a sledgehammer to some unsuspecting wall.
Justin called again.
"I have a plan," he said, "That just might work."
Turned out he did have a plan. A big, scary plan that involved turning an entire interior wall into a brick wall. In terms of building code, it would work. With what he was proposing, you could run a nuclear reactor without any risk at all. The downside was that our kitchen could end up looking like Pizzaria Uno.
I swallowed hard and gave the green light to the project.
Now, this winter, Catherine learned to ski. That was cool. We also got those derelict snowmobiles running and that was fun just to be able to say they weren't dead. And it snowed. It was a normal winter. But what's really cool is that we burned 350 fewer gallons of fuel oil this winter than we did last winter. And this winter was much colder than last, too.
And we were a lot warmer.