How to Open a Bottle of Wine

I have a friend here called Dutch. He is maybe in his sixties and is the youngest boy of nineteen children, all with the same parents. His father, at age 108, still visits his mother’s grave every day. She died just a few years ago at age 102.

Dutch was in the Marines, and then he worked as a carpenter and cabinet maker and various other jobs. Nowadays he lives out in the country with his dog Katie, who is named for Katherine Hepburn, and a barn cat who doesn’t have a name. He goes to town on commodities day, and when my friend Jim still lived here, he used to drive Dutch to the VA in Powell pretty regularly. Dutch has had a few heart incidents, and they’ve made him a little panicky. I don’t know who drives him now, if he can’t drive himself, but he has a lot of friends and acquaintances.

Every few months, Dutch invites me over for dinner, which is usually served before 5 p.m. I have also had him over for dinner, although we learned that if he comes here, he has to take Katie to the babysitter’s, because she is terrified of my cat Sam. Once he said to me, after looking around my somewhat unfurnished living room, “Do you want a sofa? I have one you could have!” I said, “Sure, that’d be great,” thinking, oh, next time I’m over there I’ll take a look and make sure it doesn’t have mice in it or what have you. A few days later I answered the phone at the library.

“Laura! It’s Dutch! Your sofa’s in your living room!”

Ummm. . . I thought. “Thank you,” I said. And when I got home, there was indeed a sofa in the middle of my living room. I pushed it over against a wall, put a sheet over it, and the cats and I settled down for a nap. There are worse things than coming home to find new-to-you furniture that has already been installed in your house without you having to do anything about it.

Last Sunday Dutch invited me over for dinner, and when I got there around 4:30 he said would I like a glass of wine, and I said sure. He then began to hunt for a corkscrew. He recently moved from one somewhat dilapidated house to another one, and apparently the corkscrew didn’t move with him. I said not to worry, that I was not insistent about having wine, but he was distressed. “I have an icepick,” he said. “Do you think I could get it out with an icepick?” I wasn’t sure, but watching him poke at the cork with the icepick, I had an idea.

“Do you have a screw?” I said, “and a screwdriver or something, and maybe a pair of pliers?”

Of course all these things were on hand, and so Dutch, under my direction, screwed a long screw into the cork with an electric drill and then, when the screw was solidly in the cork, I held the bottle and Dutch pulled at the head of the screw with some pliers, and lo, the cork came out.

Dinner at Dutch’s means meat, potatoes, vegetables (which are sometimes from his garden and sometimes home pickled and sometimes canned), bread and butter, and pie — and, on this occasion, a glass of wine. And it was all good.

3 thoughts on “How to Open a Bottle of Wine”

  1. I really love small towns, and the things that can happen in them. There’s a certain grace and serendipity to the way people interact in a true community that is lost in other places…

  2. What a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

    When we trade lives, I’m going to have to give up being vegan. I don’t think I can start drinking wine, though, unless I can also figure out how to quit having migraines.

  3. Jenica, yeah, that’s one of the things I like most about living here. The smallness enforces a kind of community that larger places tend to forgo. We all have to help each other here.

    Jenna, yeah, vegan would be hard to pull off here. Wine drinking is not a requirement.

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