Sometimes I'm so clever I amaze myself. Usually, I wimp out on birthday and Christmas gifts for Clint because he really only likes two things: hunting and building stuff. And I know absolutely nothing about tools or weapons (or any of the gear that goes along with them). But this year, I outdid myself and impressed the socks off my husband. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's how it started.
We don't really make formal lists, but when Clint and I were talking about our birthdays and what we might want (mine is tomorrow), he mentioned the sort of thing I usually get him. "Really, Kir," he said, glancing at me while we drove to church. "A few nice dress shirts and a pair of jeans. It's really all I need."
"I don't want to get you what you need again. That's what I always get. I want to get you something you WANT." I knew I was whining. I'm not sure who I was pitying more: myself for not having the guts to walk into a tool or hunting store and belly up to the counter, or him for not ever getting something really cool from me.
"Well, if you wanted to get me something REALLY cool, you could get me a--" and he babbled something about a gun, really in a pretty quiet voice, eyes on the road. I heard these words: 12 gauge, pump, something about barrels, and turkey. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was pretty sure it was some sort of gun. I laughed at him.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought this might be the year to do it. I didn't have any other great ideas, after all.
So I talked to a couple of very helpful, reliable sources (his brother Ric, an avid hunter, and those of my students who also love to hunt). They gave me some suggestions about brands and price ranges, and I was off the next day to Schupbach's, the sporting goods store in Jackson.
When I got to the counter, I looked up and up into the craggy face of Tom, a man who looked a lot like my Grandpa Greiner. "Are you lookin' for a gun, missy?" he asked.
I smiled my stupid-sweet smile. "Yes, for my husband. His birthday is next week."
"Do you know what you want?" He was so patient--and maybe a little condescending.
"Well, my husband said something about the number 12 and a pump and maybe two barrels--and he likes to shoot turkey and deer." Now let me set you straight, in case you were beginning to doubt me: I am not dumb, but I can play it very well. I use this routine every time Clint sends me to the hardware store, and it has saved me lots of time. Try it. Smile cute and squeeze your native intelligence into a box, and presto: instant helpfulness from the staff, especially men.
Tom showed me several guns, and I ended up going with a beauty: a Mossberg 500 with 2 barrels, one for hunting turkey and one for hunting deer. It was a little more than I wanted to spend, but it LOOKED so much prettier than the cheaper (used) plain black one, which seemed only to be missing the bright orange knob on the end of the muzzle to make it a child's toy.
I put it on layaway, and then began to bend my mind toward the task of setting this all up.
Finally, I hit upon the perfect plan (thanks, Amy and Kris, for your help).
One of my students, Mike, had been totally interested in this whole gun-purchasing process, so he got to be the lucky winner. Today during our Creative Writing class, I had him call Clint's cell (he didn't answer) and then his work # and use a script I had prepared for him. Finally he got through. This is what transpired:
Mike: Hi, is this Clint Genthner?
Mike: Clint, this is Mike from Schupbach's Sporting Goods. We have an item in layaway for you. Do you know anything about this?
Mike: The tag says item#52646--This IS Clint Genthner, right?
Clint: Yes, but I don't know what you're talking about. I didn't order anything.
Mike: Well, could you come down to our store today to sort this out?
Clint: Um--yeah, I can come down after school. Would that be okay?
Mike: Sure, that would be great. Ask for Mike at the counter.
Clint emailed me right away, asking if I knew anything about this. I played dumb again.
After I got done with school, I called him and asked for the scoop. I suggested that maybe some of his students had gotten him a surprise gift. He thought maybe the principal had ordered something for his archery program at school and forgotten to tell him. "I'm on my way to Schupbach's right now," he said.
Hmm. This was a problem. I had the layaway ticket he needed to pick up the gun. "How about if I come down too and meet you there?" I asked.
"Why? It's probably just something stupid."
Hmm. Now what should I say? "Well, what if it isn't? What if your students got you something? I want to see it too!"
"Well, come on down. But you're probably coming into town for nothing."
I was so gleeful as I drove the few miles downtown, I couldn't stop laughing. It was that tight giddy laugh of the very self-satisfied person who has done something truly genius. But as I drove and reflected on our last conversation, I thought I recalled a hint of suspicion in Clint's voice. I had to allay it. I called again.
"Yes?" he said.
"Hey, how do I get to Schupbach's anyway?" I asked.
How smart am I now, huh? It worked.
When we got there, he still looked confused and wandered up to the counter, pulling a slip of paper with the numbers 52646 on it. "Should I just give them this?" he asked.
I pulled the layaway slip from my purse. "Maybe this would help." My smile was PLASTERED across my face.
Of course, the first thing he saw was the price, which boggled his eyes a little, but it took him awhile to decipher the brand name and model number information--and figure out what that slip represented. Even still, I don't think it sunk in until the beefy lad at the gun counter brought out his gun.
He started to breathe pretty heavily and leaned on the counter. "Kir?" he said, and his voice was so soft I could barely hear it. "You got me a gun? You really bought me a gun?" Then he hugged me so hard my back cracked, which was great because it's been hurting a little the last few days.