Editor’s Note: Earlier this year, Justin wrote Iceland, a blog about his band’s American tour. Justin isn’t on tour anymore, but Iceland continues, twice a week, on City Desk.
“How much mortar would you like to purchase?” inquired the hardware store owner.
The rigors of time have taken their toll on the brick staircase leading up to my house. Though I am no mason, I had resolved to repair this crumbling entryway. I assumed mortar was necessary, and had initiated mortar negotiations at a local shop.
“I will purchase the smallest amount of mortar available,” I replied, ambiguously. The hardware store owner disappeared into the dark recesses of his shop. He returned a moment later with a 10-lb. package of mortar.
“That’s $4.89,” quoth the hardware store owner.
“A fair price,” I ventured. I handed the gentleman my American Express and searched for a way to ask what mortar was and what mortar did without revealing that, until today, I had never spoken the word “mortar” aloud. “Now, if I may ask…,” I casually began. “Working with mortar is easy, yes? You spread the mortar and stick the bricks into the mortar and slide the mortar between them, just like in the movies—-yes?”
“Yes,” replied the hardware store owner. If I expected a treatise on masonry, none was proffered.
I returned to my house, retrieved a bucket, opened my bag of mortar, and poured the mortar into the bucket. The mortar regarded me, silent and silicate. Following water-to-mortar ratios recommended on the bag of mortar’s directions, I poured watEnthused, I smeared this mortar soup all over my home’s crumbling entryway. Then, with little regard for straight lines or other aesthetic concerns, I shoved the many broken bricks littered before my home’s façade into this soup. To my delight, the broken bricks seemed to adhere to the mortar and the formerly broken front stoop.
“Some genius has devised this substance!” I exclaimed aloud. My housemate, hearing my cries, walked out of our home and regarded my work.
“That’s kind of a home job,” my housemate remarked.
“A ‘home job?'” I repeated.
“You know—-an amateurish job,” my housemate clarified. “Look—-the line of bricks isn’t straight,” he observed.
“A ‘home job,'” I said again. I stared at my handiwork. “I must admit that my geometry is less than virtuosic,” I declared. My housemate and I bent down to more closely inspect our now poorly mortared stoop. Then we were accosted by an unknown person in a moving automobile.