I had climbed onto the pile at the back of my storage room looking for a pack of black sparkle bass worms with pumpkinseed tails I remembered putting away some time after we moved into the house and before that afternoon, so roughly only a 12-year span.
I was standing three feet off the floor, balanced with one foot on the lawn mower handle, the other on a dog crate and a hand on top of a bird house I’d been meaning to put up when The Boy walked in behind me and opened the refrigerator.
“There aren’t any more drinks in here,” he announced.
“I put a case of water in there yesterday,” I said.
“But there aren’t any good drinks,” he said.
“Never mind that,” I said. “Have you seen a pack of black bass worms in here?”
“They’re in the tool box on the right side of your truck,” he said, opening the refrigerator again to see if the drink selection might have improved.
I climbed back across the storage pile, in the process doing a one- legger into the void between a generator I’d borrowed six years ago and a set of homemade shelves.
Brushing splinters off my jeans, I limped out to the truck tool box and found the worms were not there.
“When did you see the worms in here last?” I asked.
“Oh, I think they’re in that box in the attic,” he said.
“No, wait,” I said. “You said they were in this tool box like you knew they were there.”
“That seemed like where they ought to be,” he said.
“I didn’t ask you to guess,” I said. “It’s very aggravating to be told something for a fact and then discover it was only a guess.”
“Well, I thought they were in the tool box,” he said.
“Here’s a lesson easily learned,” I said, trying to keep the lecture short. “There’s no better answer you can give than, ‘I don’t know’ if ‘I don’t know’ is the truth. I’ve worked with and around lots of grown men who were incapable of saying, ‘I don’t know’ to anything and, in every case, they failed to get very far in life. If you want to guess, that’s fine, as long as you serve it up as a guess, but don’t serve a guess up as a fact. About two of those turning out wrong will be all it takes to make sure people not only don’t trust you, but are pretty limited in how much they think of you as well.”
The Boy closed the refrigerator for the third time and skirted past the equipment pile to go back outside.
“I think I saw a TV show about people whose storage rooms looked like this one,” he said.
“Don’t go in there if it bothers you,” I said, walking away.
He threw one leg over his bicycle.
“I’m going to see if there are any drinks at George’s house,” he said. “Where are you headed?”
“To look through that box in the attic,” I said.