Upon arriving at my funky little lime-green Shackteau in Coral Bay, St. John after what had been 16 hours of grueling car/plane/boat travel carrying with me a few guitars, a PA and enough clothes to last three months, I crawled out of my tired old Hyundai rental car, arms loaded with luggage and guitars. I stumbled down the dark path and kicked open the old, white door to the shack. The delicious, old 'home again at last' feeling of relief and joy was quickly dispelled as I turned on the light and saw what was standing there to greet me.
There stood an ancient “Kelvinator” refrigerator. The small, stained, rusted apartment-sized refrigerator stood like a miniature Stonehenge pintle, smack dab in the middle of the room. Its door yawned wide open precariously, revealing a worn out door gasket, like the pale, flaccid lips of an old crone. Inside were two small glass shelves, one cracked, covered with the detritus of age and abandonment, along with a freezer box way larger than anyone could reasonably expect to reside within the belly of such a diminutive refrigerator. A short, crusty electrical cord trailed behind, like the naked tail of a tree rat.
“Well, this is certainly a treat,” I muttered. “What in hell am I supposed to do with this?”
I'd noticed that part of the plastic “Kelvinator” name plate attached to the crippled door had been broken off between the letters 'n' and 'a'; the 'ator' section evidently had been lost long ago leaving “Kelvin” stuck to the door like an afterthought.
“I shall name thee 'Kelvin'” I decreed, guessing that perhaps I wasn't the first to have done so. Kelvin leaned forward significantly, as if in deference to my arrival, however further investigation revealed that his small feet (definitely way more tired than mine) had actually disappeared through the rusted floor plate, thus disallowing his door to remain shut. Not a desireable feature for a refrigerator.
“Why are you here?” I mused to Kelvin. That I thought a refrigerator would be able to answer such an existential question is beyond me, but he actually transmitted a response: “I am here to be of service to you, and you are here to be of service to me.” It had been an awfully long day of travel.
I needed the floor space in my room and I'd already decided that Kelvin was too tall for an ottoman or night table, and he offered nowhere near enough room to be a useful dresser. Kelvin would not be welcome anwhere inside the Shackteau, so I pushed and dragged him from the middle of my small room out onto the porch. “I don't know how you got here, or what I'm supposed to do with you, Kelvin, but I'm too tired to figure this out now. Goodnight!”, and I dragged my own self off to bed.
I awoke the next morning to a quiet knocking on my door. It was Percival, the sweet, venerable Dominican deacon from the church that owns my shack. “A very good mahnin', to you Mr. David, and welcome back to our island.”
“Thank you, Percival, and it's also very good to see you again,” I replied, somewhat embarrassed to be wiping sleep from my eyes at 7:30AM. I knew that Percival had likely been awake since 4:30, tending to his own duties before heading off for his job as groundskeeper at Estate Concordia.
“I suspec' you see deh 'frigerator dere? Wan' you to know you can use it if you wan'. Jes' plug he in. But he door nah stay close...hafta use dis tape to keep he door close',” Percival said as he handed me a roll of duct tape.
“Ah, thank you, Percival,” I said, taking the tape from him, imagining chilled food and cold beer spilling out onto the floor each time Kelvin's door was 'untaped'. “I was wondering how it got there and what your plans were for it. I thought it was going to the dump!”
“Nah, no dump for he,” laughed Percival. “Got life in he yet. You use 'im! Have a blessed day, Mr. David, and again, welcome back!” And off he went into his day, having made it clear that the dump was not an option for Kelvin, and that my first round of business for the day was: Figure out how to make Kelvin useful without driving me insane!
I tipped Kelvin back and leaned him against the porch wall. Sure enough, his two front feet had disappeared through the rusty floor and were protruding painfully about half and inch. His back two feet, however, looked fine. I went out into my yard and rooted around until I found two small scraps of wood about an inch and half thick. I placed these scraps under Kelvin approximately where his front feet should be. Voila! Kelvin's new protheses worked like a charm and allowed him to stand straight up again! And the best part? His door remained closed!
“Now we have to do something about your door gasket, Kelvin,” says I as I got a bowl of soapy water and a sponge. “And while I'm at it, you shall receive a thorough, all-over scrubbin'!”
I spent the better part of the next hour removing years of filth and grime from Kelvin, being very careful not to further damage any of his fragile gasket material. I removed his shelves and scrubbed his copious freezer compartment until he positively gleamed, inside and out. Sort of. At least as good as an ancient, well-worn, apartment-sized, rust-footed Kelvinator of undetermined origin and useage can be capable of gleaming.
And then came the moment of truth: Time to plug Kelvin in! I grabbed his electrical cord (considerably more flexible and less ratty since his tubbin') and plugged it into the wall, fully expecting the primitive, low-amp fuse to blow. But it didn't. Kelvin rattled a little and then hummed to life. Within an hour, I had a fully functioning 'fridge! And as an added bonus, Kelvin's top was exactly counter-height, so I could use his top as a work surface to prepare food. Hooray and huzzah for Kelvin!
Days turned to weeks, then to months, and Kelvin keeps humming along nicely. I decorated his door with a “I Got Baked In the Sun” sticker. I returned the unused roll of duct tape to Percival who was quite pleased to learn of Kelvin's well-being. Kelvin has happily cooled a few gallons of milk, six coconuts, countless vegetables and fruits, chilled more than a few ginger beers and kept a bottle of rum icy cold in the freezer...all with no problems, no issues. Except one.
Remember Kelvin's copious freezer? It may be that Kelvin has a cold heart, or is a bit cold-blooded, but that damn freezer frosted up like a tundra glacier in rather short order. It got so chock full of snowy, frosty ice there was no room for the ice cube tray and the rum bottle would become hidden in snow! I think Kelvin may have been trying to remind me of what it is I'd been missing back in New England. My adjusting his fully-functioning thermostat did little to remedy his glacier-making abilities, so every two weeks Kelvin needed to be defrosted. This process began to produce some interesting reactions. Once, Percival happened to pop his head around my porch door just in time to see me sweeping some of Kelvin's snow off my porch floor with a broom. “Don' yah use deh shovel to do dis back north?” he queried with a smile.
Just yesterday, after not attending properly to Kelvin's defrosting schedule for over a month, I decided to multi-task and use the time not only to spend writing my How-to-Play the Cigar Box Guitar pamphlet, but also to defrost Kelvin's freezer. I decided to do this first thing in the morning as the sun shines strongly on my porch at this time and I figured it would hasten the defrosting process considerably.
I shut Kelvin off and opened his door to allow the warm morning sun to work its magic on the permafrost inside. I removed the food and beverages and placed them in the shower stall, covered with a towel to preserve whatever cool I could. Then I set to writing and waiting. And waiting.
After about an hour, audible dripping noises told me the process was definitely underway. I took my knife and chipped away at the ice cap. Small chips fell to the floor, but there remained so much frost and ice that I could not yet remove the drain tray. So I went back to my writing
A little while later I heard a small chunk of ice fall away - a miniature iceberg, calving from its mother glacier, falling instead of into an arctic sea, onto my tropical floor. I got my knife and began chipping away again. This time more ice fell and I swept it into a dustpan and heaved it over my porch railing where it fell into the street below, sitting for a few seconds before evaporating away on the sun scorched pavement. I went back to my writing. But not for long.
Critical mass of the solar-thermal defrosting process had been achieved. The tipping point had obviously been reached and chunks of snowy ice began to rapidly fall onto the floor from Kelvin's chest cavity. It was all happening rather quickly now. I enlisted my knife to remove the remaining snow and ice and then retrieved my broom and dust pan. But now there was way more frozen fallout than could fit in a single dust pan...I needed a bucket, but didn't have one. Taking my cue from Percival, I quickly shoveled the stuff into my dustpan and flung the contents off the porch into the road.
I don't normally do this sort of thing. I like to believe that I think things through. But this time, I needed to get rid of the glacial material before it melted all over, flooding my porch floor. But in my haste to remove it, I was not cognizant of one important fact: The road below my porch is used primarily for vehicular traffic, not as a snow removal zone. Useful Factoid: 'Snow Removal Zone' is totally irrelevant and meaningless concept in the Caribbean tropics. At least until yesterday.
As I piled what I had determined to be the last of Kelvin's snowy ice into a frozen heap onto my brimming dustpan, I quickly raised it up and let it fly. About midway through its icy arc from porch to road, I noticed a shiny, new, red rental Jeep approaching on the road below. “Good lord!” I exclaimed, sucking in my breath. “No! No! Please, God, don't . . .”
Before I could finish my thought, the load of snow and ice landed in a perfect, slushy heap on that scarlet Jeep's hood. The combined velocity of Kelvin's falling frost with the speed of the moving Jeep made for quite an interesting, and certainly alien, sound upon impact – Shhhhplaaaaaatttttttt!!!!
The Jeep's tires screeched and Miss Lucy's goats and chickens who had been happily scrounging the roadside for edibles shot off into the bush like scud missiles. I stood dumbstruck as Kelvin's frosty avalanche and the Jeep both came to a rather abrupt, though slushy, stop.
Inside the Jeep a tourist family, obviously from northern climes as evidenced by their pale, opalescent skin tone and matching baseball caps emblazoned with a “NY” logo, sat stunned. The tattooed, mustachioed man with a shaved head and no neck sat macho-style behind the steering wheel next to his bejeweled bottle-blonde wife sporting oversized sunglasses, cosmetic breasts and a goofy sunhat. Plopped miserably in the back seat looking as though they'd rather be having a root canal slumped two sour-looking adolescent girls wrapped in beach towels and serious 'tude, their big hair crowned by backwards “NY” ballcaps. This bunch, no doubt relieved to be away from the absolutely brutal winter conditions back in the States, stared slack-jawed in momentary silence as I stood above them, paralyzed, on my porch. And then, like a beehive hit with a rock, they exploded! Everyone was hollering their best Bronx curses, shaking their fists and giving me the middle finger salute.
“Yo, crazy man, what the f**k you think yer doin'?” roared the dad. Wife shrieked something unintelligible and the two teens glared and each gave me the ol' double-handed middle finger salute from their open window. One stuck out her tongue.
Mortified, I momentarily feared Pop just might feel the need to demonstrate his machismo by springing out of the Jeep, leaping up the high embankment in an adrenaline-fueled rage and nailing me to the porch wall. I probably deserved it.
“I am so, so sorry,” I sincerely apologized. Trying to lighten things up a little, I smiled, “Bet you thought you could get away from all those blizzards back home, eh? See, I was defrosting my refrigerator and...” but before I could finish my explanation they'd roared off, shiny fenders dripping cold water and windshield wipers flapping wildly. I thought I could still hear shouting - “You crazy sumbitch” - and I am fairly sure I could make out a couple of middle finger salutes through the Jeep's blacked out rear windows as they tore off towards Salt Pond.
Last night I had a dream. It was about Kelvin. Like a kitchen Frankenstein, he had been brought into this world, cursed, from some gothic factory hidden somewhere far away. Dark forces had installed a demonic component inside of him that made him behave in mysteriously untoward and sometimes evil ways. Kelvin looked normal alright, just like all the other Kelvinators of his vintage: white, boxy, smallish and rectangular...a perfect size to fit inocculously in an apartment under the counter. But Kelvin was different and odd things happened to the people with whom Kelvin resided. Things like blown electrical fuses, broken water pipes that resulted in ruinous floods, regularly spoiled food and strange nighttime noises. Peculiar, localized meteorological disturbances frequently accompanied these events. Each of the various owners of Kelvin began to wonder whether perhaps it was that weird fridge of theirs may have something to do with the disturbing, annoying events in their homes. Each, in turn, got rid of him. And lucky for them, too, because things were going from bad to worse with Kelvin.
Just before Kelvin was sent away to the Salvation Army (where an enthusiastic church pastor from the outback would gratefully pick him up to be used in their parish commissary), the young family with whom Kelvin last resided found themselves in a terrible state of grief due to the mysterious disappearance of one of their little girls. There were no witnesses, no clues. The authorities were stumped. The distraught mother went to the village's old wise woman for consolation and sage advice.
The old wise woman sat in her tiny concrete hut upon what had once been the front seat of a Jeep, fingering a length of old electrical cord like a string of worry beads. Her long, snowy hair flowed in myriad braids around her waist as she sat staring with ice blue eyes out of her open door to the high mountains visible far away in the distance where, despite it being summertime, snow and ice could be seen. After a long while sitting in a transcendent silence, the old woman turned to the tearful mother and said, “Kelvin ate her.”
I think I may need to go look for a new refrigerator.