The Working Waterfront

My wife can’t throw a flatbar

But she, columnist, and cat survive

Phil Crossman
Posted 2022-07-27
Last Modified 2022-07-29

My wife can do almost anything, really, almost anything. I mean mechanical stuff, electronic stuff, and carpentry stuff, plus all sorts of things that involve thinking, like philosophical and ethereal stuff. Further, she’s a marvelous painter and runs her own very successful gallery.

She also knows (she reminds me now and then) what’s best for me, which is a real plus since I have little sense myself; enjoys doing laundry, is an accomplished seamstress and, very important, she can cook.

One thing she cannot do, however (the only thing I think, upon reflection) is throw a flatbar, toss really; she can’t toss a flatbar. A flatbar, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a steel pry tool/nail puller, kind of a mini-wrecking bar, about 16 inches long.

It was the only time I’ve ever seen that particular expression cross her face.

I was on our roof a few years ago shingling, something she could have done herself as she reminded me, were she not busy simultaneously doing several of the other things she can do. I needed my flatbar and had left it on the ground near the bottom of the staging.

I called down to her and asked her to toss it up to me. She retrieved it and curled her mouth up on one side; her brow furrowed, and she put her hands on her hips as she regarded first the flatbar and then me on the roof.

It was the only time I’ve ever seen that particular expression cross her face. I’d never seen it before and I’ve never seen it since. If I never do again it will be too soon and, in that event, I will not press my request.

She held the flatbar by the straight end, looked up at me as if to gauge the trajectory, and took a couple of softball pitcher type practice swings, creating an arc from behind to front of about 180 degrees. Then she held it by the other end, the one with the right-angle bend and did the same thing.

Typically deliberative, she repeated the procedure trying one method then the other.

Because the sun was setting, I urged her on and, clearly pressured and unsettled, she opted for a toss holding the angled end. With her tongue held to starboard by her teeth and with, as I say, an odd expression, she let it fly.

We used to have a cat. Its name was Alice and it could not catch a flatbar with any more aplomb than my wife can toss one.

I was ready. I stood at the edge of the staging with my arms outstretched in anticipation of catching the flatbar. The cat, preening, relaxed, behind my wife on the front door stoop, clearly curious but unconcerned, in anticipation of enjoying the rest of its life.

P.S.: In fact, the cat was not harmed although it was certainly a close call and one that left Alice with a new and cautionary regard for the woman she had, until then, regarded as a benevolent and devoted caregiver. But the alternative made for a better, if only momentarily better, story.

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he serves on the town select board. He may be reached at