I have realistic expectations, I say.
It's something I blurt out to ease the tension.
These are delicate matters, he says.
He opens a small tool pouch and selects a metallic instrument.
It's not a scalpel. But it looks like it is.
Nevermind the century-old exterior, he says. There's only so much that can be done.
He says something else, but I'm already gone, trying to add detail to a memory
of being a child and listening to the ballgame on a radio.
It's summer, and there are no seedless watermelons.
Everyone is drinking ginger ale.
And it's hot. The mimosa trees were cut down, so there's no shade, only a jagged shadow that the limbless trunk of a dead oak casts near the well cover.
I'm brought back when he says to use warm water and dish soap on a soft cloth.
Be gentle with the ivory.
When the time comes, throw it into the landfill and don't think about it again.
The dispassion of it all is routine.