By Jack Somers
Lay Panel 1 on its side. Place the left end of Panel 2 (marked with an “L”) against the right end of Panel 1 (marked with an “R”) so that the two panels’ ends are flush. Make sure the screw holes on the ends of Panels 1 and 2 are aligned.
Screw two long screws (L screws) into the holes at the end of Panel 1. Make sure the screws go into the corresponding holes in Panel 2 before screwing them in all the way. Panels 1 and 2 should be arranged to form a right angle. Put a lock washer and a flat washer on each screw before screwing it in. Do NOT put the flat washer on first.
Unscrew screws from Panels 1 and 2 because you did not read the part about putting the washers on the screws. Put the washers on the screws and try again.
Unscrew screws a second time because you accidentally put the flat washers on before the lock washers. Say, “Goddammit” and clench your fists. Make sure you don’t curse too loudly. You don’t want to wake your son who’s sleeping in the next room. This is supposed to be a surprise.
Place the right end of Panel 3 (marked with an “R”) against the right end of Panel 2 (marked with an “R”) so that the two panels’ ends are flush. Make sure the screw holes on the ends of Panels 2 and 3 are aligned.
Using two more long screws (L screws), screw together Panels 2 and 3. Panels 2 and 3 should be arranged to form a right angle.
Realize you screwed the left end of Panel 3 into Panel 2 instead of the right end. Drop an F-bomb—not too loudly—and look around the playroom for some small toy to break. Spot Mason’s teddy bear, Mr. Cuddles. Notice for the first time Mr. Cuddles’ smug, shit-eating grin. Grab Mr. Cuddles by the left paw and hurl him across the room. Take a deep breath, and unscrew Panel 3.
Screw in Panel 3 correctly. Then, following the screwing procedure outlined in Step 2, connect Panels 3 and 1 by screwing in Panel 4. All four panels should form a rectangle.
While screwing in Panel 4, discover that you are one screw short. Get down on your hands and knees and search the floor of the playroom for the missing screw. Find a moldy, brown, half-eaten apple under the toy drawer. Pull it out by the stem and walk it to the trashcan in the bathroom across the hall. Return to the playroom and try to remember what you were looking for on the floor.
Remember you were looking for a missing screw. Get back down on your hands and knees. Eventually, find the screw under Mr. Cuddles. Notice Mr. Cuddles’ smug, shit-eating grin again. Hurl him across the room in the other direction and get back to work.
Screw the drawer support frame into the inside of Panel 1 using the four short screws (S screws). Make sure you align the four holes in the middle of Panel 1 with the four holes in the ends of the support frame.
Split the wood in one of the support frame ends because you didn’t screw into the exact middle of it. Throw Phillips-head screwdriver at the wall. When you see that the screwdriver has made a small dent in the wall and chipped some paint, shout “Sonuvabitch!” Hear son begin to cry in the next room and immediately feel terrible for waking him up.
Remain utterly still and silent until son stops crying.
Creep down to the basement to get wood glue. Return to the playroom and glue the split shard of wood back onto the frame. Get wood glue off fingers by rubbing hands on carpet. Carpet is so stained, no one will notice anyway.
Insert drawer into the rectangular slot in the middle of Panel 1. Check to see that the grooves on the bottom of the drawer align with the grooves in the support frame before pushing in the drawer.
Reward yourself for successfully putting in the drawer by going downstairs to get a beer. When you pass your wife in the living room, and she asks you, “How’s it going up there?” say, “Fine. Almost done.”
Drink entire beer as you psyche yourself up to continue assembling the table.
Using the four medium screws (M screws), screw in the two table surface support beams. Screw in one of your screws at a slant. Unscrew it and screw it in straighter. Miss the screw head with the tip of the screwdriver and stab yourself in the hand. Bite your lip to stop yourself from screaming. Look at your hand to see if you are bleeding. You are not. Feel tears welling up in your eyes and will them away because you know it’s ridiculous to cry over something like this. You’re a grown man.
Lay Panel 5 on top of Panels 2 and 4. Make sure the long sides of Panel 5 are flush with Panels 1 and 3. The green side of Panel 5 should be facing up. Screw Panel 5 into the surface support beams.
Realize that you screwed in Panel 5 backward. The back of Panel 5 is olive green, and the front is shamrock green. The shamrock green side should be facing up. Unscrew Panel 5, flip it over, and screw it in again. As you screw, fantasize about using Panel 5 to bludgeon whoever designed this goddam thing.
Go downstairs, grab another beer, and tell wife she can set up the train tracks.