The kid shuddered at the shambles of panels, hinges and knobs strewn about the garage floor. "I guess we failed."
"Nope." I dug a celebratory Oreo out of my pocket. "We've done precisely what we needed to do. Didn't anybody teach you that?"
The kid groaned. "It's bad enough that we shattered Aunt Terry's new cabinets. Now you're going to make up some of your weirdo 'wisdom.'"
I swatted at the ingrate with an oil rag. "Listen to your ol' Uncle Burtie. Making a mess of things is how to get ahead in life."
The kid scratched his ear. "But why would I want to fail?"
''The sooner we learn the fine art of failing, the better prepared we are to live a life without disappointment.''
I dropped the oil rag across the ripped-up seat of an old chair and sat down. Succeed, I told him, and people will expect more from you. Pretty soon, they stack a crushing weight of chores, responsibilities and impossible doings upon your shaking shoulders until you snap like that dowel rod on the floor.
Fail and people leave you alone. If you accidentally accomplish something, you're cheered far more than the overachievers, with fewer ulcers to show for it. Either way, you win.
The kid shook his head. "So ... failure is success?"
Once years ago I was dispatched to a Laundromat with several baskets of pungent clothes and a sheaf of detailed directions. I appeared doomed to succeed.
But the directions omitted any note of checking pockets before stuffing clothes into the machines. A Bic pen exploded in a load of whites. By the time it came out of the high-powered dryer, the whites were more of a tie-dye Bic-blue splatter.
On the surface, I had failed.
On the next laundry day, I was ordered to stay home with the TV, kid, toys and refrigerator. The rewards of success wouldn't have worked out nearly so well in my favor.
The kid kicked at the splintered dowels amid the cabinet parts. "So you goof up like this just to get out of work?"
Hey, being a failure doesn't save a person from greatness. It happens to the worst of us.
Chocolate chip cookies, the Popsicle, Teflon, microwave ovens, Post-it notes and Velcro are all happy accidents discovered by people trying to accomplish something else.
Thomas Edison's boyhood teacher told him he was stupid, and Albert Einstein's teacher urged him to quit. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking imagination. Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg both dropped out of college.
As Winston Churchill, a kid who flunked sixth grade, said, "Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
The kid chewed on his tongue for a minute. Then he picked up a hammer and whacked the cabinet door we hadn't already broken. "If I work really hard at failing, I bet I can be a wild success by the time I'm old like you."
I gaped at the newly shattered door. "Listen, kid," I said. "Let's not mention this to your Aunt Terry. I, uh, like to surprise her with my failures."
Especially when I have succeeded at them too well.
---- Succeed in finding him by looking at the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at burtseyeview@trib today.com.