SO here's what happened: the new refrigerator was 1/2" too tall, something we'd effectively overlooked in worrying about the width, which turned out to be fine. At this point I'm not even going to bother mentioning which of us said in the store she was sure the height was no problem. My responsibility. I took the measurements, but then, I've sucked at that since Geometry.
So it sat in the middle of the kitchen, and I squeezed around it with the step stool and screwdriver and made to remove the more of less useless cabinet which was in the way. One screw on the bottom cleat (one?) and two at the top. No problem. They're out, the cabinet is still up. I mean up. There is, for all intents and purposes, zero difference between its former solidity and its current. I am, at this late point in Life, wise enough not to yank on the thing until it and the neighboring cabinets crash onto the breakfast dishes in the sink. This may sound like a simple matter to you, but believe me, it took me decades to reach that point.
Wisely, the cabinet removal was put aside until the next morning. I did remove the molding and the twelve linear feet of concrete board running along the top, the stuff I'd been threatening to remove since 1996. This revealed what is quite possibly the second ugliest wallpaper produced in the 70s, the first being the flocked stuff my mother put in our bathroom. In fact, I'm not sure this stuff was commercially produced; from all appearances somebody's grandchild did the graphics. Once that was down, taken out, and burned, I was able to marvel at the weird furring-strip frame attached to the front of the cabinets.
There was still no real indication of how the things had managed to stay up since the days when the Doobie Brothers ruled the charts. The new fridge hummed along as we loaded it up. Dinner came and went. Nothing crashed to the ground, unless you count whatever Larry knocked over, and we don't.
My Poor Wife and I discussed various options. We were basically in agreement that the refrigerator couldn't stay in the middle of the floor, and I said that provided she agreed I'd do whatever it took to get the cabinet down the following morning, short of pulling the wall down with it, assuming I could stop in time.
The next morning I climbed up and gave the thing a few tentative taps and sort of felt around like I thought I was going to discover two big anchor bolts I'd missed the day before. With nothing to do but go for it I tried to pry off the furring strip preparatory to putting my weight into the thing, but the nails were too long. They were finishing nails, and driven in too well and with too small heads to pry loose, so I got out a hacksaw blade, slipped it between the cabinet and the strip, and when I sawed through the fifth and last one the damn thing fell off the wall and into my arms.
Okay, that was easy. I have no idea why the cabinets were attached like that. I'd been guessing that they'd been glued up there really good. It's a fairly seamless job otherwise, unlike a lot of the stuff that's been done to the house over the years, so it's difficult to explain. I'm beginning to wonder if some undocumented worker died when the house was being built and they mixed him in the foundation.
The worst thing, really, is that this solved the refrigerator problem in what was basically still the first attempt, leading to a fatal case of overconfidence, and the loose talk about remodeling the kitchen somehow became a reality. We're going to paint the cabinets (can't stand most woods with stainless steel), put in a new floor ("Will you be using our installers?" asked the guy at the Lowe's Linoleum Desk. "No, we're gonna do it ourselves, and after that I'll be back to book your installers," I told him.) The cabinets will be rehung properly (he said breezily) and at something approaching normal height for a full grown adult in the current century. We picked out the new quartz countertops with only five hours' debate. I decided to live with a new drop-in stove instead of the eight-burner commercial job I've been pining for for years. One of the best things about doing it yourself is the enforced rationality.
My wife (have I ever mentioned that somehow we're complete opposites on a lot of things? I have? Okay then.) immediately jumps onto the nit-sized details, like picking tile for the backsplash and choosing door knobs and explaining why my every idea is wrong. She had the idea of mixing all different styles of door and cabinet pulls together, which I had to admit sounded promising, so this evening I went searching online. Astonishingly, there are more cabinetry hardware sites on the internet than there are porn sites. It's close, anyway. I stumbled out for a tea break after about six hours. She asked me what I'd been up to.
"I'm looking for cabinet pulls for your new kitchen."
She ignored it, of course. "Did you find anything?"
"Did I find anything? Honey, I've now seen more knobs than all of Liza Minnelli's husbands combined."
Anyhow, if I disappear for the next several months, you'll know why.