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Newsletter Dated: 3/1/2003 11:15:51 AM
Subject: LAUGHING ALL THE WAY
Hi Friends. This will be the last regular monthly newsletter. I just have too may other things going to keep it up right now. Thanks to all who have subscribed and perhaps I'll get back to it on a regular basis later. Comments can be addressed to Darrell at firstname.lastname@example.org
And this is the last feature story. The first part of it was published last month. This is the complete story in case you missed the first part.
Copyright January/February 2003 by Darrell Bain
Three seconds after Betty said “I do”, she said, “I hate to vacuum,” so there’s no sense claiming I didn’t have fair notice. However, my solution and her solution to the “I hate to vacuum” refrain began to deviate about four seconds after the honeymoon. Betty hauled out the vacuum cleaner.
“I thought you hated to vacuum,” I said
Well,” I asked reasonably, “if you hate to vacuum so much, what are you doing holding up that vacuum cleaner?”
“I thought maybe if I stood here and held it long enough, the dirt would magically disappear. Or maybe a big husky helper would grab hold of it.”
“What dirt? I don’t see any dirt. I don’t see any big husky helper, either. As a matter of fact, if I saw a big husky here that I hadn’t been introduced to I would run for my shootin’ iron.”
Betty misunderstood. “Iron? You do ironing?”
“Ironing? I don’t even do vacuuming.”
“Then how did you get dirt out of your carpet before we got married?”
“I never saw any dirt. That’s why I like shag carpets. They absorb dirt and stuff like that.”
“Like magic, I bet.”
“No, I think it’s shag carpet technology that makes dirt disappear.”
“It’s there, trust me.”
“Okay, I trust you. I love you, too. Anything else on your mind?”
“Not at the moment. I can see I need to use a different approach.”
“Whatever works,” I agreed.
For the next 22 years the vacuuming somehow got done. At first, I was doing heavy work outside on the farm most of my time off so I didn’t hear anything about vacuuming. I assume either Betty did it or the shag carpets were doing their technological magic trick. Then when I quit work to farm full time, Betty suddenly began making so much money as an executive that we simply hired a housekeeper to come in once a week and do it, along with the washing , dusting and cleaning. That worked great for awhile. It even allowed me to do my work outside, do the cooking during the week and still have enough time to start a writing career , which is a story in itself and won’t be mentioned here again.
And then Betty retired, and it quickly became apparent who had been keeping the farm afloat. We could no longer afford a housekeeper. Heck, we could hardly afford a house on what I was making on the farm. But fortunately--I mean unfortunately, about this time I developed a bad back which vacuuming, or even the mention of vacuuming seemed to aggravate. I could go out and plant a thousand trees or shear 500 and not feel a quiver, but try putting me behind a vacuum cleaner or over a kitchen sink and my vertebrae recognized immediately a job they weren’t designed for.
And bless Betty’s little lovable heart, even when I saw her doing all the housework, helping me on the farm and doing all the gardening, when I offered to help with the vacuuming, she would tell me, “No, you might hurt your back.” Now is that love, or not?
But then....Betty’s back developed an aversion to vacuuming. The vacuum cleaner made fewer and fewer appearances and for some reason or other the shag carpet technology magic began to fail at the same time. I began to notice dirt on the carpet, not to mention dental floss, bits of dried clay from my boots, cookie crumbs by my chair and so on. It was then that Betty began to mention wooden flooring.
Well, wooden flooring has two virtues: one, it prevents vacuuming, and two, it supports lots of doctors from all the hips which get fractured on it. The second virtue is the one I kept repeating to Betty every time she mentioned wooden flooring. Really what I was concerned with was the cost. Besides, we had just had the carpet replaced only 15 or 20 years ago when I got drunk and set the house on fire and and I didn’t think we had gotten our money’s worth out of it yet. I was cooking when I got drunk and set the house on fire by forgetting some bacon I was frying to put in the peas I was cooking for Betty, who was busy making money, so at least I had an excuse..
One day the vacuum cleaner broke.
“O boy, I don’t have to vacuum,” Betty said.
“I can fix it,” I said.
“You? You can’t even fix a flat tire.”
“Well, maybe not but I bet I can fix a vacuum cleaner.”
“Why don’t we just get wooden flooring?”
“I’ll fix it,” I said, and by golly I did, by simply replacing the rubber band that makes it whomp the floor and suck up dirt, and miraculously even got it all back together again.
Betty tried it with a smirk on her face. She knew I couldn‘t fix anything even as simple as untied shoelaces which is why I wore boots all the time.
She turned the switchy thing. It began vacuuming like crazy. “It works,” Betty said disgustedly. “He can’t saw a board straight, yet he fixes this )^(*%^$#!$%$@^)%* vacuum cleaner. I’m going to talk to God about this.”
Maybe Betty talked to someone, because the week before Christmas I watched her straining to get all the floors vacuumed and refusing my help and walking sort of crooked afterwards and something snapped. I put a card in her Christmas stocking with the words, “Wooden Floors” on it. And thereupon, I learned that wooden flooring doesn’t do magic like carpets do. No, I take that back. Wooden floors can do magic, too. They make all your money disappear no matter how many times you go to the bank to get more.
I have to admit that Christmas day and night and the next day and night were all very pleasant what with Betty having visions of wooden floors swimming around in her head like sugarplums. In fact, those sugarplum visions became so persistent that she insisted on turning them into reality. Shucks. there for a while I thought I might get away with just the card and a promise, but I found out pretty quick who was the dummy in the family. Actually, we already both knew who the dummy in the family is but Betty is very nice and hardly ever mentions it.
Anyway, a day or two before Betty was due to go visiting her daughter, I woke up one morning in the car which was heading in a straight line toward Home Depot. I think Betty knows how to do magic herself because I don’t even remember waking up, much less getting in the car, but the next thing I knew there we were, at this gigantic warehouse some financial genius designed to separate husbands from money and women from husbands when the money runs out. The financial genius named it Home Depot. He should have named it Home Wrecker for the number of marriages it busted up but I guess he wouldn’t have made any money then.
Of course Betty knew every nook and cranny of that monster building, having gone there countless times for useless stuff like timers to water the potted trees and garden, both of which make money for the farm. I never have understood why she can’t just stand out in the July sun for a few hours every day and get some vitamin D while watering with the garden hose. Oh well, I admit I don’t understand the universe.
As usual, I didn’t even make enough money on the Christmas trees for the year to pay off my loans so I was really antsy about how much this flooring stuff would cost. I figured it couldn’t be too much. I mean after all, the forests are filled with wood aren’t they? Supply and demand and all that.
Betty led me over to where vast stacks of flooring were laying in wait for unwary husbands.
“I think I like this design,” Betty said.
“Okay,” I agreed. Then I looked at the price per square foot, estimated the square footage in our house and did some mental arithmetic. A bit later I felt my cheeks being slapped and cold water being sprinkled in my face. I looked up from where I lay flat on my back.
“What am I doing down here?”
“I don’t know,” Betty said. “You just suddenly fainted. Are you sick?”
Then I remembered those calculations. “Yes, but I don’t think there’s any medicine which will cure me,” I staggering to my feet.
“I guess you like that design so well it took your breath away,” Betty gushed.
“It sure, did, Sweetie,” I said. “Well, I figure we can pay it off by roughly the year 2017 if we really scrimp and save. We’ll go ahead and get it.”
“Great!” My loving wife said. “And it only costs $7.95 cents per square foot for installation.”
Another quick mental calculation and I was on the floor and flat on my back again. After Betty and the salesman revived me and helped me to my feet I shook my head. We could pay off the flooring and installation costs by the year 2039, at which time I would only be a hundred years old. No problem. All I had to do to manage it was write three best selling novels and purchase a couple of winning lottery tickets.
“We can’t afford it,” I said.
Betty’s face fell. I’m a sucker for falling faces, I admit it, especially if the face belongs to Betty. However, so far none of my thirteen novels had been best sellers and the cantankerous lottery tickets I bought faithfully every week insisted on not matching the winning numbers. I tried to think of another solution, one requiring only a virgin sacrifice and our first born son. First born refused to be mortgaged until I reached a hundred years old and the way I get it, there aren’t any virgins any more. Besides, Betty wouldn’t let me play with one if there were any, assuming they would agree to be sacrificed anyhow.
Betty’s face fell farther. I thought harder. And then suddenly I remembered, on one of the last days of selling Christmas trees, this gentleman had really impressed me by buying one of my books along with his tree--and he had handed me a business card. I suddenly remembered that it said something about flooring, installed cheap. I checked my wallet. Sure ‘nuff, there was the card with the name and phone number and it said plain as day, “Flooring installed, reasonable prices”. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“Okay sweetie, break out all your credit cards. I’ll combine them with mine and we’ll order your flooring.”
The credit card machine didn’t crack as our cards slid through the little slots and before you could say “wooden floors” we were the proud owners of a jillion pieces of flooring, only awaiting an someone to deliver it, install it (and though I didn’t know this beforehand) to clean up the mess.
Home Depot agreed to deliver the flooring for only an additional small fortune. I calculated when my next royalty check was due to arrive, said a prayer to the Postal Gods
and wrote an additional check since the machine refused to even sniff at any more or our credit cards.
“Well, that’s taken care of,” I said thinking of ways to sabotage the bank’s computer in case that royalty check didn’t arrive on time. We started to head toward the exit.
“Wait!” The salesman called. “I forgot; if you want this stuff in your house out of the weather, there’s a small additional unloading charge, only ten dollars per box.”
I calculated how many boxes of flooring and how many of the blue underfloor padding (don’t ask me why it’s blue since no one will ever see it once it’s installed) we had ordered, counted all the cash in my billfold, counted all the money in Betty’s purse, dug out the change in my pocket and offered the salesman all that plus a lottery ticket with two weeks to go before expiration. He looked at the ticket dubiously but his eyes lit up when he saw all that green stuff. I suspect there is a deliveryman in his family somewhere, but never mind. He took the cash and I borrowed gas money to get home from a fellow husband who took sympathy on me; his wife was only there for a new bathroom.
I’ll say one thing about Home Depot; they do deliver fast. The truck damn near beat us home. It was a substitute driver. He drove up in the big truck, opened the doors of it and stood by waiting on me to unload five thousand pounds of flooring, obviously knowing nothing of the unloading charge I had already paid. I offered to split the job with him: I would carry in the blue stuff which only weighed four ounces per roll (and don’t ask me how that is supposed to support five thousand pounds of flooring. I haven’t a clue) and he could carry in the flooring. He refused until I showed him the ticket which plainly stated that I had a bad back and could only handle packages up to four ounces. The poor old man began unloading. Eventually I took pity on him and brought out some inducement. He really appreciated that money I had stashed away for Betty’s next birthday.
“Boy, what did you do to him?” Betty asked. “He’s unloading like crazy now!”
“I told him I would sic Biscuit on him if he didn’t hurry,” I said
“Ha! I don’t believe a word of that. Biscuit wouldn’t hurt a flea.”
“I threatened to shoot out his tires.”
“Ha! I remember that possum you tried to shoot. It was sitting still and you missed nine times in a row.”
“I gave him your birthday money.”
“Nothing. Look, he’s almost finished.”
The man had fulfilled the contract: he brought all the materials into the house. And at least five steps further. He stacked it in great heaps in our combination office/sewing room which is the first room you enter by coming in the back door. People don’t come to our front door because of a simple little error anyone could make when designing a home for the first time and Betty only reminds me of it three or four times a week now since it’s been over twenty years since it happened, but I seem to be getting sidetracked here. I was telling how high the stacks got in the office. They were higher than me. They were so high we couldn’t turn the fan on, not that I would have wanted to since it was roughly forty below zero outside and the door had been left standing open now for five hours while the unloading proceeded, one box or roll at a time. They were piled on the couch and chairs and sewing machine and he even tried to stack them on my computer but I sicced Biscuit on him and he laughed so hard he dropped the carton on his foot and I had to finish the unloading and promise him a bonus if I ever saw any money that belonged to me again if he wouldn‘t sue me for making our dog attack him. Biscuit is a fifteen pound dachshund who spends his life laying in Betty’s lap or sitting up asking to be fed by hand and is about as dangerous as a Barbi Doll.
I thanked the nice man for the unloading job and brushed icicles from the door frame so I could get the door closed then turned the heat up to 90 and told Betty not to turn it back down until next July. I called the guy who had given me the business card and told him I needed a floor installed and told him how many square feet.
“No problem,“ he said. That shouldn’t take more than a couple of days, and I only charge five hundred a day. I made a rapid mental calculation and figured out that this was still a lot cheaper than $7.95 a square foot so I told him to come on. The next morning Betty left on her trip and a little while later the floor installer arrived, bringing along a helper who was hard of hearing and was easily older than me, was which is saying quite a bit. He also must have gone through some hippie years because he was wearing rings in both ears and one in his nose. I didn’t look closely enough to see whether his tongue was pierced or not. I immediately came to the conclusion that the man’s helper must be a brother in law or uncle or some relative. And just for this story’s sake, and since I can no longer afford to be sued, let’s call the helper Jim and the flooring man Mike.
Mike got right to work. He examined the boxes and rolls and took out a pad and began scribbling. then he handed it to me. “Here,” he said. “This is what else you’ll need for the flooring.”
“Huh?” I said. “The salesman didn’t tell me I would need anything else.”
Mike looked at me pityingly. Well, I already told you who the dummy in the family is so no need to repeat that. I looked at the list.
5,000 feet of quarter round.
27 tubes of silicone caulking.
399 feet of floor to tile strips.
399 feet of tile to floor strips.
444 feet of bathtub sealant.
3 flapper vales.
3 commode extender pipes.
188 floor protector coasters for furniture feet.
33 murphy law repellers
149 carpet to floor strips.
149 floor to carpet strips
I stopped reading and tucked the list in my pocket. “Any idea of what this might cost?” I ask.
“How should I know? I never put this kind of floor in. I usually do laminated tile work.”
I decided right then and there that I would never tell Betty that I had hired someone who didn’t know beans about putting in the type of flooring we had bought. And while I was making that promise to myself, I ran out and jumped in my truck and hurried to the bank so I could get there before it closed.
My banker, as usual, was happy to see me.
“Hi Mr. Bain,” He said. “I notice that you didn’t pay off your farm loans this Christmas. I guess that means I’ll be collecting more interest from you all year, ha ha.”
“Well, sure. Why would I want to stop paying you interest on my loans when I’ve been doing it ever since I had that great idea about starting a Christmas tree farm.”
“It really was a great idea,” My banker agreed. “Why, I don’t know if the bank would have survived a couple of times without your support.”
“That’s nice to know,” I said, “because now I need some support.”
“How much do you need this time?”
“Oh, just enough to replace my wife’s birthday present money I had to use for an emergency,” I told him.
“And how much is that?”
“Probably five thousand should do it,” I said, thinking of that thirty dollars I had saved up to buy Betty something pretty next August.
“Boy, you must really love your wife to spend that kind of money on her birthday,” My banker said.
“You don’t know the half of it. If you think I spend a lot on birthdays, you should see what she got for Christmas!”
“Well, tell your wife not to give my wife any ideas. The bank examiners are already suspicious. And by the way, next time you come by, bring the title to your tractors. They said your loans were uncollateralized.”
“Okay,” I said, wishing I knew how to use big words like unclattterabulldized and all.
Remember now, Betty had gone on her trip so I used the excuse of the flooring men being in the house to avoid work on the farm, merely sitting in the office by the fire and getting up to go offer friendly advice whenever my tailbone got tired.
The first time I got up, I saw that all the furniture from the master bedroom and bathroom had been moved and stacked willy-nilly in the small guest bedroom. And all the drawers had been pulled out of dressers and chest of drawers and bedside tables and stacked on top of all the stuff that was stacked on top of the regular furninture. What I had really gotten up for was my comb to comb my hair. I couldn’t find it of course, mainly because it had used to live on top of the dresser in a little tray. I could see the little tray way off in the distance but there wasn’t a chance in heck of progressing more than two feet into that room crammed full of furniture to the ceiling. Well, what the heck, I thought, I can go two days without combing my hair, because he said it was only a two day job.
The second time I got up I noticed that Mike and Jim had transmogrified into Eskimos because they had the heat turned completely off (and it was freezing outside), had the patio door wide open and were complaining of it being too hot. I wondered why, if they were so hot, they had set up their saw horses and buzz saws in the bedroom instead of outside but figured it was some esoteric flooring reason and would be explained to me in due course after they had the flooring down and had cleaned up the mess.
At the end of the day, Mike and Jim waved goodby and I went to check their progress. Part of the master bedroom had new flooring, leaving only a couple more thousand feet to do in one day, leading me to the sneaky suspicion that this might turn into more than a two day job. Besides, I hadn’t even gone to get all that other stuff he said he needed because I wanted Betty to go with me. The reason for this is that if she doesn’t see money being spent she believes it’s still in the bank or in my bill fold or hiding in credit cars or whatnot.
Betty came home the afternoon of the next day, the 29th of December I believe. I went to meet her at the car so I could help her over the piles of carpet and undercarpet which had been stripped off all the floors and was stacked in the driveway.
“Is is finished yet?” Betty asked, not even noticing I had hugged and kissed her or that she was knee deep in wet carpet that had been rained on and was beginning to smell like a mountain of wet dogs.
“Uh, not quite,” I said, trying to behave nonchalantly.
Finally she looked at me. “What’s wrong with your hair? It looks like you haven’t combed it since I’ve been gone.”
“Well, I tried to,” I said, running my hands through my hair. For some reason it felt gritty, as if sawdust had gotten into it somehow.
“And what’s that stuff in it? It looks like sawdust.”
“Mumble, mumble,” I said.
About this time Betty felt her feet getting wet and looked down. For the first time she noticed that she was standing knee deep in wet carpet.
“Why is all the carpet piled here?” She asked.
“That’s just the big pieces,” I said. “There’s another pile out the back patio door where they’re throwing the small pieces and scraps from the floor and stuff.”
“Well, if that’s the case, they must almost be finished. I can’t wait to see it!” She hurried past me and into the house before I could prepare her. She stared uncomprehendingly. The kitchen looked the same. The big den that takes up half the house looked the same. “Where’s my new flooring?” She wailed.
“They’re working on it,” I said.
“They better be,” She said. She opened the door to the master bedroom. Mike and Jim were just setting up another sheet of flooring on their sawhorses. The saw screeched, sawdust flew everywhere, including onto curtains and walls.
Betty screeched. “What are you doing! You’re getting sawdust everywhere!”
Mike stopped sawing and looked up. “Just sawing where we’re working, trying to save time.”
“Does that mean you’ll be finished tomorrow?”
“At least one more day,” Mike said. “You still have to get me that other stuff.”
I helped Betty out of the master bedroom. For some reason her legs were a little shaky.
“What are they talking about, ‘other stuff’?” she asked.
“Well, he said we didn’t get everything. We have to go shopping again tomorrow.”
Betty’s legs stiffened and her eyes brightened. “Shopping! Why didn’t you say so!” The sawdust was apparently forgotten.
Something else was forgotten as we discovered shortly after Mike and Jim left for the day. Remember, everything, and I mean everything, from the master bedroom was stacked willy nilly in the guest bedroom, jammed in right to the ceiling.
“Where are we going to sleep tonight?” Betty asked.
“Why in our.....hmm. How about on the couch in the office?”
“Fine, except I doubt we’ll both fit.”
“Doesn’t it fold out?”
“No it doesn’t fold out. One of us will have to sleep on the floor.”
“Boy,” I said. “I sure am glad--I mean sorry that I have a bad back. I would love to sleep on the floor and let you have the couch but I’m afraid it would hurt too much. I would just keep you up all night moaning and groaning.”
I have convinced everyone know that I have a bad back, except maybe God and he doesn’t tell. I think. Anyway, I spent the night on the couch in the office and Betty tried the floor. She must really have been thinking about that shopping trip because she forgot all about the short little couch in the den which was still available except for a little sawdust which had drifted into there, only a half inch or so thick, nothing serious. And of course only about four feet long, and that’s also where biscuit the dog usually sleeps. However, I guess indoor-outdoor carpet is pretty hard because that’s where I found her the next morning when she was missing from the carpet.
“Let’s go shopping!” Betty said when I woke her up.
“Uh, wouldn’t you like something to eat first?” I asked, speaking loudly enough to be heard over my stomach rumbling.
“We can eat when we get back. Come on, someone may have bought everything by the time we get there if we don’t hurry.”
“No one but us would buy what we’re going after,” I said.
I shouldn’t have said that.
“You don’t like my new flooring, do you?”
“Did I say that? Heck no! In fact, our banker even said he loves it.”
“All right, let’s go.”
The first place we went, which was only a hundred or so miles from home, had lots of stuff on that list I handed Betty. She bought everything on it that was possible and/or that my truck could haul, but still didn’t get it all. Neither of us was sure about some of the tile to floor or floor to carpet strips. In case you’re wondering, I am a forceful man. When we decided to cover the two main rooms with flooring, I put my foot down after it expanded to include the bathrooms and kitchen and laundry alcove. I absolutely refused to have the new flooring put in our closets. I guess that shows you how much of a man I am.
Anyway, Betty told me that it was a dead certain cinch the guy I hired wasn’t going to be finished today and we could ask him those things when we got home and go back the next day and do some more shopping. That last statement really made my heart sing for joy, I can tell you. There’s nothing like driving a hundred miles to shop for flooring supplies to make a man happy, ha ha.
“What are we having for supper?” I asked while we were driving home. Well, actually Betty was driving while I was holding onto 5,000 feet of quarter round and another couple of thousand feet of extenders, all sections of which were more than ten feet long and since my truck is a little twenty year old Toyota, the stuff had to be run through the rear window and me hold it in order to get it home.
“Whatever you want, Sweetie,” Betty said. Well, one thing about taking a woman shopping, it makes them happy. As we pulled into the driveway I was having visions of Porterhouse steak, baked potato, pumpkin pie and ice cream and a bottle of good white zanfadel. Those visions lasted only until we got to the kitchen.
“What are you guys doing!!!!” Betty screeched, dropping her purse and all her packages of things she had bought besides flooring supplies.
I looked over her shoulder. All the stuff from the buffet and cabinets and tables and anything at all movable were stacked in the kitchen and the furniture they had been in was all against one wall--well, actually taking up a good third of the den. All the good dishes and stuff like that were piled on every available space in the kitchen. Another third of the den had flooring. The other third held sawhorses. It was easy to tell we had been getting our money’s worth because all the cups and plates and glasses and stuff had an inch of sawdust in them and even the air was thick with sawdust. Or maybe that was ice crystals in the air and on the dishes since it was below freezing outside and Mike and Jim had the front door standing wide open.
“We’re working up a storm,” Mike grinned from where the air was thick with sawdust from a section of flooring he was cutting. Betty watched as the sawdust added another layer to uncovered chairs and the sofa she had slept on the night before.
“Well, what are you doing with the door standing open?” Betty asked
“It’s hot in here, “ Mike said.
“Good. Then you can take your stuff outside on the porch and saw.”
Betty trounced off to see the progress. She found the master bedroom almost finished but they were still working on the bathroom and that part of the floor near it. That bathroom was also where my spare comb was kept. I figured neither of us would be using that bathroom for a while since the commode was sitting in the bathtub. And everything in that bathroom was covered in sawdust. Or maybe ice, since the bedroom patio door was standing wide open, too.
When I met Betty back in the office, I asked again, “What are we having for supper?”
“Do you know what Biscuit eats?”
“Balogna when you’re not letting him beg at the table.”
“Me? You’re the one who lets him beg.”
“Never mind, I’m hungry,” I said.
“Me, too.” She tossed me the car keys. “Let’s go to Sonic.”
I suppose it could have been worse. The hamburgers weren’t as cold as they usually are and Biscuit only ate half my french fries instead of three quarters of them the way he usually does. And Betty very kindly let me have the couch while she took the floor again. Even the little couch wasn’t available now. It was piled up with dishes and guns and stuff from the other buffet and end tables and gun cabinet.
We went back the next day for those tile carpet or whatever thingys. The first Home Depot didn’t have them after looking for an hour or two. The associate (formerly know as salesman) checked his handy dandy computer.
“The store up the road has them,” he said.
The store up the road was only another fifty miles. We live in Texas, remember? We went there. Biscuit was with us. I told Betty to walk the dog and I would shop for a change and ran off before she could object. Two hours later she found me inside.
“I can’t find anyone to help me,” I said.
“I should have known not to let a man take care of shopping,” Betty said. She waited until someone important came by and batted her eyes at him. He made a quick u-turn and came back.
“Can I help you, ma’am?” he said. One day I’m going to have to try that eye-batting trick when I’m too old to have some guy think I’m making a pass at him. I tried it on a young lady once recently and she looked at my gray hair and helped someone else and threatened to report me for sexual harassment when I did it again.
The gentleman took us to an associate who spent the next two hours telling us that he knew they had what we wanted because the computer said so and computers are never wrong. When we left, he was still insisting plaintively that it was absolutely in stock but he just couldn’t find it. We went back to the store we had just come from fifty miles back and Betty bought some stuff she thought would work.
When we got home I trailed behind Betty examining the progress. Frankly, I couldn’t see much. A bit more of the den was done but the master bedroom and bath still wasn’t finished and there still wasn’t anything to eat out of or drink out of or sleep on except the couch. Sighing, Betty reached for the car keys again.
“You go ahead to the car, hon,” I said.
I went back into the house and grabbed Mike by the arm. “See here, bud, you said two days and its been three. Or four. Hell I don’t know how many. But tomorrow is our 25th wedding anniversary and if we don’t have our own bed to sleep in, you ain’t getting paid. Understand?”
“What did you go back for,” Betty asked.
“I just told the guy to hurry,” I said innocently.
The next day, new Year’s Eve and also our anniversary, our 25th wedding anniversary mind you, went very slow. At five o’clock our bathroom still had the commode sitting in the tub and none of the bedroom furniture was back in the master bedroom, not to mention that I hadn’t been able to comb my hair or change underwear for several days. Maybe I looked mean when I threatened violence. Or maybe it was the fact that I had tunneled into the spare bedroom and found my six shooter I keep for emergencies and strapped it on. At any rate, when I blocked the door as they were ready to leave with my hand resting suggestively on the butt of the pistol strapped to my side, there was a heck of a bunch of furniture moving that took place very quickly.
We did sleep in our own bed that night and I began to look forward to eventually eating out of our own dishes and using the master bathroom again. Oh yes. We had a very happy celebration and only drank one bottle of champagne and one bottle of white zinfadel between us. I sure wish I could say the same about our flooring crew.
The next morning we waited and waited on the crew to show up. I say crew because Mike had added a teenage boy as a helper when the old hippie began having problems with his hearing from all the lectric sawing and his back from all the bending. We waited and waited. At last Mike showed up somewhere close to noon, there in body but his spirit was obviously still recovering from the excesses of demon rum in some dark hole. His normally brown face had a greenish caste to it and when he croaked hello, I almost got drunk right on the spot from breathing the fumes from his breath.
He staggered in and began work, though, I have to give him that. If it had been me and I looked like he felt, or felt what he looked like, whatever, I would have just gone off and died somewhere. I think he came to work only because I had told him the previous day that I was out of money and if he wasn’t finished by January the 2nd Betty was going to have words with him. After sleeping in her own bed again, she was agitating for some of her dishes--and her bathroom.
Sometime that afternoon, after Mike had been working in the bathroom for a while, he came out with two sections of copper pipe. “See these?” he asked.
“I can see a hell of a lot better than you can today,” I said, my evil nature suddenly asserting itself. I was already suspecting another shopping trip. and sure ‘nuff, that’s what it was.
“Well, I need two new commode extenders,” he said.
I didn’t bother asking what in hell a commode extender was. I just went and told Betty we had to go shopping again. That turned her grim visage into a smile as she had been examining the layer of sawdust in the house now an inch thick on everything. She was examining it in her parka because every time she went back to the office where I had a fire going to get warm, Mike opened every door in the house. And it was still freezing.
Do I need to tell you that the commode extenders we bought after driving a hundred miles in the rain wouldn’t work? I thought not. I thought of that hundred mile drive and went back to the office and told Betty. Believe it or not, even women eventually reach their limit of shopping desire. “Let me handle this,” She said.
I followed along behind as she went into the master bathroom where Mike was putting in some of those ten dollar an inch floor to carpet strips in the door of Betty’s closet in the bathroom.
“Stand up,” Betty said.
Betty pointed into the corner where the old commode extenders were laying. “See those?”
“Uh, yes ma’am. They‘re too old to put back on, and those new extenders are for new commodes. They don’t work.”
“You put those old ones back on and make them work, or else.”
“Or else what,” Mike said, grinning for the first time that day.
“Or else I’ll sic Biscuit on you.”
Mike laughed out loud. Biscuit had been following him around every time I let him loose, wagging his tail and hoping for a treat.
“Sic ‘em, Biscuit,” Betty said.
Biscuit went over and peed on Mike’s trouser leg and tennis shoes and followed Betty out of the bathroom. Mike looked at his wet leg and down at the commode and at the old commode extenders and got out a wrench and the next thing I knew they were back on and working.. I began to wonder right then if maybe Mike owned stock in Home Depot.
Letting Biscuit pee in the house was a mistake, even if it had been for a good cause. Biscuit had gotten fed up at not getting any treats from the home invaders and now Betty had apparently given approval for drastic measures. He started peeing on the floor or on Mike or Jim every time he escaped from the office and didn’t stop peeing on the new floor until February. After Betty and Biscuit left, I had some words with Mike, too.
“Tomorrow is the 2nd of January, which makes either six or seven days instead of two. And I’ve used up all my money buying all that other stuff you said we had to have. So guess what? Betty is going to have to pay you out of her check which arrives tomorrow. And she isn’t going to appreciate giving you part of her shopping money. You better have this place ready to live in by tomorrow evening because she won‘t pay you for another day. She already told me she is gong to BigSpend Store for new drapes and furniture to match the floor.” It isn’t the initial cost, its the upkeep.
Mike started working in the kitchen the next day. Boy, what a day. As soon as Mike and Jim and teenager moved the freezer out a bit we began smelling a smell. We looked and looked and couldn’t see anything because the freezer wasn’t out very far yet. However, later in the day, Mike and Jim and teenager came bursting into the office and out the back door holding their noses and gagging. We couldn’t imagine what was happening except maybe Biscuit had gotten really disgusted with the non-treat providing invaders and drug a dead skunk into the house to get rid of them. Pretty soon the smell wafted into the office and drove us outside, too.
“What in heck is that smell?” I asked.
“Don’t know, but you gotta get rid of it.” Mike said.
I took a whiff. “Uh uh. I’m the homeowner. You get rid of it.”
Mike sniffed. “Uh uh. I’m the boss. Jim, you get rid of it.”
Jim tested the air. “Uh uh. Teenager is the helper. He can get rid of it.”
Teenager looked all around but couldn’t find anyone he outranked except the cat and everyone knows cats won’t take orders. He didn’t even try. He wetted his handkerchief with gasoline, shook hands with each of us and went bravely forward to his task.
A half hour later, after reviving Teenager from where he had passed out after the cleaning job, I asked him what the smell had been coming from.
“Don’t know,” he gasped, “but it looked like rotton meat covered with hair.”
I looked at the cat. He put up a paw, licked it and looked innocent, but I knew. While we hadn’t been watching, he had brought in a dead rat and hid it behind the freezer. When one of the legs ran over it and punctured the bloated corpse, that’s what we smelled.
Betty and I headed back to the store for a case of deodorizer. It was really hard getting the crew back inside the house even after spraying with two dozen cans of lysol. That smell really was horrible.
Evening came and went and the flooring crew worked on. Full darkness came and Betty and I refused to let them leave. We had absolutely had it with flooring. Finally about midnight Mike announced that they were finished. We paid him off and he left.
The next morning I went outside the house and suddenly found myself up to my knees in old mildewed carpet. I climbed out of it and went around back. There was a small mountain of shredded flooring, used carpeting and siding, wrapping that the flooring had come in, empty silicon goop bottles and it all only made a mountain a couple of dozen feet high. While I was debating with myself that night how I was going to get them back out to clean up their mess, a thunderstorm came up and blew off the roof of the shop.
When Betty got up she told me to get busy cleaning.
“No way,” I said. “Mike is going to do it.”
“Hah,” Betty said.
“Sure he will. I’ll get him out here to repair the roof and make him take off that carpet before I pay him.”
“Does he know how to repair roofs?”
“No, but he didn’t know how to...uh, never mind.”
Mike came out and fixed the roof for only another small fortune. And he hauled off the carpet in front. But he never, never came back for that mountain of debris left in back of the house. Since we were busy for the next three weeks shoveling sawdust out of the house, I couldn’t get to it. I suggested to Betty that she plant flowers on it. That didn’t go over very good. I said how about using it to bury dead cats in? That worked. Now all I have to do is catch the cat.
Notes: i will have a new book coming out with Double Dragon EBooks this month, AROUND THE BEND. It will contain the complete novella,