Once, through a totally insane decision, I was involved in rehabbing a house. The only good part of rehabbing a house, is burning the scrap wood when you are done. The worse part of rehabbing is when you are stupid enough, or desperate enough, to live in a house while you are rehabbing it. There is absolutely nothing exactly like listening to a table saw eighteen hours a day. Thank God!
The tenants had moved out of my house; taking the interior doors, cabinets and water softener with them. I don’t even want to know what they were doing with them. When I called her to inquire into her health and what I thought she could do with it, her response was, “Just try and find me.”
The insurance company told me that someone had to live in the house to insure it and I didn’t intend on returning to Indiana for six months. A young man needed a place to stay and was (Ha! Insert me laughing insanely at this point.) going to pursue a life in the building trades, so might prove helpful in exchange for a free place to stay.
The problem with this was, well, EVERYTHING! The boy was lazier than mud and he was totally insane. He got up around two in the afternoon, and would walk in the room, would hip chuck me out of the way, and grab whatever I was holding to make it look like he had actually lifted a finger to help. He obviously has a problem with women because I was the only one he physically pushed/shoved, told filthy jokes to and laughed at. I have since started lifting weights and it will never happen again.
An hour later, he was off to a class, which he was most likely failing, as it took him six years to complete an associate’s degree. I was going to help him once with a problem he was having in class and asked to see his text book. He told me he didn’t buy them because the teachers all told him that books were optional and you didn’t have to read them. I guess, that is why education is so expensive. The publishers are able to sell books the professors never have you read.
When he arrived home from evening classes, he cooked himself a meal which consisted of cooking the vilest smelling wine poured over what must have been rotten hamburger. And, the above, lists the good points of having him live in my home.
His stay in my home ended because he had taken to damaging the stuff I worked on. This led me to believe that the kid had some type of mental problem and one of us had to go or the other would end up in jail.
His damage consisted of: I finished mudding the bathroom and the next morning someone had taken a flat head screwdriver and dented the ceiling in numerous spots. Since there were only three of us in the house, I was able to isolate the cause. There was no way that was an accident, nor was it an accident several days later after I finished sanding drawer fronts, and stained and applied urethane to them, only to wake up the next morning to find a nickel size, deep gouge out of one drawer. It was right in front, of course. I could never have missed seeing that.
By this time, I figured the kid was just plain mean and stupid. Other things were damaged, but the final straw happened as he was moving out. I had sanded a door down to fine grit, stained it and applied urethane to it. It was ready to be hung. Since it was the front door, I had been extra particular with it. We were outside seeing him off. I went inside to crack the champagne I was going to celebrate with when he left, and there, on my beautifully finished door, was a line of black marker from top to bottom. Luckily he had driven out of the driveway already, thus saving me from a murder rap.
When a rehabbed house you are living in is complete you have the joy of sitting around, in a near empty house, and waiting for your realtor to call. The good part is that it is much easier to keep a nearly empty house spotless. The bad part is that there are a lot of hours after that and only so many relatives you want to visit. I purchased paints and canvas, set up a still life and painted. The odor of solvents is not the odor you want people to associate with your house when they have a decision to make between one house and another. That is when I began to take my writing seriously.
I had read every Mystery that the Lake County Public Library stocked during the remodel. I often found myself saying, as many writing inclined people do, “I could do this.” I did. It needs some major work, but at the time Eleanore Taylor Bland, critiqued it at A Dark and Stormy Night Conference in Chicago and gave me the name of her agent. They were not interested. I did so many things wrong, from plot to final edit to critique letter. I was so excited, I didn’t take it seriously enough.
The house sold. We drove back to Wyoming with money in the bank and began looking for a new house. The first property we viewed was fifty-three miles down the road, twelve miles down gravel and three miles down dirt. I got out of the car, let out a deep breath of air, for the first time in years, and listened to the sound of silence. No table saw in sight. It wasn’t the property we could get but I took out my camera and my soul thanked me.