So then I came down sick. And I swore I'd go to bed by midnight tonight. But it's 2am. MrsDarwin is a saint and stayed up to proofread for me. (Though any mistakes are my fault.)
47,344 words out of 50,000. Tomorrow I just need to get through at least 2,656 and I've hit the goal for the NaNo. I may slow the pace down just a tiny bit after that, so that I actually get sleep on some nights each week. But I'll have the whole thing done by mid-Sept.
- Chapter 7 -
“What were you thinking?” Katie demanded later that night, after their parents had left. “They’re being a lot easier to get along with as visitors than they were as… as parents, but that’s no reason to invite them to move in.”
“They’d just be staying for a couple weeks between when their house closes and when they get into a new place,” reassured Kristy, who was reclining on the couch while drinking an after-dinner Manhattan. “They’d just be staying here for a few days as guests, not running the place.”
“No, Kristy, you don’t get it. You haven’t lived with them in more than ten years. It’s going to be terrible.”
“You won’t be living with them. They’ll be visiting us. It’s my house, and I’m sure they’ll be mindful of that.”
“You’ll see,” Katie predicted darkly. “I’m going to go get a beer before the Gestapo moves in.”
“Oh come on. You want any melodrama with that beer?”
Katie returned with a bottle and sprawled on the easy chair. “Where are we going to put them?”
“That,” Kristy conceded, “is a much better objection. I feel like we have all kinds of space because I’ve never had a stand-alone house before. But with two bedrooms and one bathroom, it would definitely be tight.”
“How about that little room you set up as your office? We could put them in there.”
“That’s awfully small to put a full size bed in.”
“If we put them here in the living room, we could never do anything at night.”
“I think we’d have to give them your room and you’d have to move in with me.”
Katie made a humphing found.
“Look, it’s nothing personal, I just don’t see what else we could do.”
“I just painted that room.”
“It’d only be for a few weeks, if it even happens. Trust me, they’re not going to be eager to be crowded into this house with us for any longer than they have to be. And remember, it may not even happen. This is just if this offer goes through and they close before they’re able to get a into new place. And if they want to. Heck, they may be talking in the car right now about how they don’t want to be crammed into this tiny house with us.”
“I bet they’re not,” Katie prophesied darkly.
Katie seemed to distract herself successfully from her fears for the rest of the long weekend by throwing herself into her next project, which was the bungalow’s one bathroom. While functional and possessed of a certain period charm, the bathroom was not without room for improvement. Katie took Kristy’s credit card down to the Sherwin Williams store in downtown Johnson and bought paint at the Black Friday sale, then braved the crowds at Home Depot to return with a new shower head and what seemed, for such a small room, a vast array of drop clothes, tapes, caulks, fillers, and other supplies.
“Will I be able to take my shower in here tomorrow morning?” Kristy demanded Sunday night, as Katie was re-caulking around the bathtub.
“That’s why I’m doing this now,” Katie explained. “It has to cure over night before it gets wet.”
“Okay. I’m happy to fund all these projects, and you’re doing great work, but keep in mind that we only have one bathroom.”
“How about if while I keep that in mind you get me a can of beer,” Katie suggested, carefully smoothing the line of caulk with one finger.
Kristy considered retort, but instead fetched her the beer.
It was thus with concern but not complete surprise that Kristy received a text from Katie the next afternoon: “make sure you go to the bathroom before leaving work”
She called Katie instantly. “Katie, what happened?”
“Uh, this isn’t a good time,” Katie informed her. “Don’t worry. Everything will be okay. Just make sure you use the bathroom before leaving.”
“Katie…” Kristy warned.
“Bye!” Katie hung up.
When Kristy got home she went straight to the bathroom to see the damage. Katie was sitting on the edge of the bathtub doing something on her iPhone. In the center of the room stood the toilet, resting on a pile of newspapers. Where the toilet had, according to the natural order of things, stood, was a disturbing hole in the tile.
“What is this?” Kristy demanded.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Katie said, defensively.
“But… Why did you take it off?”
“I was going to caulk around it. But then it was bugging me that it rocked a little bit. I tried to tighten the bolts, but they were really rusty and one of them broke. And the book said replacing the bolt was really easy.”
“And it wasn’t?”
“Once I got it off, the connection wasn’t like the one in the book.”
“Katie, this is serious. What are we going to do? Crouch over the hole?”
“It’ll be fine: I’ve already got a guy coming. He promised he’d be here tonight.”
Kristy relaxed slightly. “So who’s the guy you’ve got coming?”
“I’ll show you,” Katie said, leading the way out into the kitchen. “I couldn’t find anyone good online here in Johnson. There are plumbers, but this isn’t exactly a plumbing problem. But then I found this,” she held out a church bulletin from St. Anne’s which their parents had left behind.
“You called the church?”
“No, look, there are ads on the back. See? This one.” She pointed to a larger square which said, in a chiseled font that would have seemed more appropriate to a classical ruin, “Paul Burke, handyman” and then noted in smaller letters, “Bathrooms & Kitchen renovations; cabinetry & carpentry; painting. Historic home specialist. Fair prices. (Parishioner)”
“He said he’s finishing up another job, but I told him we had nothing but a hole in the floor for a toilet and he said he’d come tonight. He doesn’t think it’ll take long to fix.”
Kristy was not sure what she had expected, perhaps a heavy man in his fifties, but when she answered the door about an hour later what she found was a man her own age, or perhaps a little younger, with reddish blond hair and a full beard, battered work boots, a flannel shirt tucked into paint spattered jeans, and suspenders.
“Hello, my name is Paul Burke,” he said. He spoke slowly, but in a way that conveyed an instinctive formality rather than a dull wit. “I believe we spoke earlier about a toilet?”
“That was my sister Katie. She went out to pick up dinner and find a bathroom. I’ll show you the problem.”
She led him to the bathroom and pointed to the toilet and the gaping hole. “Katie said she was trying to tighten the bolts, and one broke, so she decided to take it off and replace the bolts like in the Home Depot book, but it wasn’t put together the way she expected.
Paul nodded and bent down next to the hole to look more carefully.
“Yes. I see. The floor under the tile is cement, and the bolts are set into that. You see that often in houses this age. 1920s?”
“1919. It’s a Sears kit house.”
“Those are good. Very well laid out.” He poked at the remaining bolts. “None of these are very solid. They ought to be replaced. That will take some time, however. Let me show you what I can do.”
He pulled a round package out of his bag and unwrapped a ring of black rubber and some disgusting, yellow compound.
“I can put a new wax ring on it tonight and set the toilet on it with the remaining bolts. It will be stable enough for you to use if you are careful with it. Tomorrow afternoon I can come back with a brass plate that will fit this hole and put that down with epoxy. Then I can fit modern bolts on that and fix the toilet down permanently.”
“So long as we can use it tonight.”
“It will be fine. The work tomorrow will take a couple of hours to dry, but you will be able to use the toilet that night.”
“That would be great.”
Paul pressed the ring into place over the hole, then set the toilet down onto it and replaced the nuts on the remaining bolts.
“Thank you so much for coming tonight,” Kristy said. “I was ready to kill Katie when I saw the toilet up and that hole in the floor. How much do I owe you for tonight?”
“You don’t need to pay anything until I finish,” Paul assured. “Let me give you one of my cards.”
The card was magnetic, and featured the same classical lettering as his ad, in this case complemented by a line drawing of a Doric Column. Kristy put it on the fridge.
“May I ask how you heard about me?” Paul inquired.
“May parents brought home a church bulletin from St. Anne’s when they were here visiting a few weeks ago, and my sister saw your ad on the back.”
“It says that you do kitchen renovations. We need to work on this eventually. Katie was talking about trying to do it herself, but after this fiasco with the toilet, I don’t want to let her try to build cabinets.”
Paul looked around the kitchen with consideration. “What kind of renovation do you have in mind?”
“It seems like it should have an island, to be a little more modern. And new lights and maybe replacing these old cabinets. I left aside a fair amount of money for working on the kitchen when I bought the house.”
Paul moved around the kitchen, opening cupboard doors, trying the drawers, peering at the plumbing under the sink. “It would be an interesting project,” he said. “I see you have new appliances. Do you want to make a place to put in a dishwasher?”
“Yes!” said Kristy. “I don’t know how the previous owner never had one. Do you work on designs as well as doing the work?”
“I’d love to get an estimate on all this.”
“The kitchen will require some planning. I can help you with that for free.”
“I’d be happy to pay. I’m sure the design is a lot of work.”
Paul shrugged. “I’m not a designer. I am happy to just charge for the work. We could talk about it after I finish with the toilet.”
“If you’re putting work into making a plan, it seems like you should charge even if you don’t call it ‘designing’. There’s no reason to be providing value you don’t monetize,” Kristy said, her work instincts kicking in.
“What do you do?” Paul asked.
“I’m a product line manager at Schneider & Sons.”
Paul nodded. “That’s a very good company.”
"Do you use their tools?" Kristy asked.
"I would if I could afford them."
Kristy thanked him again as she showed him to the door. Katie was coming up the walk balancing several bags. Paul stopped on the porch to hold the door open for her.
“Was that the repair guy?” Katie asked. “He’s younger than I expected from the phone.”
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