Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going Down, Down, Down

I need a new heater. It started in November when REIT Fuel came out on a service call and said that my 37 year old heater needed to be replaced. The man even wrote on the heater "Heater needs to be replaced." And it wasn't in nice tidy handwriting either. It looked like God had written it after a few drinks.

Evidently my chimney liner is just gone because he also wrote "Chimney bad." It's the crooked chimney from the nursery rhyme "there was a crooked man and he had a crooked house."

So I got a bunch of estimates. The first was from a man who had worked with the Daleys, the matriarch and patriarch of my church.

Another from a neighbor who does this on the side. He came out to look at it and never got back to me. I thought it would be awkward when I ran into him while dragging the dog, but oddly enough, he's never outside his house when I walk by.

Another was recommended to me twice. He was the most persistent and there was that weird sort of attraction that happens between a helpless homeowner and a know-it-all contractor (He can save me! Fix everything!) but after my experience with the Third Generation Arborist, I thought it best not to contact him this go-round.

Then there were the two Russian guys who were so eager and seemed a little young "Yes, we will be there tomorrow and it will cost $2,000." I said, "whoa, whoa, whoa...tomorrow? I need to see something in writing." I never got that thing in writing.

Anyway, I took a long look at all my options and tried to eliminate any that had a crazy edge to it (like the Third Generation Arborist) and decided that the guy who had worked for the Daleys was the way to go. Let's call his company Edwards Plumbing and Heating. We'll call the contractor Ed. He seems like your solid, reliable guy who will show up, not necessarily save me, just do the job.

In the time that he sent me the original estimate and now when I am ready to get it done the economy has tanked, things cost more and the price has gone up. He came out yesterday and we went down to the horrible basement, reviewed the job and ended with me promising to have the one side of the basement cleaned out.

"Including the cat shit behind the current heater?"

"Yes Ma'am," he replied kindly, tipping his baseball cap.

Actually that conversation didn't happen at all. I only discovered umpteen years of cat droppings later after I started removing the piles of detritus that had accumulated after 23 years in this house. (23 years! I am that woman. Another woman I am surprised to find that I have turned out to be.)

I found the groupings of many tools for the various projects I have accomplished or have underway, tiling the bathroom floor, re pointing the foundation, painting rooms, conquering mosquitoes, gardening, gardening, gardening. I do not have to buy one more thing.

I also tackled the bureau that was the last remaining shrine to the ex-husband and his labors in the house. When he went through that front door for the last time, worn out and overdone on fixing up this house (in only Year Four) he left all the tools and equipment in an old bureau we had moved to the basement from the kitchen. In the beginning I would go to it and claim the most basic tools but after that, I wouldn't even go near it. Yesterday I emptied it. I felt sad, so much was rusted, and there were his old gloves, t-shirts he had torn into work rags, the bits of locks and door knobs that he had worked on, glass glazing points in a jar. He and Bob, my step-partner, re glazed every window in this Victorian house. They've held up well for 19 years. Thank you.

The bureau came out, as well as two little flexible flyer type sleds, an old red wagon, a broken old red wagon, tomato cages, boxes that had collapsed, cans whose contents had evaporated and about 20 pounds of cat droppings.

At first I didn't know what they were because they had calcified. But after shoveling a pile I finally put the shape together with other shapes I have seen in my life. "This looks like what?"

Evidently Pickie had claimed lots of places as her own. An especially lovely spot was behind the heater. I wonder whether the good men who had cleaned that heater over the years debated whether to tell me. Maybe they have some kind of code that you don't mention to the homeowner that they might want to look behind the heater sometime. Maybe back at REIT Central they called my house the Cat Shit House. "Oh no Glenn, don't send me to the Cat Shit House, I went there last year."

I hope that I haven't gotten some kind of illness from shoveling that up. But more than that, I hope that Pickie can forgive me and that Carol will forget it.

The basement looks great.

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