I left the West End Bike Shop with the frame hanging from the bike rack on the rear of the cruiser. I was probably half way to the Speed Shop, the bike shop at the mall, when Eve spoke. “So what are your plans for the bicycle?” She asked.
“I don’t know, I never get to ride it more than to the mall, so I think I might just have an ordinary bike set up done this time and ride it just for exercise.” I said.
“Then I shall have to have a bike as well. How can I protect you, if you are off on a bike and I’m not?” she asked reasonably.
Upon hearing that I immediately turned the cruiser around. “What did I say?” she asked.
“If we are both going to ride bike, then we are damn sure going to learn how to work on them,” I demanded.
“Damn right,” she agreed.
“We will go on Craig’s list and buy you a bike. While we are at it, we can buy a donor bike for me,” I said.
“Cool, but you do know that you have enough money to buy your own bike, or to have the frame rebuilt with the best materials?” Eve asked.
“Yes I know, but then who knows, if I would survive someone else’s mistake next time?” I replied.
“You could have just as easily made that mistake. Mixing up a gas can, isn’t that hard to do,” she said.
“I know. I have done worse, but I’ve been pretty miserable because of someone else’s stupidity. I would prefer that it be my own stupidity.” I pulled the cruiser into the alley behind my downtown house, then turned on the small laptop. Checking Craig’s list gave me the name and number of a family with two bikes for sale.
The Gunny’s bike was a dual suspension thing. The two bikes on craigs list were hard tails. A quick search on Google told me that the wheels and other parts were interchangeable, so I gave the number listed a try.
I got the mother on the line. “The bikes belonged to my children. They have both reached driving age. The bikes have just sat in the garage over a year without either being moved. The tires need to be inflated, otherwise they are good to go, I’m sure,” she said.
The bikes were cheap Wal-Mart bikes so I ended up paying her $20 each for them. When we left her house there were two bikes hanging on the bike rack and the Gunny’s frame in the back seat.
“Learning to work on those bikes is going to be a long slow process,” Eve suggested.
“Probably learning to do everything will be, but learning to pump up the tires won’t be hard at all. Step one is to buy an inflater of some kind.” What we decided, was to purchase one of those things you plug into the cigarette light of the car. I had always meant to get one for emergencies anyway. The bike thing was just a good excuse to finally do it.
Before I could get to the WalMart for the tire pump, the time for the meeting at the pool hall got close. Eve and I drove to the parking lot beside the pool hall. The parking lot was part of the pool hall property. I noticed that the parking lot wasn’t in terrible shape, but it wasn’t great either. It probably needed a new layer of asphalt at the least.
Unlike my usual habit, I arrived after the others. “I am usually early, but you guys are really early today,” I said to the two of them.
“I am Edward Jarvis, this was my grandfathers place,” he said. Edward Jarvis was a short man and much too light in the ass to run a pool hall for sure.
“So Edward, what are you asking for this place?” I inquired.
“In it’s present condition, I have been told it is worth right at seventy five thousand dollars,” he said.
“That’s a reasonable price to ask, if you want it to sit as it is now. I’m not sure at what price it will actually sell,” I said honestly. He didn’t give me any indication what he thought of that remark, so I shut up.
I pretty much just took in the over all layout of the building. The construction and condition of it was up to the construction foreman of ‘His Laboring Few’ who went about his job. The foreman did measure the pool hall for me before he started his inspection. It was 58 feet long and 34 feet wide. There were almost 2000 square feet on the ground floor. The second floor would be the same except that it had been chopped into small rooms with a central hallway.
The downstairs would have to be gutted as well a upstairs, but the downstairs would be a smaller job. About the only built ins downstairs were the bar and one bathroom in the corner. I had in my mind that everything in the downstairs would be modular and removable. I felt like the room would be most functional, if it could be reconfigured easily. Still, I was open to and would be seeking, suggestions from Helen.
Eve and I had ambled around just generally killing time waiting for the contractor to finish. Edward was trying not to say the wrong thing, so he spoke almost not at all. Finally the contractor was finished.
“So let’s go somewhere and talk,” I suggested to him. “Edward, if the building is sound or can be made sound reasonably, I will get my numbers in order and give you a call.” I said. “If not I will call to tell you that as well.”
“Fair enough, I will be expecting to hear from you in the next few days,” he said.
“I would think it would be at least in that time frame, most likely sooner.” I actually planned for it to be much sooner. I wanted to get moving on the project. The funny thing was the the bikes shared an equal priority for me. Fifty dollars worth of bikes seemed as important to me, as a potentially quarter million dollar project, how weird is that?
The construction guy, Eve, and I went for coffee at one of those fancy coffee shops out by the mall. “What the hell am I doing in this place?” I asked looking around.
“You should have said something before,” the construction foreman said.
“It’s okay I’m just a little out of place. So whats the overall on the building?” I asked.
“You saw the cosmetics. Everything has to be patched and repainted. We will have to find a plaster crew somewhere god alone know where,” he said dramatically.
“Or you can just glue drywall to the plaster, once it is rough patched by your own crew,” I said. He should have known better than to try that shit on me. He must have thought he had a housewife from orange county. we both knew how he had rehabbed my downtown house.
“Yeah, if you don’t want to go back with the original finishes?” he said.
“I want to do it just like we did my house. I want the best product available at a decent price. This is not a historic district project. Even if it were, they are only interested in the outside.”
“Okay 1/2“ drywall glued to the plaster once it has been repaired with concrete board. How do you want the bottom broken up?” he asked.
“I need to get with Helen for that,” I admitted. “I do know that I need to get that basement partially finished at least. Nothing fancy but a safe place to store furniture at the very least.”
“I think I have an idea how you want the first floor what about upstairs?”
“I want two upstairs condo units. I would like them to be sort of upscale lofts.” I suggested. I would like to be able to sell the two of them to pay for the whole project, but I doubt that it will be possible.”
“You never know, but I would tend to agree. Aster isn’t exactly a mecca for yuppies,” he said.
Ah but you don’t know what I know, I thought. What I said was lets see where we are dollar wise.
“Because of where we are and who my labor force is, I can probably bring this in under a quarter million.” he said.
“That’s way too much,” I said. “That’s my budget for everything including buying it and decorating it.”
“That was just a guess. Let me work on it a couple of days and I can get it down to 200k I expect.”
“Listen to me Al, if you think you can come in with a figure I like. then do overruns, you are out of your mind. You should know that Jennifer will be writing the contract, and a friend of mine will be doing the inspections, so be sure you do it by the book from the get go,” I demanded. If there are overruns you will be eating them not me.”
“Yes I remember your downtown house conversion,” he said.
“Good, then we are on the same page here. Get the price together as soon as you can, so that we can either start, or move on to another property.” I suggested.
After he had gone I turned to Eve, “As for you little lady I hope you were taught how tools work. We are going to fix those bikes.”
“Not really, but I am a quick study,” she said. She also had some basic information from her donor personality.
We bought a set of wrenches, a set of screw drivers, a chain tool, and a tire inflater all from WalMart. I was pretty sure that we would be running back for more tools for weeks, but it was a start. I also bought a tarp, since we would be working inside my apartment.
We inflated her tires in the parking lot. She climbed up on the bike and rode it around the parking lot using the memories of the dead woman inside her mechanical brain. She did pretty well all things considered. At least she didn’t fall. After several minutes she lost her tentative movements and became confident.
Inside the apartment I moved furniture so that I could spread the tarp. Once I did I used the laptop to get directions to remove the wheels from the donor bike. It also told me how to reinstall them on the Gunny’s bike. Getting the chain right with the dérailleur was a pain in the ass, but it finally succumb to me and Eve.
Like Eve, I rode the bike around the parking lot and was pleased with what I had done. I was working on a quarter million dollar apartment and party venue, but I was more thrilled with a bike project that cost under a hundred bucks. It just proves that I have no class at all, I thought.
“Since it’s just three in the afternoon, and it is warm, let’s take a ride,” I suggested.
“Are you sure your doctor would approve?” she asked.
“Actually, I’m sure he wouldn’t, so fuck it we just wont tell him,” I suggested. I did choose a not at all challenging ride around the downtown, since I didn’t want to push the broken ribs too far. We mostly went up and down main street, then I turned toward what used to be Ed’s office. Not only had Ed and I shared it, he had also shared it for a short time with my dad. At that moment Lucas occupied the office and ran both Ed’s and my old business.
“Hey kid, you got any coffee?” I asked as Eve and I entered.
“Who you callin’ kid, old lady?” he asked.
“You said that you liked my downtown house, I’m getting ready to build a couple of smaller units down there over the old pool hall. If you know anyone who might be interested let me know. They can pick their finishes if they act now.”
“God I would love to have a place down there. Since dad died, mom depends on me. She would be devastated, if I moved.” It was quite the speech.
“I understand. Since you made such a fuss over the place, I wanted to give you first option,” I explained.
If it was just me, I would be all over it.” He did look disappointed as he said it.
I noticed that Julie was giving Eve a serious once over. She had no reason to doubt that Eve was real, but then she might just be wondering what the attraction between us was all about.