342 Houses and other boring stuff



They arrived together at 3PM.  In the old days there would have been files and drawings to spread on my dining room table.  Since it wasn’t the old days, we sat at the table with laptops.  I stared at the screen of my laptop at the images provided by their flash drive.


“So what am I looking at?” I asked.  I knew exactly what I was looking at.  There were three house models in the village at Hart’s Mill.  The image on my screen which was labeled Bluebird was one of the house plans.


“It’s one of the three basic floor plans in the village.  Like all of them it has three small bedrooms and one bath.  There is a small living room and kitchen as well.  All the models are basically the same.  They differ only in the layout of the rooms.  The Bluebird and the Cardinal are the same floor plan, just mirror images of each other.”


“Okay, I get that.  What is the third floor plan?” I asked.


“Open the file named Robin,” Lois instructed.  Lois was the preacher’s designer and a former Methamphetamine addict.  She was still trying to gain weight.  Her body had likely been abused beyond complete recovery.  In other words she was not at all attractive.


When I opened the file, I saw the center living room model. There were two bedrooms and bath on one side and a  bedroom and kitchen on the other.  The living room went from front to back in the center of the house.  It was by far my favorite of the house plans.


I looked at the photos of the houses as they were when I bought them.  They weren’t that bad, since Old Mr. Hart had kept them sealed from the elements.  He was convinced that the mill would reopen and they would be needed.


“If we just repair them, clean them up. and paint them what kind of price am I looking at.” I asked.


“You mean not do any of the renovations I have designed?” Lois asked.


“That’s exactly what I mean.”  I turned my attention to the foreman.  “What kind of price are we looking at if you repair the damage to the outside, remove the plywood over the windows and doors, replace any broken glass, then go inside clean the hardwood floors as best you can and paint all the inside walls.  I want new floors in the kitchen.  In the bath, a good quality vinyl floor, refinish the tub, if you need to  I want to clean the toilets refinish them as well, if needed.


In other words what will it cost to make the houses pretty much like they were when the mill was open?”


“But nobody will buy houses like that,” the designer said.


“You know this how Lois, have you personally tried to sell a plain simple house?” I asked.


“No but all the market data shows that small one bath houses do terrible,” she said.


“This is market data from a time when  you could sell anything with a roof over it.  We are going to find out what we can sell now.”  They did not take the news well at all.  It was like a personal blow to them.


“Also I want one of the Robin and one of the Blubird models renovated as your design shows.  I want better flooring and take down that kitchen wall in both.  I want a separate price for it.  We will supply the appliances, so don’t figure them.”


Give me a call when you get the prices.  Also give me a price to go back and take out that wall on the two models after they have been sold.  We won’t be installing the flooring or the tub enclosures on some of them until after the sale, so Sylvia will need samples of the vinyl and tub surrounds to show customers.  Everything else will be finished before we start showing the houses.”


“It will cost more to go back and do this shit piecemeal,” the foreman said clearly irritated.


“Well you aren’t leaving me any choice.  If you can come up with a better plan, I’m all ears but you didn’t bring any new ideas to the table when Sylvia met with you.  One last thing, as you can see I have a pretty good idea of how we are going to market these houses, so come up with new ideas or I’m going to offer them for bid, house by house, to the Russians.”


After the two of them had gone Sylvia said, “They are really pissed at you.”


“If they leave a meeting all smiles, we might as well lube out asses cause they have sure as hell figured a way to ass fuck us.” I said smiling sweetly.


“Lois was so pissed she didn’t pitch the office design to you.  She did leave the flash drive and it has the office in a file called of all things ‘Office’.” Sylvia said with a giggle.


I sat back down to open the file.  How hard could it be to line four metal boxes up.  I looked through the four designs and decided that none of them were worth a shit.  There was no way I could draw on a computer before the change.  Maybe now I could figure it out, but why bother.  That’s why I paid other people.  I used a piece of typing paper to make a rough sketch and I do mean rough.


The four squares were lined up in different directions.  The unit on the right was closed end out.  The next unit which was attached was arranged with the door end out.  The next two units were closed end out. Each unit was bolted to the next making a rectangle of 32 x 20.  Over the units I would stretch a curved canopy making the whole thing look as though it was inspired by a WWII Quonset Hut.  But no more a hut, than the retro Volkswagen was a beetle.


My quick design would cut one window in each of the closed ends and switch the door for a real storefront type door.  The offices were going to be small but that was okay with me.  I decided to leave the interior design to the fru fru women.  My mind just didn’t go that way.  I did know what I liked, but not much else.


“Sylvia can you make a digital drawing from this freehand crap?” I asked.


“Sure, it won’t take a minute to make a rough drawing.  I can even do a quick floor plan.” she suggested.


“Good, when you get it done let me take a look then email it to Lois.  We have to have a lot to get a price on setting those boxes, so call and remind Jen to get something settled quick.”


“You know she is going to want a drawing to show around,” Sylvia demanded.


“Okay, get our little designer and the foreman to get something for her.  I am going to leave all this to you.  If you need any help just ask.”  I closed the door on both projects for the time being.


A couple of days passed before I was again bored to tears.  I thought as the weekend began that I owned those damn mill houses and I wanted to get to work on them.  Saturday was a dark dreary day.  It was not a good day for Jennifer to move into her new rental condo.  Nor was it a good day for ‘His laboring few to send a couple of guys over to Spruce Street behind the mill.  Needless to say, Jennifer had a crew, from the mission, loading a truck from his laboring few’s construction company.  All of it just to carry her household shit to the condo.


While I had two of their guys with me only one had a hammer and pry bar.  He was pretty good at pulling down plywood, so that I could inspect the house.  It was easy to see that they had not done an inspection of any house from Wednesday until Saturday.  I had to call and demand that someone meet me on the site to get them moving..


I had my clipboard and wrote ‘ paint exterior’  The exterior painting would include window re glazing and new glass where it was needed.  Caulking of cracks and the replacement of rotted trim was also part of the painting contract.  I was making the list just in case I had to go with separate contracts.


The small concrete front slab was in good shape.  It did need pressure washing but that wasn’t really much of a job.  The siding was no longer being made, so it was my plan to carefully remove the siding from the front of the house, so that it could be use as patching material for the three other sides.  The front would get a new siding using the 4×8 composition material.  When painted to match the sides it would be good enough to sell.  With a little luck there would be enough siding from the one house to patch many others.


I explained to his Laboring Few’s foreman what I had in mind, as I went along.  The job foreman made notes.  He didn’t look happy, but I didn’t care.


Once we got inside, I said,” Strip and re-wax the hardwood floors.”


“There is some serious damage in the living room,” the foreman said.  He had already sent his man to another job.  So he had to do the inspection himself.


“Then remove the flooring from the smallest bedroom and use it as patch material for all the other houses.  You know, this is the kind of thing you are supposed to come up with not me.”  I didn’t much like his attitude.  I was about one smart ass remark away from taking bids.


“We can probably rehang the doors and new vinyl for the kitchen and bath should pretty much do it.  The fixtures need to be cleaned and maybe refinish the tub and toilet.  The sink looks pretty good.”


“Yes it does,” I agreed.


“Now how about plumbing and heating for this unit?” I asked.


“We had planned to increase the insulation and go with a heat pump.” He advised me.


“How about a gas furnace with ducts that go up into the attic.  The furnace in that hall closet that used to be a linen closet?” I asked.


“That would save you some money alright.  You could keep the heat pump option, if they went with a house that hadn’t yet been renovated.  Since you are going to work in three stages.” he admitted.


“That was pretty much what I thought.” I informed him.


“Okay, I have a pretty good idea what you want to do with the economy renovation,” he said.


“Good now for the show house with the full renovations.  Just upgrade everything and take out that wall between the living room and the kitchen.  But for support run your beam under the existing ceiling and put your support posts where the door frame was before and the other post against the wall.  That should take care of the roof load.” I suggested.


“Yes that is the easiest way for sure,” he admitted.  “So let me go back and get with the designer and we will get your prices in line.  Do we furnish the furnace, water heaters, and plumbing fixtures?” he asked.


“Not this time, I think I will see what I can do myself.” I said.  What I meant was I wanted to see what Sylvia could do.


“So we get the carpentry and painting,” he asked.


“If you get your price in line.” I suggested.


“We can set the kitchen sink and the plumbing fixtures as part of the contract.  Same with hanging the cabinets,” he suggested.


“Sure I had planned on you doing all that kind of thing.  The specialty trades you might still get, but I want to check to see what we can do first.


I sent him off with instructions to have his prices in my email by the end of work on Monday.  I figured Sylvia and I would do a walk through on Monday so that she knew what they were supposed to do for the their money.  She would also learn what I expected her to do.


I got in my ugly orange pick up and headed home.  I actually had a craving for a hot dog.  I craved the taste but probably the whole experience more.  The dog house was my place for hot dogs.  It had been Gus’s favorite meal.


Before I called ahead to place the order for  two dozen hot dogs with everything.  I called Jen to be sure her movers would be at the Drugstore Condo.  She assured me they would, so I picked up the full take out order. Then I delivered the two big bags of dogs to the Drugstore Condo.  Once inside I went door to door knocking and informing everyone  to meet me in the Cloak and Dagger for hot dogs and coke.  I also saved the receipt from the Dog House.  I planned to deduct it from Jan’s next bill.

About cindypress

sorry it is a mystery.
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17 Responses to 342 Houses and other boring stuff

  1. GaryDan says:

    I’ve lived and worked in small towns all my 64 years of life. I like the wonderful descriptions and the small town feel of Aster. The way it is written, I feel at home. Besides, Maxine does keep it interesting.

  2. cindypress says:

    Thanks my dad taught me to appreciate my small town heritage.

    Small towns have a special feel, when you get out of your car and walk into a fifty year old cafe on main street. It’s something you cant get in a chrome and glass retro diner, no matter how much a hamburger costs.

  3. jack says:

    Ya just gotta keep after them contractors all the time , they always go for the hi end even if they say they are not.

    • cindypress says:

      I hope that the “lesson”, if there is such a think in this series. is that If we got what we needed rather than what they tell us we need, we might all be better off financially.

      My mom and dad raised four kids in a three bedroom one bath home and we all did just fine. A 900 square foot house managed to get us by. It was dry and warm not much more you can ask of a house, if you look at it right.

      • jack says:

        Your going to see the smaller houses make a come back. The poor economy, the lower pay, the higher taxes, the coming astronomical energy cost. The best is gone for most Americans and will never return or not return in our life time.

      • cindypress says:

        The were saying this was coming twenty years ago when I was a freshman in college.

  4. TopCat says:

    What really is the best? The huge houses with exorbitant energy costs, the over-sized mortgage, and having to always worry what the Joneses are doing and how to keep up? Give me a smaller life that I don’t have to kill myself maintaining any day. We’ve come to delude ourselves that what we have is the good life. Maybe the smaller, simpler life of the old mill village was actually the good life. How many people even know their neighbors names any more? Of course I’m not advocating all the “old” like the mill store that ripped off the workers between paychecks. But there was still a lot of good in those villages.

    • cindypress says:

      I have fond memories but mine are after the end of the village days. my dad’s memories are a lot sharper he grew up at the end of the village system. In his time the village store was still there and the mill decided what merchants cold open stores in the village proper.

      But every one was equally poor. Like Maxine’s dad mine did back door work to raise his family above the normal poverty there. But it was possible to do things then. People weren’t advocating that everyone be the same. In order for everyone to be the same they have to be equally miserable.

      The difference between the mill as daddy and the government as daddy was that everybody had to work to be in that daddy system. Call me crazy but there was something in that.

      • GaryDan says:

        For those of us who lived out in rural America, the eqivalent of the mill economy was the small farm and the small town co-op/grain mill. I am a boomer born just post WWII and that rural farming economy still existed in my early memories. The small town economies were supported mostly by the farming economy, with some small factories and shops supplementing it. When I was a kid, the small towns were still doing OK economically, but I have watched that decline throughout my lifetime. The small town I worked in when I was in my teens & early twenties was a single main street about 2 blocks long with no stoplights. The buildings were the old upright square faces with flat roofs all connected tightly together on both sides of the street. Individual family owned stores for hardware, groceries, men’s clothing, Rexall drugstore & soda fountain, sporting goods, bakery and coffee shop, etc. I went to school with all of the businnes owners and local farmers. children. That town now is essentially gone, a bedroom community for surronding cites, and the family businesses replaced by the mega stores that people drive to. Hell, a single Walmart of today would completely cover/envelop the entire downtown of my small town and then some. Actually, physically and economically it did it’s not a good thing.

  5. cindypress says:

    My dad was a baby boomer so he knows all about that. By the time I came along thing had begun to change. There was all that global economy talk when I was a teenager.

    • GaryDan says:

      And it eventually developed into NAFTA. Remember the ‘lunatic” great prophet Ross Perot predicting the great “sucking sound” from the south (Mexico)….LOL….actually not so LOL. The sorry assed greedy bastards in DC from both sides of the aisle supported it. It didn’t happen as fast as Perot prophesized, but it happened at a magnitude of order (global scale) greater than most people expected.

  6. cindypress says:

    you are absolutely right and my dad voted for that ‘NUT’. I was much smarter I voted one one of the other nuts.

    • GaryDan says:

      Tell your dad he had company. I voted for him too. It was my reward to him for making the most interesting election (I hate them normally) in our USA history, in my opinion. I watched all the debates and enjoyed the hell out of Perot’s flash cards with all the graphs and charts. He just avoided all the Political truth/lying. Too bad he was a nutcase, but one helluva businessman that supported AMERICAN/USA businesses and industry…..hoooorah!!! He also provided seed money and invested in many other USA individuals and their businesses….Steve Jobs was one of many.

      Also, I hated both Bill Clinton and George Bush Senior (friend of Saudi Oil) with a passion.
      Every time you use the phrase “smarter than smart phone” I think of Bill Clinton, kind of.
      He was a man that was smarter than smart, but “too smart for his own good”, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, in my life I have run across a few of those types and found them all to lack in moral character, or were basically con artists and thieves, rationalizing their behavior behind intellectual bullshit. You remember the phrase from Bill Clinton. “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” He rationalized that a blow job wasn’t sex. Typical. I rest my case.

      Sorry I get so worked up over this after so many years; just a bad day I guess.

  7. cindypress says:

    Well the smarter than smart phone is pure sarcasm lol as Im sure you know. I tried to tell my ex husband that a blow job wasn’t sex it was just disgusting. Maybe that’s why he is an ex. Things do change when you find yourself single at er around forty/

    • GaryDan says:

      Hehe…My wife would agree with your definition of a BJ. She was the one who wanted to try it. I think her so called girlfriends told her that to keep her man and keep him happy this was something she had to do (sounds like a tiltle to a CW song). I just told her, if she didn’t like it, then I wouldn’t either. Cuddling is just as nice in my book anyway.

      • cindypress says:

        what her girl friends told her the first guy I dated after the divorce told me. So I did I didn’t like it but I was shocked that I didnt throw up so now it’s like wearing that black bra and panties I do it for him whoever he is at the time. But only if he asks me to wear them lol/

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