By Cindy and Walt
Working with Juan and Carlos was good for me. I always skipped lunch. I did however go to Helen’s for Coffee, while the men ate their lunch. So I wasn’t really hungry after my large breakfast until I got home. Even then it usually didn’t set in till I finished my shower, and was sitting by the stove while my hair dried.
While I waited for my hair to dry, I usually prepared something from my small chest freezer or a sandwich made using a frozen roll. The night I had begun working on the floor, was an example of fixing something from the freezer. I microwaved a pot pie. There was a lot of bread in a pot pie, so I only heated one roll on my little Dutch oven thing. I was able to place it on the stove and then remove it when I filled the stove with wood.
It was a lot of work for the simple pot pie, but it kept my mind in the present, not dwelling on past injuries or hurt feelings. It was why I love all the rituals of my life. Even with the time consuming rituals and the toys, sometimes it all caught up with me. The reason I had been home at night so long was the accident. The weekend’s work convinced me that I was just as happy at home as running around the town trying to get laid.
The point to all that was that I slept very well most nights after watching some TV show on the computer. I had chosen not to have a real TV, so my news was haphazard at best. I usually tried to read the headlines on a couple of the network web sites before going to bed. When I did get into the bed, it was like dying. I almost never had a problem falling asleep after working a full day.
Usually after five to seven hours, I was up and starting the same rituals as the day before. That pretty much described my life until Sundays rolled around. Since my work force was Catholic, I didn’t even plan on anything getting done on Sunday. Sunday was more about their families, and I didn’t mind.
After the first full week, the first cabin was what Carlos called ‘dried in’. Drying it in included the installation of a large Church window with the top and bottom installed side by side on the tall living room end of the house. There were two more turned on their side and mounted at the roof of the taller rear wall making what was almost skylights. It also included the patio door I had to buy for $200.
The front door had been the rear door of the church. I wanted to custom fit the church’s front door to an opening in the front of the cabin, but Carlos and Juan acted like it would be the end of the world as we knew it, so I didn’t. I ended up with a very plain front door. If the house hadn’t had Juan’s rear wall and the funky roof line it would have looked like a railroad boxcar.
What I got was a quirky little cabin. It was almost perfect for what I wanted. The oak paneling from the interior of the building made a beautiful vertical siding. I bought a $200 table saw so that we could cut our own batten strips for the exterior. I also had to buy caulking for them but the finished product looked spectacular after it was stained.
By the time I bought the table saw the roof was on so we set it up in the cabin. The Rural Electric co-operative installed a saw service so we had power for our tools from day one. By the end of week one I was the proud owner of a table saw and an airless spray gun.
The spray gun came in handy when we put a finish on the exterior of the cabin. The finish was a reasonably expensive polyurethane with stain. The cabin came off a weather gray color. The door we hand painted red.
Juan made two sets of working shutters on the table saw. Those we also painted red. I was really proud of how it all looked. I had ten grand in the project by the end of the second week but the one cabin was going to be worth five times that much at least.
“So what are we going to do this week?” Carlos asked on the phone. Do we finish the first cabin or start on the second one.”
“We have so much lumber laying in the parking lot, I think we need to build,” I said. “I can work with the electrical, and the plumbing issues, while you build a second cabin.”
“Okay then we begin on the second cabin tomorrow. I can find work for Jose after school, if you are agreeable. He can stop by and clean up. We have certainly made a mess.”
“Sure why not. If nothing else he can help put tools away when we stop for the day. I just hate that part of the job,” I said.
When Monday came and after a breakfast at the Hardees in the plaza, complete with eye candy in the form of State Motor Patrol officers, I headed to the work site. On the second cabin, I knew the drill so I was more help to the two real carpenters. Carlos determined that we could use the beams from the church roof to lower the rear wall a couple of feet. It was a compromise that Juan could live with as well. I could live with it since it would make the roof less funky.
We started with the floor frame on the first day, then the walls on days two and three. Also on day three, I got the electrician on cabin one. He just installed the wiring for the wall and light fixtures. It was all hooked to the saw service until he came back to finish it after cabin two would be completed.
We put up enough of the exterior siding to hold the cabin’s walls in place until we got back on day four to put the roof structure in place. On Saturday of the third week it looked like a cabin. Not completely dried in but close.
I was proud that I had been more involved in the building of cabin two than I had cabin one. I was learning and that was always a good thing, I decided.
When I got home on Friday of week three, there was a phone message from Jeremy. “Alice and I are home. That was quite the experience, but we graduated,” his message said.
“Good for you, how do you feel?” I asked when I returned the call.
“Like I could sleep for a month,” he said. Then after a pause, “And kick the shit out of a mountain lion.” He broke out in a quiet laugh.
“Yeah, I remember that feeling,” I said. “So you guys want to go out for dinner?”
“No offense Rose, but we just want to sleep for a week,” Jeremy said.
“You do know that you have to stay in shape,” I said.
“I know run three miles minimum or bike at least an hour every day.”
He sounded resentful. “You know it will keep you alive, even if you never have to run the Mogadishu Mile,” I said.
“I know Rose, but we are going to need some help,” he said.
“You know, it is not going to do our cover any good if we are seen working out together,” I said.
“Actually I think it might. I talked to Andrew about it and won him over,” Jeremy said. “Can we get together tomorrow to discuss it?”
“Not tomorrow, I’m working on the cabins tomorrow,” I said.
“Okay, I know you don’t work on Sunday,” he said.
“Okay how about we meet at the plaza for breakfast. But I warn you I go to breakfast early, very early,” I replied.
“You may not this Sunday. There is supposed to be a snowstorm starting tomorrow. With your last snow storm adventure, I expect you will want to wait till the roads are absolutely clear,” Jeremy said.
“Hell, last time the roads were clear. It was the over night refreeze that got me. Give me a call tomorrow night and we will work out something,” I said. That pretty much ended the conversation.
Just like the recent nights before, I went to bed early without any visits to adult chat rooms. I did wake up in the middle of the night to use the toilet and put another log on the fire.
Saturday morning I did the usual things before I took the trike out to the Plaza. I pulled it into the Hardee’s restaurant, found a place to park it, so that I could watch over it, then went inside.
The four Road Warrior cops where eating biscuits and drinking coffee. As I walked by, one of them said, “Ma’am, you need to be careful on that thing. You are really hard to see out there at night.”
“I know that’s why I bought the lights and the large reflector,” I said.
“Even with those lights, a car pulling up from behind you might not realize your speed till he is right on you, then if he happened to be meeting a car in the opposite lane he could choose to run over you,” he said.
“If that happens, you can break the boredom for a while,” I said. I did not say, you might even get to see my boobs without the sweatshirt that you keep staring at. I smiled and went to sit near the spot where my trike was parked just outside the window. The new state cops were still in the restaurant when I walked out the door. I unlocked the cable I always stretched from the frame though one of the rear wheels making it impossible to roll the trike away. No it wasn’t impossible to steal, just difficult.
When I got home I dressed for the construction site and went to work. The truck was my vehicle of choice since I could sit in the cab to warm up. But since cabin one was closed in we could have heated it to work on the interior but we chose to work on the outside of cabin two. It was close to being dry inside.
“Have you heard about a snow storm headed this way?” I asked Carlos.
“I do not listen to the weather,” he said. “I simply do what I do.”
“Well we have to get the roof on, and I have a couple of extra plastic drop cloths, So before we leave, I want to cover all the openings in both cabins,” I said.
“Cabin number one is tight. It will not need anything. We can put the roofing shingles on number two today. We can work on the windows if we have time if not we can cover the openings with plastic and go home for the weekend,” Carlos agreed. I helped to nail shingles that Juan and Jose brought up to us. Since it was Saturday we had Jose all day. We breezed right through it, then moved on to the Plexiglas for the windows above the ceiling line. They were smaller than the half windows in cabin one, but they would still give a lot of light.
At five o’clock I gave the men their wages. “Carlos if you can get to work on Monday, we can work on the windows and doors for this one or for start the interior on number one.”
“Si Senorita,” he said with a smile.
Jeremy was right the snow started in the afternoon and snowed all night. Because of the snow pile up in front of my door, I had insisted that the cabins have tall foundations. I went to bed with the snow still falling.
I looked out when I got up to pee and the snow was still falling. When the clock buzzed at 6 AM, you guessed it, the snow was still falling. The phone rang at 6:30. I couldn’t believe that it was Jeremy.
“What the hell are you doing awake?” I asked.
“These new habits are hard to break. So what about our meeting?” he asked.
“It’s about a mile to your house. I expect I could get dressed and walk there,” I said.
“We could meet you half way then walk back with you to our place,” he said.
“Sounds good to me,” I agreed. I put on my heavy waterproof boots and thick wool boot socks then my heaviest coat before starting out. I walked down the center of the road, expecting to see maybe a snowplow but instead I saw no one at all. It looked so much like a greeting card, that I expected a horse drawn sleigh any minute. I would have seen the two of them sooner, if it were not still snowing. It promised to be a real big storm. The snow was a wet one, so they were predicting power outages again.
“So how do you like the mountain now,” Alice asked.
“Long as your house is warm, I can do this,” I said.
“Good,” Jeremy said turning to lead the way back to his house. I could well have missed his drive all together were it not for the two sets of footprints leading out of the drive. Because of the difficulty of walking in the snow, we were all pretty exhausted when we arrived at their house.
I sat in their kitchen, which was bigger and fancier than mine by a lot. “I always liked this room,” I said.
“Thanks,” Alice said. “We spend a lot of time in here. The kitchen is the most important room in a southern home.”
“You two aren’t really southerners.” I stated it as a fact.
“No not by birth, but by choice,” Jeremy said emphatically.
“You have a beautiful place, but you still make lousy coffee,” I said. “So what is this grand plan of yours?”
“My coffee is not lousy. Your taste buds are burnt out from all the cum you’ve had in your mouth,” Alice said defending her coffee.
“That might be true,” I said. “So what is this grand plan you had to sell Andrew on?”
“He wanted us to all go our separate ways and come together only when we had a job,” Jeremy said.
“Yes that’s standard. No contact helps to preserve our cover,” I said.
“Actually I disagree. It will be more suspicious if we all disappear at the same time with no explanation. Some one would put it together and then it would be suspicious,” he said.
“Okay, I can see that.” Just then the digital clock over the fancy stove turned off. “Powers out,” I said.
“The emergency generator will kick in soon,” he said. I heard first the slight motor sound then Jeremy say, “There it is.”
“Okay, so what is your big idea,” I asked.
“We go into business together. We form a company to turn the Jones Lake property I am buying into a resort. Actually more than one resort,” he said. “Then we have an excuse for going on vacations and business trips together. It would be the perfect cover.”
“And Andrew bought this idea?” I asked.
“He is looking at it,” Alice said. “Oh here,” she slipped me an envelope.
I opened it and found a large sum of money. What is this?” I asked.
“$20,000 your share of the reward from Homeland Security. We seem to have broken up a cell of terrorists,” Jeremy informed me.
“It’s almost the perfect amount to finish the two cabins. Now that is quite the coincidence,” I commented.
“It really is just a coincidence,” Jeremy said.
“Okay so what do we have to do, if we go with your plan,” I asked.
“Have to negotiate the land deal. You have to set the cabins up to sell and we take orders for them. If we sell them on a resort site first, you deal with getting them into a cabin. If the cabin goes first we will get them into a resort site.”
“Jeremy, you need to get the land. If you do, we might be able to work a deal. I don’t think we need a formal partnership. Just be seen a lot together around here to sell the cover ID,” I said. My thinking was that I really didn’t need Jeremy and Alice that much. Still if Andrew thought it was a good cover, I would go along at least for a while. After all they had done well the last time out. Neither of them spent much time asking why.
After breakfast and the discussion of how the first cabins were coming along, I walked back home. The two of them came halfway with me. The snowplows hadn’t gotten to our little county road yet. Most likely they were having to stay on the state roads since the snow continued to fall.
When I got home I found all my electronic devices attached to non functioning chargers, but they had been on long enough before the power outage to all be working. Since there was nothing else to do, I went to bed.
I managed to sleep some, and still stoke the fire during my visits to the bathroom. When I awoke Monday the snow had stopped. The county road, which ran close to the front of my house, did not get scraped till almost noon, so I stayed in the house and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the snowplow came by. Since it was the second time I lost power, I decided it was time to rethink the Country Store yet again. As soon as the road got scraped the power crews began working but it was still another day before things returned anything close to normal. The cable that connected me to the community telephone co-op, and then to the Internet was still out. I took the small notebook and went to the McDonald’s to check the mail.
Driving on the road with the ice was still dicey, but I managed thanks to four wheel drive and automatic transmission. It was one of the many times I approved of the truck the State had furnished me. I wondered if they would come to take it back, since I no longer worked for them. Then I realized that they couldn’t. In order to hide my existence there was no link between the SBI and me. The truck like the Country Store belonged to me. It would be impossible for them to take any of it back.
Of course when I got to home depot, all the emergency generators for home use were gone. There were really big ones, but not any 4000 or 5000 watt ones in stock. I walked away leaving it for another day. I hoped that it would have the same urgency after the snow melted.
I had learned one thing from the last blackout. I never used more than half my freezer space so I put six one gallon water containers into the freezer. I let them freeze into blocks of ice. When it started to snow, I moved one of the blocks from the small chest freezer to the dorm refrigerator. I then closed the door on the freezer for the last time until the power returned. So my dorm refrigerator became an icebox, not to be opened unless I really needed something. Like cheese and butter for a grilled cheese sandwich cooked on my wood stove.
Since I got no TV the zombie apocalypse might have already started. That being the case I went to the fast food restaurant again before dark. I checked and there were no tragedies that I cared about, so I went home and to bed again.
Since I was up and down most of the night, the fire was burning strong at 6 AM on the Tuesday morning. I put on several layers of clothing and packed a tablet onto the trike and headed off to the Plaza. I got to the restaurant chilled but not badly. I took off the fancy ski gloves before I removed my helmet. There were no cops in the restaurant on the Tuesday morning. I checked my mail and the headlines before I got the call from Carlos. It came at 7 AM just as I was about to go back for more coffee.
“Yes Carlos, do you want to work today?” I asked.
“Si Senorita Jose and I both are available. Juan is working with his wife to finish some baskets she is weaving,” Carlos said.
“Well let’s try for eight o’clock,” I suggested.
“Si, I shall be there,” he said.
After breakfast and back at the Country Store I sat by the stove drinking warmed over coffee. The wood stove made a pretty decent pot of coffee, though it was made in a percolator not by the drip method. It was warmed over so stronger than when it was fresh. I went out dressed for the cold and carrying the tool bag. I tossed it in the snow filled bed of the truck and drove away.
When I got to the site I noticed the driveway was covered by at least a foot of soft snow. I should have realized that the temporary electrical service for the saws would not be working. I was about to call Carlos and cancel when he drove in.
“Carlos. I forgot we would have no power,” I said.
“In the back of my truck is a small generator. It is too small for my house, but will run the power tools, if we are careful.”
“Wonderful thank you so much,” I said.
“I am afraid I do need gasoline though,” he said.
“If you have a can, I can go pick some up while you decide what to do first,” I said.
“The can is five gallons but you only need to put one gallon in for today,” he explained. “The television said the power might be restored today or tomorrow.”
I nodded then left the two of them to sort out the work. I stopped at the first service station I passed. It was near the highway. Everything in the Farmer’s Grove Community was near the highway, if it had been built in the last twenty years.
I pumped in two gallons of gas, then drove back to the old church site. Carlos and Jose were in cabin one. It was cold in the cabin but the wind wasn’t blowing at least. “I’m tempted to go out and get one of those five gallon cans and build a fire outside,” Carlos said.
“We could probably use one of those kerosene heaters in here,” I suggested.
“I know where we can borrow one,” Jose said. “My friend Joey has a car washing business in a coin car wash building. They hang tarps and use the heater in there. He won’t be working today. I can call him if you would like?” He asked it looking right at me for the answer.
“Sure ask him and we will go get it,” I suggested.
“He said to come by his house. We need to take it back this afternoon,” he said. Not only did Joey loan us the heater he loaned me the can into which I loaded the kerosene.
Once the cabin heated up Carlos asked, “Are the wires all in now?”
“Yes they are and we are ready to close them in,” I stated
“So what are you going to use on the walls since we have no drywall?” Carlos asked.
“Well what we do have is twenty rolls of insulation we need to roll into the walls. Then we can hang that interior paneling,” I said.
“I thought we were just going to use it outside?” Carlos asked.
“I think there is enough to finish this cabin, then we can worry about the other one,” I insisted.
So we all worked on putting the insulation into the wall cavities, then we put up the tongue and grooved paneling. That same paneling when installed on the outside had required batter strips over the joints. Since there will be no appreciable moisture inside the cabin, there is no need for the boards, Carlos assured me.
By the end of the day we were ready for cabinets, the tiny shower, the kitchen sink and the chemical toilet. That was the plan for Wednesday if the power was not restored. If it was restored then Carlos wanted to install the windows and doors, leaving me to deal with the vendors necessary to finish the cabin. It would most likely be the final push.