By Cindy and Walt
It was too late to mark the fence line when they came back from Williamston, so we made plans to make it the next morning after breakfast at which time we all went our separate ways. I did some research on the Internet, then went to hang out in a chat room. It wasn’t long till I got bored. I went to bed frustrated at that point.
I hadn’t paid any attention to the two of them driving into the compound or what they had done after I went to bed. So I guess I was a little surprised when I was greeted in the parking lot by Steve on the bike I bought for him, and Sterlin on a bike I presume he bought at Walmart.
I didn’t even slow down. I just took off for the dairy Queen on my trike. I got there ahead of the boys, but not by much. Steve handed Sterlin a dollar bill. “Son of a bitch cheats,” he said.
“Well I suppose the Dollar is cheaper than ‘loser buying breakfast’,” I suggested.
“I expect so,” Steve said with a smile. “I’ll get him next time, when he doesn’t cheat.”
It reminded me of Jeremy, Alice, and me going out to breakfast, I thought. What I said was, “Boys and their toys.”
Bart was waiting for us. “Well did you find your workers?” he asked.
“Yeah, the fence man was recommended by the guy at the diner. The contractor is coming over this morning. He is a nephew of Miss Sadie,” Sterlin said. He hadn’t told me about Miss Sadie.
“So you met Miss Sadie,” Bart said. “She is a handful. If you want to know anything just ask Sadie.”
“What did she have to say about her great niece Hannah?” I asked.
“Said she would come talk to you one day,” Sterlin suggested.
“Sounds ominous,” Bart said.
“Well she is either going to apologize, or bring a few family members to kick my ass,” I said. The rest of breakfast was spent comparing ass kicking experiences. I knew I had them all beat for having had my ass kicked, so I just listened. I didn’t want to share.
When the three of us arrived in the parking lot at about the same time we managed to get the tools out and to start working in the greenhouses. “Why don’t you start the inspection of the new plants” I suggested to Steve. We had transplanted them the day before. “If any of them needed help this was the opportunity to do that.”
“Sterlin you and I will mark the fence line, then we can start on the weeding,” I decided. “We left Steve with his hand digger and the rolling stool, while Sterlin and I started to walk the perimeter we wanted to create.
We started with the woods along the parking lot. Then ran the marks from the drive to a point about twenty five feet past the parking lot. We took a hard right turn and marked a line through the evergreen trees more or less the length of a football field.
We made another right and went about half the length of a foot ball field then turned right again and continued to square it off. So we had about seven hundred feet of eight foot fencing to install. Then go back and install another seven hundred feet of six foot tall fencing.
When we finished our spraying Sterlin and I joined Steve to help with weeding the other two houses. I figured even with the interruptions of the builders we could be finished with both houses by the end of day.
“Tomorrow you two need to do some maintenance of the misting device,” I said to the two of them. “Maybe together you can figure out how it works. It doesn’t seem to want to move.” It was busy work and they both knew it.
Before lunch the two heavy set young black men pulled up in a beat up truck. “Hey my dad was here yesterday he said to come over and measure for some fence,” one of the men said. He was obviously in charge.
“Yeah we were expecting you a couple of hours ago,” I suggested. Steve and Sterlin walked up behind me just to make sure there was a meeting of the minds.
“We had to finish repairing a day care’s play fence. Somebody drove a car through it,” the fence man said.
“Okay you know what kind of fence I want, so let’s take a walk,” I said. Sterlin come along and show them where you want the gates.”
So the four of us started to walk the fence line. “We want a drive gate on each fence along the driveway,” Sterlin said. “And a walk gate at the rear of the property in case we need to get out in a hurry.”
“I make it just under eight hundred feet around the perimeter,” the fence man said. “So two fences that is about sixteen hundred feet of fence.”
“We figured it a little less but that’s close enough,” I replied. Sterlin and I hadn’t made any kinds of measurements.
“Before we work up a price, if we had to cut some of them trees, you ain’t gonna get all pissy on me are you?” the fence man went on.
“I think we can take care of the trees for you before you start,” I agreed.
“We normally charge ten bucks a foot,” he said.
“Yeah for a hundred feet maybe of new fence. Your dad said he would use some materials you had removed from an industrial building,” Sterlin said.
“We will do it for ten k even,” the builder said. I had figured the range at eight to fifteen k, so I was good with it.
“Well we want to call Allied for a price first, but your price is close to doable,” I said.
“Well you do what you want, but nobody is gonna be cheaper. We got some good used fence,” he said.
“Well I don’t know that is the best anyone can do. So we will see,” I said. He might have tried to bully me, but Sterlin and Steve discouraged that idea, if he had that thought at all.
“How about nine thousand five hundred and we start tomorrow. Your two white boys can come along and keep the trees cut down for us,” the younger looking black man who hadn’t spoken before suggested.
“Nine thousand and we will go buy a chainsaw with the difference and cut those trees,” I suggested.
“Nine thousand, but when it is over you give us that chainsaw you are buying,” the young man said with a smile.
“That’s a deal half down before you start and the other half on completion,” I said.
“Fair enough, but we want cash, no plastic or checks,” he said.
“You have to sign a receipt,” I demanded.
“Done, we gonna be here bright and early,” the older and larger one said.
After they left I turned to Steve and Sterlin, “We need to go to the bank and then go buy a chainsaw,” I said.
“I know you are going to have to give it to them after, but we need a good chainsaw,” Sterlin said.
“Well from watching the timber cutting shows I think we need two saws. One to drop the thing and one much lighter saw to cut the limbs off,” I said.
“You mean to buck them,” Sterlin asked.
“Buck em, we give them the cheaper one at the end,” I suggested.
“You are truly an evil bitch,” Steve said with a laugh.
“Well thank you sir. You did mean that as a compliment?” I asked.
“Of course I did,” he said.
I drove my truck and Steve drove his truck to Williamston. On my way to the bank, we stopped at Home Depot and bought a five hundred dollar Echo chainsaw with a long blade. We also bought a Homelite chainsaw with a smaller blade for one hundred and change. I put them on the company credit card. In the parking lot we loaded them into Steve’s truck and sent them home. I gave them twenty bucks to buy a gas can and fuel for the saws.
I continued on to the bank. It took me twenty minutes to get the forty five hundred in cash. It was closing in on 5 PM when I got the cell phone call.
“Rose, Miss Sadie’s Nephew is here,” Steve said on the phone.
“Tell him I’m on the way. While you are waiting show him your plans for the house, and the location where you want it,” I said.
When I got back to the compound I found the man to be at least sixty. He was Sadie’s Nephew and she was eighty so his Father or Mother must have been an older sibling, I thought.
“You must be Iris?” he asked greeting me in the parking lot. “Your friends gave me this drawing and left me here.”
“Well let’s start over,” I said. “Now I say, yes I am Iris, then you tell me your name.”
“Oh I’m Doyle,” he said. “Sorry about that. It’s just that those two really don’t seem like they know what they want.”
“Well they have drawn you a floor plan. Now you and I can refine it,” I said with a smile.
“My Aunt Sadie says we owe you so take it easy. Best I can do is prevent you from wasting money on this drawing.”
“Okay lets have a cup of coffee and get down to it. When the sun goes down it’s going to be cold so come on in the house,” I suggested.
I had the coffee microwaved and ready to go inside of ten minutes. “Now Doyle what seems to be wrong with their drawing.”
“Frankly it looks like half a house,” he said. “And their measurements are the most wasteful thing I have ever seen.”
“Doyle here is the deal, I want to make them comfortable, so where is the compromise?” I asked.
“They want it to be a concrete block structure even though it clearly was designed with future additions in mind,” Doyle said.
“I don’t know about that, but the idea of additions does appeal to me,” I admitted. “But the concrete block is non negotiable.”
“Okay, so first thing I say is change the width from eighteen feet to sixteen feet. That will allow for maximizing the labor and materials,” Doyle said.
“That makes sense to me,” I agreed.
“Okay, so we just change this. Now the interior walls should be frames so we can move them when we add on to it. The rear wall should also be frame. We can skip the rear window and go with a patio door leading onto the deck,” he said.
“No deck, a concrete slab instead. The sliding doors is an okay idea but definitely a concrete slab,” I said.
“Okay that’s not a big issue,” he said.
“I want a shed roof sloping forward, if we ever do add on, we can attach another part of the building to that roof. I also want lots of insulation,” I explained.
“They have the building laid out like a railroad tunnel. It would be better if we did it different,” Doyle said.
“No they have the right Idea with a bath for each and then a center kitchen area,” I said. ” I don’t want any walled closets. I want open shelves with drawers and doors enclosing them. I also want a built in desk in the corner of the wall with the cabinets.”
“Okay I’ll call you with the price,” he said. He was not even guessing as to the price.
When he left for the night, I stood in the parking lot to watch him drive away to the sound of chainsaws. I sure as hell hoped one of them knew how trees fall at night.
The Fence crew came in the next day with some power equipment. They were digging post holes while my two men were cutting trees ahead of them. I took a look at the posts they were planting. Those posts were the skeletons to hold the skin of the fence. They were in pretty rough shape but didn’t look rusty. They just looked old. The concrete was still attached to the bottom of the posts. I had no idea whether they planned to remove it or not. I also didn’t give crap as long as it held the wire in place.
The rear of the fence would be going across a meadow of sorts so it didn’t require any tree removal. Since we had no means to remove the stumps the fence was nowhere near straight. It was a farm fence after all, I told myself. There was a gate post in the meadow behind green house number three.
Two days later the crew was ready to hang wire. We had the Homelite chainsaw clean and ready for delivery. Sterlin had even saved the backing so he could replace it into the original box. Steve just smiled at me and shook his head at the OCD Sterlin, he was thinking I’m sure.
I was working in the greenhouses alone while the guys helped with the fence. On the third day they returned to catch up on the work around the farm. The fabric was on the posts by then. I was sure everything was as it should be when I handed over the final payment and the chainsaw.
The older of what I learned were brothers said, “I just knew you were gonna fuck us.”
“I promised you the saw we bought to cut the trees, and that is a saw we bought to cut the trees. You will note that it is in the original box. Hell it even has gasoline in it, if you want to try it,” I said.
“No, I seen it run, but it ain’t no Echo or Stihl,” he said.
“Well that is true, so is our transaction finished?” I asked.
“Yeah we done,” he replied.
The truck was gone when Sterlin approached me. “I still need to trim some limbs that hang over the run,” he said.
“So you need a ladder?” I asked.
“Yes I do,” he answered. I also need to buy some things to furnish my new space when the contractor gets through. Can I store the stuff in your place or the tool shed maybe?” Sterlin asked.
“Sure, you and Steve can go shopping this afternoon. We really are caught up here,” I admitted.
“Good because we need to cleanup the area along the fence and dog run,” Sterlin replied.
“Well how about you work on that and I keep Steve working on the farm,” I suggested.
“Sure, I might need him now and then, but I can handle most of the cleanup,” Sterlin said.
“You will be careful working with that chainsaw?” I suggested.
“Yes mother, I will be careful,” he said with a laugh.
By the time the fence men had completed their work, Doyle had his men on site. They had graded and run the plumbing pipes to a spot on the front of the floor form. The form would hold the concrete for the floor in place while it cured.
Sterlin and Steve left me alone with the three man crew working on the concrete blocks walls. They worked together well, but spoke a language I had never heard before. They appeared to be European, but I wouldn’t have sworn to anything at that point.
The ‘Boys’ as I thought of them, came back and went right to work on their chores. The blocks got laid at a steady pace. Doyle and I had agreed on a price of 30k for the shell of the building complete with inside walls finished except for the painting.
That left me with the need to hire a plumber, electrician, roofer, and painter. There would be a lot to do after the shell was completed. Sterlin and Steve claimed to have time and lots of ideas for finishing and decorating.
I left the residence hall to their imagination and plans but I made it clear that the farm came first. They each assured me that they understood.
By the time we were ready for the next harvest the fence run was clear and the shell of the residence hall was complete. “One of us is going to have to baby sit the crop tonight,” Sterlin informed me.
“The electronic security system is still working so we don’t have to sit in the potting shed with it,” I countered.
“Okay, but one of us will have to be on site till we finished working on the harvest. We need to be there right up till we deliver it,” Steve agreed. “I am not going to bust my ass just to have some asshole rip us off.”
“Okay let’s just try to get some sleep. We can take turns watching the monitor on that fancy camera system. It they go out, we can sound the alarm. I assume you two have weapons. If not a have a couple of shotguns around.
Good to know, but I have my own supplies,” Sterlin said.
“I got a Glock,” Steve said.
“You might as well throw rocks, if it’s dark,” Sterlin said.
“Let’s hope we don’t need to do anything. Either way we need to get a good night’s sleep. We are gonna be pulling plants and grooming the stuff,” I suggested. I had a feeling they were looking forward to the new quarters being completed. Two men living in a travel trailer couldn’t be any fun.
Five AM came early, but I was up and ready to go eat breakfast. I pumped the trike to keep my speed up. Because the slight incline had no effect on the trike I was able to arrive at the Dairy Queen looking normal. The same could not be said for Sterlin or Steve. They both were out of breath when they finally arrived.
“We are going to whip your ass one day Rose,” Steve said.
“Good luck with that,” I replied.
“So how far along is the residence hall,” Bart asked.
“There is a plumber, and an electrician coming to price the job today. Well they promised to be here anyway. The roofer should be in and out in one day and today is the day,” I explained.
“All that shit is happening on the day you pull plants?” Bart asked.
“Yeah, but these two can do the plants while I talk to the contractors,” I explained.
“Well if you need me to keep these two in line call me,” Bart said.
“Who you kidding buddy? You are retired,” Sterlin said.
“Yeah retired while you was still alive,” Steve agreed.
“You want to see how retired I am? Just fuck around out at the farm,” Bart said only half kidding.
“Fellows put them back in your pants. I don’t care who can piss the furtherest,” I said.
Twenty minutes after we got back to the house the roofer showed up. Three young men came to nail on the roofing material. They were brothers and also cousins at least once removed of Miss Sadie. “You guys can blow the horn on your truck when you are finished. I’ll come write you a check.”
“What color is the roof going to be,” Steve asked.
“Calico,” I suggested. The brothers had agreed to do the job, labor and materials for two thousand but if I would let them have the left over material they would do it for 1500. I knew it was an old gypsy roofer trick to close the sale, but it fell within the average price in the area so I agreed. The brothers staggered the colors between rust, dark brown and white. They used a few bundles of each so that the roof didn’t look so much what it really was. I didn’t mind that it looked like a roof that had been patched a dozen times. The purpose was to keep the rain out not grace the pages of house beautiful.
The electrician quoted me labor and material at $950. The trick was I had him run the lines in the new square metal conduit at thirty six inches above the floor. It wasn’t going to be beautiful but it would be functional. I wasn’t having any overhead lights installed. Not even in the kitchen and bath. We came to an understanding and he went to work on the place immediately. He went to the home improvement store in Williamston, then he went to work on the wiring.
The plumber had no deal at all for me. He did install two shower cabinets, two toilets, two small sinks and that was before he even started on the kitchen. When he got to the kitchen he installed the proverbial kitchen sink, as well as a hot water heater and connector for an ice maker on the refrigerator. Even though I didn’t have a refrigerator at the time he was working.
It took me three days to get the plants pulled, groomed, and packed for delivery to the USDA warehouse. During those same days the electrician and plumber worked on the house. They both finished before we left for the sale.
“Well,” I said over breakfast with Steve and Bart. “The house just needs paint and furniture to be ready to move in.” When we get the weed delivered you and Sterlin can turn your hand to paint.”
“Well we can move in before the paint is finished. We are going to finish one room at a time. I’m going to stay in the trailer while we do the bedrooms, then we will do the rest. We can both live there and work on the kitchen and the outside. Summer is almost here,” Steve said.
“We can get one more harvest in before hot weather gets here,” I said.
“Well we are not going to be in any hurry to finish the paint,” Steve said.
“Okay, well let’s get home and pack the big truck to make the delivery,” I suggested.
By noon the weed belonged to the US government. I was happy to have converted it to electronic cash. I paid both guys a bonus for the work they had done. It probably wasn’t as much as the pay for an assassination but it was less stressful.
When we drove into the compound I said, “Well it has been a couple of hectic weeks. I’m glad things are finally back to normal.” As I usually did, I spoke too soon.
Bart called at midnight. “There is going to be a black helicopter landing in the meadow behind your greenhouses in a couple of hours. Tell Steve and Sterlin to look for it and not to hassle the pilot.”
“Exactly why is this happening?” I asked. I didn’t like following orders even if Bart tried to make it sound like something else.
“Rita will be headed for the Swamp Dogs coastal compound. That’s all there is to tell right now. We will talk over breakfast,” Bart said.
I had no idea what was going on but I was damn sure it wasn‘t anything good.
“You are going to need Steve and Sterlin to make sure you get to the chopper. Remember we have the meadow you are talking about fenced out now. There is a gate but you have to walk a tenth of a mile or so. Have them standby then,” Bart said and hung up before I could ask anything.