It's not about the house.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Blowing a Fuse

The activity after that came in scattered flurries. One day we’d have a plumber, a gas fitter, an inspector, an electrician and two Outies grubbing around in there – then, for days on end, nothing.

The electrician’s name was Jack. Poor old Jack. He had thyroid cancer. He was actively dying at the time, and we didn’t even know. Nobody did. He didn’t tell anyone. Didn’t want people feeling sorry for him and making a big deal about it.

Johnny had met Jack up at his local here. Let’s call it – oh hell, let’s call it by what it’s really called, which is The Sandtrap. (All the bars around here have nautical names. We live within shouting distance of the old naval shipyard where Kilroy was first Here.) We didn’t know Jack was dying, but we did know he was old. Pushing eighty, I would have guessed. He didn’t actually do any of the work – he’d been retired for a while, and was, you know, dying and everything. But his license was current, so he pulled the permit and sat on a kitchen chair drinking O’Doul’s and supervising, teaching all the Outies how its done.

I would have liked to learn, too, but there wasn’t room enough in that small kitchen. Besides, we’d been at this long enough by then for me to know when it was a good idea to get out of the way. And be thankful for the chromosome that gives me the excuse. I’d put the cabinets together, and in the end that was really all I’d do. Except cook the banana bread when it was over, which was all Jack would take in payment for his expertise.

Oh, and get yelled at by the electrical inspector.

It was time to call him in for the preliminary – wires run and live, blueboard not hung up yet – and so I did. He was a bit terse on the phone with me, but I still feel like I’m playing grown-up with all this stuff, so I’m never shocked at people acting like I’m doing something wrong. It’s the same way I used to feel when the private school I went to was on vacation at a different time than the public schools in the town where I grew up. Like everybody’s watching me ride my bike around, and someday one of them’s going to call the Truant Officer.

Do they even have Truant Officers anymore? Did they even then? Did they, really, ever?

Anyway, so the inspector on the phone was mad at me because, I figured, who did I think I was trying to play Homeowner and everything? I ignored his attitude and answered his questions, until we got to this one:

“Contractor’s last name?”

“Oh, jeez, I’m sorry. I don’t even know. How awful. Jack? What’s your last name?”

But before Jack could tell me, the inspector spluttered through the phone:

“He’s there?”

“Well, yes.”

“Put him on the phone with me. Right now.” I did. And he tried to tear poor Jack a new one.

“Don’t you ever have the homeowner call to schedule inspections!” Blah blah blah and on like that. Jack took it in stride. He was dying, what the hell did he care if the inspector wanted to shake his balls around?

I was afraid he’d flunk us to be nasty, but we passed. Work stopped there for a week or so while we prepared for, held, and cleaned up from our annual St. Patrick’s Day Extravaganza. That year, we set up sawhorses and plywood where the counter was supposed to go, and cooked sixteen pounds of corned beef in five different crockpots.

The fuses held up nicely.

Wish I could say the same for Jack.


su said...

Here's to you Jack, I'll drink to that!

EGE said...

Let's all drink to Jack. But if we're drinking to Jack, it's got to be O'Doul's.