Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
July 20, 1977
Benny graduated and, as a result of his parent’s demand, he walked the stage and received a roll of paper that was supposed to represent the diploma. Tim told him that he had walked the first time through, but he didn’t remember it. It was highly unlikely he would remember this time, either. He had spent the walk mostly staring off into space thinking about things. After the ceremony, he went to the office and picked up the actual diploma. With the high school diploma, and his acceptance to Central State University, Benny’s future in terms of education was going as planned.
The winter house had been finished and was on the market for $38,000. Tim and Benny were afraid that it would take a while to sell, although even they could see that the real estate market was rising. A profit of $18,000 was unrealistic. However, Cynthia said there were nibbles, and just to be patient.
In the mean time, the crew went to work on the one dollar house. They striped the entire exterior down to the studs. It filled up the small dumpster that was the largest that could fit in the driveway. Once the exterior was down they found a few studs that required reinforcement. They weren’t exactly surprised, but that little wrinkle took a day to correct. The fact was, they had anticipated more of the studs would need reinforcement considering that there had been real holes in the exterior.
They put up a layer of outdoor plywood and then a plastic vapor barrier over that. They went with a three quarter inch foam insulation, rather than the one or two inch version. They felt it was enough insulation for the area. They went with plywood siding panel sheets for the exterior. The wood panels were eight feet long and four feet wide with shiplapped edging. The panels had a nice four inch groove pattern that looked sharp. The exterior would need priming and painting, but the siding gave the house a nice external appearance for very little money. All of the windows were replaced, which was a job that Tim and Benny really disliked doing.
Benny, unafraid of heights, painted the second story on the tall ladder they had. The rest of them painted the lower level. It took two days to paint the entire exterior with the primer and then another two days to paint the exterior white, but it did look sharp. There was a third day spent painting the trim of the house. He ended up with a nice plain white house with blue trim that stood out in the neighborhood only because it was the only painted house on the street.
Then they tackled the inside. They ripped the carpets out. The subfloor boards were so bad that Cathy actually fell through. She twisted her ankle and scraped up her skin, but was fortunate not to have broken her leg. It did sideline her for almost a week. They were a lot more careful about the floor after that. Working in sections, they removed the old subfloor and replaced it with new plywood. This took almost two weeks for them to accomplish. There were two stories, so they were very careful, especially upstairs!
Then they tackled the walls. They were old hands at removing wall board after their experience with the other houses. They did the upstairs and the down stairs. None of the interior wall studs needed reinforcement.
They hired a newly retired electrician, Kurt Sullivan, to supervise their work. He was a crusty grouchy old man, but he was good at his work. Nothing escaped his notice. The only reason he retired was because his arthritis was so bad that he couldn’t use the tools of his trade any more. That probably contributed to his grouchiness.
Under his watchful eye, they rewired the house and added more outlets to bring the service up to modern code as well as provide the kind of electrical service that they knew the future would demand. A new 150 amp service panel was installed. The existing wires were pulled and new wires were put in.
There was an initial inspection of the wiring before the drywall went up. The house passed without a problem. Kurt was very experienced and he had watched over the work diligently. Since Tim and Benny had experience with wiring under the watchful eye of Mr. Miller, there weren’t any issues with the quality of their work.
With the wiring having passed inspection, they could now put up the drywall. The foursome had putting up new drywall down to an art. Tim measured and cut it, Cathy and Benny held it in place, Sandra fastened it, then Benny taped it. They were making very good progress in finishing the interior.
Once the drywall was up and taped, they installed the electrical outlets and switches. All the outlets were grounded. They upgraded the outlets to GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) in the bathroom, kitchen, and the washer and dryer closet even though the code in 1977 only required it in the bathroom. They had also included GFCI on exterior outlets.
The fact was that Tim was working against the more restrictive code from 2017 rather than the 1977 code. By 2024, many areas of the country had adopted a requirement that all interior and exterior outlets within reach have a GFCI. In some areas even houses that were built before the newer codes were passed were required to be updated before sale. Tim and Benny didn’t go that far.
This was the source of their first problem with restoring the house. The building inspector, a Mr. Martin, looked at all of the GFCI outlets and decided that, at his discretion, the building might or might not be up to code. There was a hint hint nudge nudge component to his declaration. Kurt Sullivan, who had been impressed by their extensive caution and care about safety, was furious. Tim had to step in between the two men before it got to fisticuffs. It cost a hundred dollars to get the electrical system to pass inspection.
Sandra mentioned the episode to her uncle, who was a building inspector in her town. He was friends with Mr. Fischer and mentioned the episode to him. Mr. Fischer, irritated that someone who was helping to rebuild a part of town that had fallen into disrepair was being shaken down for money, let it be known that he was not too thrilled with inspectors who extorted money from people. The result was that every inspector who showed up after that enforced building codes to the strictest interpretation possible. After that, things had to done and redone several times before the building inspector would pass it. The most expensive of those issues had been the stairs connecting the two stories.
Getting frustrated by it all, Tim asked Benny to think about what they should do to solve the problem. Benny’s solution was to have them purposefully introduce some element out of code for the inspector to fail and then they could fix it. Since they could then control what failed, they could make sure that all of the items that required rework could be done cheaply. Inspectors could walk off feeling like they had put the kids in their place and they could get on with repairing the building without have to rework too many things. There were still a few bills that had to be exchanged.
With the drywall up and the outlets in, it was time to paint. Tim and Benny got into the van and headed to the hardware store. This wasn’t to get the paint, but to get the brushes and other painting materials. They were going to head to the paint store after the hardware store.
After reaching the store, they got out of the van. Benny and Tim headed to the store with Tim in the lead. Tim entered the front door of the store. He hadn’t taken a single step past the entrance when he was struck in his left arm. A man had been carrying an eight foot long 2x4 out of the store and had turned to say something to the sales clerk. In the process, he had swung the 2x4 in a grand sweep that had connected with Tim’s left arm. The effect was like getting hit in the arm with a baseball bat. The snapping sound of his humurus breaking could be heard from ten feet away.
Tim stood there staring incredulously at the man holding the board. The man was staring stupidly back at Tim. Two people who had been standing in the checkout line, the clerk, and the store manager had witnessed it. For a moment, everyone was frozen in place while staring at Tim. It took a second for the pain to hit Tim’s brain. When it did, Tim cried out.
The man with board recognized Tim. He staggered back and swore, “Shit!”
Getting extremely upset, Benny, who had been standing beside his friend, interposed himself between Tim and the man who had hit him. He took up a protective stance and was ready to go after the man who had hurt Tim.
Recognizing the man, Tim said, “Mr. Martin! You broke my arm.”
That Tim’s arm was broken was pretty obvious. Mr. Martin felt a sinking sensation in his stomach. He had just hit a man he had shaken down for a hundred dollars. He had prejudiced the majority of building inspectors against them. Now, he had effectively assaulted the guy in front of witnesses. He dropped the board which bounced off Benny’s foot.
Benny was ready to kill Mr. Martin. Tim, knowing Benny better than Benny knew himself, was well aware that the excrement was about to hit the rotary device. In a very calm and collected voice, he said, “Benny, my arm is broken. I need to go to the hospital.”
Tim’s words had the desired effect. Benny turned and said, “Let’s get in the truck. I’ll drive you there.”
The manager was able to get to Mr. Martin before Tim and Benny left the hardware store to get to the hospital. He was taking down Mr. Martin’s information by the time the two left the parking lot. There were plenty of witnesses to the event and the manager duly noted everyone’s contact information. Mr. Martin knew he was wide open to a lawsuit. He could even go to jail for assault and battery.
One of the side effects of Benny’s unusual nature was that he was actually extremely good in an emergency. He didn’t panic or get flustered. He remained calm, and drove to the hospital without any excitement. He didn’t speed, run any red lights, or do anything that would endanger either of them.
“When we get to the hospital, I will call your mother and let her know what happened. You are still covered under their insurance so I wouldn’t worry about that. I don’t remember how things are today. In our time, we’d be looking at a hospital bill in the thousands of dollars.”
“I don’t remember either. No one ever told me how much it cost to patch me together after I was t-boned in the first pass. I was a real mess then.”
When they reached the hospital, Benny lead the way to the main desk at the emergency room. He went up to the desk and demanded that they immediately see Tim who was suffering from a broken arm. His request had no real effect.
The woman at the desk looked at Tim and asked, “Do you have a doctor?”
“If you’re in such a hurry, why didn’t you go to your doctor’s office?”
“What?” Tim asked.
“Why didn’t you go to your doctor?”
“I need my arm set.”
“Your doctor can do that.”
“Really?” Tim asked shocked by that comment.
This was one of the changes in health care that Tim and Benny had completely missed. In 2017, a family doctor routed a patient to the appropriate specialist. In 1977, a family doctor was a general practitioner. The doctor did basically everything from diagnosing a cold to setting broken bones. Even minor surgeries were often performed in the doctor’s office. A trip to the hospital was only necessary for extremely bad conditions.
“Yes. We had a serious multi-car accident. Everyone here is busy. It’ll be thirty minutes to an hour before anyone can see you. It will probably be longer than that.”
Benny asked, “Do you want to go to your doctor?”
Tim looked at the woman at the desk and asked, “Are you sure it will be that long of a wait?”
“Yes. We’ve got people on stretchers.”
Tim said, “Let’s go to my doctor.”
Fifteen minutes later, Tim walked into his doctor’s office. Five minutes later, his doctor was looking at the break using a fluoroscope. Tim was staring at the device unable to believe his eyes. He had no idea how much radiation he was experiencing, but it seemed like a lot.
“The break isn’t that bad. I’ll have it fixed in jiffy.”
While watching the image of the break on fluoroscope, the doctor manipulated the arm and set the bone. The procedure hurt, but nowhere as bad as what Tim had thought it would be like. He had images of patients biting sticks while the bone was being set. As soon as he was done, the doctor turned off the fluoroscope.
“That was easy. Now we’ll just slap a cast on that and you’ll be ready to go.”
While the doctor had been manipulating the bone, a nurse had been mixing up the plaster for the cast. Before Tim knew it, his arm was in cast. He had to sit there to wait for the plaster to dry.
“You just wait here. I’ll be back in ten minutes or so,” the doctor said.
Tim watched the man leave the room. He thought back to his first pass through and the accident he had. He wondered how much radiation he had been exposed to when they were patching him up back there. Knowing what he knew from the future, what he had just experienced was incredible. In the future, his bone would have been set by an orthopedic surgeon. He wouldn’t have been under a fluoroscope, at least not one like the one in this office. He figured it had to have been built in 1950s.
Then he remembered the fluoroscope shoe fitting machines where kids could see their toe bones inside the shoes at the shoe store. There had been some in shoe stores until the late 1960s. By the 1970s they had been banned, but the damage had already been done. A lot of kids and salesman had gotten cancer.
The doctor returned in twenty minutes rather than ten. He checked the cast, felt it was dry enough. He put a sling around Tim’s neck and the cast.
“There you go. Not quite as good as new, but you’ll live.”
“Thanks,” Tim said.
“What’s the matter?”
“How much radiation did I get?”
“Not much. I didn’t need it to be on long at all.”
Tim had a feeling that the doctor’s ‘not much’ was not the same as his ‘not much.’ He wondered how much was a lot to the man. For all he knew, his arm was glowing inside the cast.
“How long am I going to be in the cast?”
“At your age, it should be healed enough to remove the cast in six to eight weeks. You don’t want to do any heavy lifting or stressing immediately after that, but you should be completely fine in six months.”
Tim did a quick calculation. The summer would be over around the time he would be able to use his arm for construction. There were some things he could do pretty easily. Painting walls or trim didn’t require much strength or two arms. He could clean up. He could hold ladders steady. With his left arm broken, he couldn’t drive his truck which was a standard. This meant that he couldn’t be sent on errands. He could still deal with people and in many ways this set him up to deal with a lot of people.