Emend by Eclipse
Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
July 22 1977
After one day of taking Darvon, Tim swore he’d never take another one. It wasn’t because it made him nauseous or ill. It was just that the light headed detached feeling it produced reminded him of each time they increased his pain killers while he was dying of cancer. For a day or two, he’d feel the drugs, but then the pain would return, and remind him again that he was dying. That was a memory that he’d rather not recall.
At the moment, he was carefully painting the trim around the door to one of the bedrooms. There was a lot of trim in the old house, but it wasn’t all that bad. He liked painting trim, although Benny was actually much better at it. Cathy and Sandra were busy with the roller brushes painting the walls. Benny was painting the ceiling.
“Hello, the house!”
Tim put down his little brush and went out to the living room. The flooring guy was standing at the door looking around the room. Since all of the doors and windows were open to let the paint fumes dissipate, the guy had just walked in.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“Fine. It looks like you’re about ready for me.”
“We’re painting the walls.”
“When are you going to put in the baseboards?”
“We were going to wait until after you did the carpet and the linoleum.”
They hadn’t put the baseboards in yet, since they were waiting to do that until after the carpet guy was done with his bit. They had found a real nice way to cheat on installing the baseboards. They painted them first and then installed them. A little wood filler over the nail heads along with a touch of paint and they were done without much chance of dripping paint on the newly installed floor.
“Put the baseboards up in the rooms where I’m installing the carpet. Leave them off in the rooms where I’m installing linoleum.”
“I’ve found that putting the carpet tack strips down before the baseboard can make putting the baseboard on difficult. It’s just easier for me to place the tack strips when I can use the baseboard as a guide.”
“The other guy we used wanted it the other way around.”
“It’s a matter of preference when you’re doing carpet. Linoleum is a different matter. You can’t have the baseboard there. The first thing I usually have to do when I put in linoleum is remove the baseboard and it’s never as good as the first install after you put it back. It’s usually better to replace the baseboard.”
“We knew that about the linoleum.”
“So which rooms are you putting carpet and which linoleum?”
“The kitchen, the bathroom, and the washer and dryer closet will have linoleum. We have a nice plain beige pattern for all three places. It’s simple, will hide the dirt, and won’t ever go out of style.”
“I’ve put in a lot of hideous floors. Nice and plain is good.”
“We think so, too. It might be dull, but that is easy to live with.”
“How about the carpet?”
“The same. We went with simple beige cut pile carpet.”
“Can I see it?”
“I have a sample. We haven’t brought it here yet because we’re still painting and don’t want to spill paint on it.”
“Good plan. Let me see the sample.”
Tim showed the carpet guy the sample. The man ran a finger through the pile. He checked out the back of the carpet. “This is a good plush carpet.”
“Well, we tried to stay ‘middle of the road’ with it.”
“You did a good job. I’ll be by tomorrow to install it.”
“Good. What about the linoleum?”
“I’ll do that Saturday. You should store it in the room where it’s going to be installed. That will let it get to the same temperature as the floor. Once I put that down, you shouldn’t walk on it for a full day at a minimum.”
“So I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“You’ll be able to get the carpeting all done in one day?”
“Yes. The way the rooms are laid out I won’t have to deal with too many seams. Most of the work will be at the doorways. That always makes the job go faster.”
“That’s great. We agreed on two hundred for the install. Is that still good?”
Tim extended a hand and they shook on it. The guy went through the house for one final walk through as if to commit to memory the work to be performed. In fact, he was the kind of person who liked to plan out his work in a methodical way, and the chance to visit a job site before he was there to install the flooring was a treat for him. Benny followed him downstairs to where Tim was waiting for the guy. After a short goodbye, the guy left.
“What did he say?”
“He’ll install the carpet tomorrow and the linoleum Saturday.”
“Great. After that, all we have left to do is to put in the appliances, ceiling lights, and outlet covers.”
Classes were starting at the college right after labor day. Benny was anxious to move into the place but that meant more than just sitting in an empty house. He had to furnish it, which meant getting furniture, stocking the kitchen with cooking utensils, getting linens, and other items of that nature. His shopping list was getting longer every day.
In his first pass through life, Benny had not had good relations with his parents by the time he left for college. His father had hated his long hair, and that had warped every aspect of his relations with his family. There had been years of tension between the him and his father. His mother tried to moderate things, but wasn’t very effective at it. His sister was jealous of the fact that he was the center of attention, although it would be more accurate to say that he was the center of tension.
The result of all of this was that Benny left home right after high school graduation without any support from his parents. Tim and his family had taken him in for a couple of months. He had worked at a short-term well paying job for two months that allowed him to save a little money, but it wasn’t really enough to do more than pay tuition and get a place to live. When classes started at the college, he moved into a crummy cheap apartment that had cockroaches the size of chihuahuas.
To say that he had nothing was not much of an exaggeration. He had a frying pan, a single quart pot, two place settings, and a folding webbed beach lounger that served as bed at night and chair during the day. He had his clothes and that was about it. He had been in it a week when Tim had showed up with a table that he had found set out on a curb. They cut the legs off so that he could use the table while sitting on the floor since he didn’t have any chairs for it.
His pantry had been nearly as bare as the rest of his meager possessions: a couple cans of soup, a ten pound bag of potatoes, a loaf of bread, a bottle of mayonnaise, and a package of lunch meat. When Tim’s mother found out, she sent Tim over with a care package of food. He ate the perishables and hoarded the things that would last for when he was really hungry.
That was his starting point in life as a person living a life independent of his parents. He worked all kinds of odd jobs and went to school. He was always short of money. One month he cleaned and painted one of the empty apartments in lieu of rent. He slowly filled the apartment with furnishings that had been cast off by others. The day he purchased a 3” thick foam mattress was exciting since it meant he could sleep on it rather than the folding beach chair whose webbing had started to sag and break.
Later in life when he had finally gotten a good paying job and had a house and wife, he would hear talk about how people like him had it easy. He didn’t think he’d had it so easy. That’s not to say he couldn’t have had it better. Despite being a smart person, not everything he did helped his situation.
He kept his VW, partly out of need and partly out of sheer stubbornness. It meant having to scrape up money for insurance and gas, but it also allowed him to travel to jobs. Financially, owning it was a wash. It cost him nearly as much to own as it allowed him to earn.
He was a smoker and seemed to always find enough money to pay for cigarettes or someone, usually Tim, who would give him the occasional pack of cigarettes. One could criticize him for spending money on cigarettes rather than essentials, but he was hooked and, in his misery, smoking felt like an act of defiance against what fate had handed him. It was his one vice and he held onto it with all of the desperation of a drowning man. At the time, smoking wasn’t viewed as the great social evil that it became later in his life. He had known that it would ultimately kill him, but that didn’t deter him.
This pass through life, he owned a house and had enough money to live comfortably while going to school. He didn’t have to search for short term jobs, he owned a business and had a regular income from the office cleaning work. He intended to live comfortably with real furniture, a fully stocked pantry, and a vehicle that didn’t require repairs every other month. The delays in getting the house finished and to pass the inspections had begun wearing on his nerves. He wanted to get down to the business of living well.
At this time, the house had been fixed up enough to qualify for a certificate of occupancy. The certificate of occupancy didn’t require carpet or linoleum on the floor. It required a floor that would support a person. It didn’t require that the interior be painted, only that it had walls. The basic requirement was that it would be safe to live in and the house fully met that criteria.
The $10,000 that he had set aside to repair the house was nearly gone. The last little bit of work would wipe it out. The delays and harassment in getting past inspections had driven up the cost of repairing the house. He figured the bribes and rework had added an additional ten percent onto the real costs. Now he was at a point where he’d have to dig into his pockets to pay for all of the appliances: a washer, dryer, refrigerator, and the stove. Still, he could afford it.
He had a stack of cash at home that he had saved just for the purpose of furnishing his house. He wanted reasonably good quality furniture that would last until he was ready to move on. He wasn’t purchasing Ethan Allen furniture, but he wasn’t going the Ikea route with ‘assemble it yourself’ furniture. Their discussions of Ikea confused Cathy and Sandra since the chain didn’t enter the US market until 1985.
Tim understood Benny’s desire to get on with this phase of his life. He had been through the first pass with Benny. Like Benny, he had lived the desperate times. His father was of the old school that once a boy left the house, he was to support himself. He had totally alienated his family when he married Joyce. It only took one episode where she had stolen money from his mother’s purse, for invitations for them to visit, to come to an end. That ended the Sunday fried chicken dinners which was the one meal a week that was truly filling.
Cathy, being in the process of purchasing Gladys’ house, understood his desire as well. The more time she had spent living in the house and thinking of it as hers, the more she wanted to make ownership of it a reality. She was also buying most of the furnishings with the house so she was getting a fully furnished place. That wasn’t as great of a deal as it might have sounded since most of the furniture was thirty years old and pretty worn. Still, she was going to have her own place and it would be furnished.
Sandra, on the other hand, didn’t understand why getting his own place was that big of a deal. She felt he had it pretty good at his parents’ house and didn’t need to move out. He could commute to college from where he was living now. She did have to admit that the investment side of getting the cheap house had been a good motivation. She recognized that his need was deeper than that, but didn’t understand it.
For very personal reasons, she did appreciate Cathy living alone. With Cathy having her own place, she could visit anytime she wanted without fear that their love for each other would be exposed. She also understood Cathy’s need to get away from her mother. That had not been a good situation and moving out had been a relief. According to Tim, it had been a lifesaver. Despite her worries about money, it hadn’t been that much of a financial stretch for her to chip in on Cathy’s house. She didn’t have that feeling of ownership like Cathy and probably wouldn’t until she moved in to the place.
Benny’s parents not only didn’t understand his need to move out, but were a little hurt by it. They felt like he was rejecting their help. Since he had been cutting his hair extremely short, the relationship with his father hadn’t soured in the same way it had during his first pass through life. His desire to move out, and his whole money oriented lifestyle, had seemed to them like all he wanted to do was escape from their influence.
Intellectually, they understood that he was going to make a lot of money on the house he had just purchased when he resold it. They hadn’t seen the place yet, but it sounded like too good of a deal to be true. One dollar down, one hundred and eighty dollars in back taxes, and ten thousand dollars to repair it was almost nothing for a two story three bedroom house within a bicycle ride to the college. If all of the work had been contracted out, then it would have cost closer to $15,000. As it was, the roof was the only thing they had hired out. The carpet guy was moonlighting to earn a quick $200 dollars. Paying the retired licensed electrician to supervise them and sign off on their work had cost $400.
Now that the carpeting guy had left, Benny and Tim went back to painting. Tim was still painting trim on the second floor. Benny was getting ready to paint the stairwell starting at the top and working his way down. The stained oak stairs were one of the nicest features of the entire interior. To protect the finished stairs from paint, they were covered with brown craft paper that was held in place with masking tape. They didn’t trust low friction plastic covering on the stairs feeling that the chances of slipping and falling were too great.
Benny had just started painting the corner where the ceiling and the wall met when there was a call from the front door. He recognized the voice as belonging to Tim’s father. He put down his painting supplies and went down the stairs to see what the man wanted. Tim’s mother was there as well.
“Hello, Benny. We thought we’d come by and see your house.”
“In the middle of a work day?” Benny asked somewhat puzzled.
“Since you don’t work on it during the weekends, we have to visit on a work day. I was able to break loose for a couple of hours and my wife wanted to see what Tim was doing.”
Tim’s father had a good point. Since this was summer, they spent Saturdays painting numbers on curbs. Sundays were spent at the office filling out business related paperwork, taking care of the property, and generally doing all of the things that had been missed over the week. Sundays were a good day for doing that since the hardware stores they frequented were closed on Sundays. Although some of the blue laws in Oklahoma concerning retail sales had been struck down in 1972, many local companies still observed them, particularly smaller operations where Sunday had typically been the only day of the week where small business owners closed up shop.
“He’s painting trim,” Benny said.
Tim’s mother said, “Would you give us a tour?”
“Hold on,” Benny said. He went to the stair and called up, “Tim, your mother and father are here. They want a tour of the house.”
“I’ll be right down, Benny.”
“He’ll be right down,” Benny relayed to Tim’s parents.
Having established that Tim would take care of the matter, Benny walked away, to return to painting the stairwell. Tim’s parents watched him incredulously. They didn’t believe that he wouldn’t want to take them on a tour. It was his house. He should be proud of it, and want to show it off. He did move to the side so that Tim could pass.