Readers; Here is another draft chapter of my novel in progress. The story is about a woman whose husband dies in mid life. She, childless, inherits some money – not a fortune, but enough to make herself comfortable for the rest of her life. But she decides to spent it all to buy and restore and old and once grand house in the little town she lives in. This segment of the story is her conversation with the contractor she hires to start the job. Ed.
He had made the decision to become his own boss early in life.
He was a fine carpenter, but his special gift was the ability to see how to turn a profit on a job. This gift included, of course, the ability to see how others, including his first boss, could turn a paying job into a loss. Certain that he could do it better, he started out at 19 with only a pickup, a box of his grandfather’s tools, a power saw and a half-inch drill.
While his peers sat in classrooms, he poured the years of his best strength and energy into perfecting every aspect of his business, from estimating to collecting, and every hammer stroke and nail and brick and mortar in between. His labor was hard, but never lifeless. Better work always meant better paydays now and better jobs tomorrow. Now, at 40 years of age, his body was still hard as wood and supple as a reed. With the reputation of a man who could do very well those things that others always needed done he now had his pick of jobs and a bank account fat enough to allow him to take on only that work he wanted. He stood in the open doorway of the house as Sally Thompson parked and walked across the front walkway.
Well, Steve. What do you think?
I think you got your hands full.
I know that. Can you give me some kind of estimate?
I can, but you know it’s likely we’re going to find more problems as we go. Based on what I can see right now it’s going to take me and a helper a month just to clean everything out. We’re gonna have to strip it down to the studs everywhere and it’s the old plaster and lath and that is a real mess; rewire everything; re-plumb it all. I can’t do that for anything less than fifty-thousand. That includes hauling everything away. But you know that’s only the start. The new kitchen will be another fifty, easy. You’re gonna need new windows, too. All around. There are forty-three windows in this place and ten of them are floor to ceiling or almost. That’s thirty more, at least. So that’s a hundred and thirty thousand before we even start finishing out the walls and redoing the floors and all. You must have known this was coming.
I did. I didn’t know the details, but I knew it was a big job.
The good news is that this house was built like a fortress. The brickwork is the best I’ve ever seen and it is nearly perfect. It’ll last another hundred years. The studs in the walls are all oak. The guys who put them up must have hated old man Miller. Nobody uses oak studs. Oak is twice as expensive as regular lumber and it is so hard that you can’t hardly pound a nail into it. That wouldn’t have meant anything to Miller. He had all the lumber in the world and plenty of money to pay his crew. These walls are twice as strong as those in any other house. The floors are beat up, but they’ll finish beautifully. Most of the house is cherry flooring that nobody can afford anymore and one of the rooms on the third floor has some kind of tan wood that I don’t recognize. I think it might be some kind of imported, tropical wood.
When can you get started?
You ready to go?
Yes. I knew this was coming and I want you to do it.
You know that when we take up the flooring in the kitchens and bathrooms we might find structural damage. Your cost is gonna go way up then. Nothing I can do about that. You can’t let that kind of thing go.
I know. When can you get started?
I’m finishing up a job in Teays Valley at the end of the week. I can start next Monday. I’m looking forward to it, really. I’ve never seen a house put together like this one. It will take a while to get there, but we’ll end up with something really special. Like nothing else in this town, that’s for sure.