Here are two more installments of this growing story. Read the others by clicking here…
Months passed. Joe had promised Minerva things would get better and they did. To begin with they got an exterminator to get rid of the mice and ants. Then they plugged up the mouse holes and inspected the underside of the trailer for any more signs of mice or insect activity. And Henry showed them how to winterize their trailer. He removed the skirting and wrapped heat tape around the pipes to prevent freezing. He pointed out where the underground oil tank was and made sure they had the correct account numbers for oil and propane deliveries and made an appointment to have their furnace cleaned and inspected.
Meanwhile Minerva washed windows, installed the interior storm panels and helped Joe paint and wallpaper. She scheduled a local flooring company to install new linoleum in the kitchen and wall- to- wall carpeting throughout the rest of the place. Joe even offered to go shopping with her for new curtains. By the time they picked up the rest of their furniture from storage, they were both pleased with their new home.
But their favorite place was the porch. It was big and completely screened in. They removed the tacky green indoor-outdoor carpeting for a more pleasing bluish gray and installed it themselves. Next, the porch was filled with bookcases, a recliner, some floor lamps and a futon, which they slept on during the weekends. The best part was the metal roof in the rain. Minerva would light candles and the two of them would sit out there for hours talking, reading, listening.
Sitting on the porch one Sunday afternoon reading, Joe put his book down. “That’s odd,” he thought to himself. There had been something in the back of his mind for a while and he finally hit on it. “For a place like this with all these trees, there doesn’t seem to be many birds around. Plenty of squirrels, but not many birds.”
Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent with Minerva’s family and even though they were looked down upon by some of them for where they now lived, Minerva couldn’t have cared less. For her sake, Joe tried to ignore it. The mutual hard work they put into the trailer brought them closer and gave them a sense of accomplishment.
With the holidays over, they settled into their normal daily routines once again. Henry, from across the street, truly had been a sweet old man. As soon as Joe extricated a promise from him to stay away from Minerva, Joe released him from the head-lock. When Henry got his color back both men sat down and had a long talk. Eventually they all became close friends with Henry taking on the role of an older uncle, almost.
So it was not that unusual one Thursday night in January, to find the three of them having spaghetti together at the kitchen table. There was a break in the conversation and Henry was watching the snow come down. Joe got up to make coffee. “Hmm. That’s funny,” Joe said. “What’s that Joe?”, Minerva asked over her shoulder. “The cabinet door. It’s stuck. It won’t open.”
Henry turned to Joe, glanced at the cabinet door then up to the ceiling where his eyes scanned quickly. “Shit”, Henry said under his breath. “Get out! Quick! Get out of the house! Listen to me, this is no joke! Go! Do what I say! Minerva grab the keys and wait in the car!” By this time Henry was up and ushering them out. The urgency in his voice startled them both. “Joe get a shovel and follow me.” Running through the porch the guys each grabbed a shovel and headed around back while Minerva ran to the car. Henry was looking around the yard and when he found what he was looking for he dragged it to the backside of the porch. “Help me up Joe,” he said as he climbed onto the trash barrel. Joe steadied it as Henry jumped and caught the roof’s edge. He hoisted himself up then Joe passed him the shovels.” Joe grab my hand, hurry up!” Once on the porch they both began to shovel furiously. Twenty minutes later both the porch and trailer roof were cleaned off.
Henry was bent over, hands on his knees breathing heavy. “Seven or eight years ago, I’m not sure when, an older couple sold their house and moved into The Park over on the other side. That winter, it was a bad winter. Lots of snow and ice too. They just didn’t know Joe. They never lived in a trailer before. When the roof collapsed during the night, it killed them while they were sleeping in bed.” Henry straightened up and walked around in circles for a minute or two on the trailer roof.
“I think I’ll have that cup of coffee now Joe.”
The dude shoved open the men’s room door and spit on the floor. Making his way to the urinal he took long slow strides, the shoelaces of his work boots trailing behind. “I hate this friggin’ job,” he said to himself and when he said the word “job”, he picked his nose and wiped whatever was on the end of his finger onto the gray concrete wall he was staring at. The dudes eyes were half closed and blinking constantly.
His shift was over. He changed out of his work uniform into his regular clothes and spent a few minutes at the circular stone sink trying to scrub his hands clean. But they were stained. They never got totally clean. By the time he got to his car it was almost 11:30pm and he was too tired to go out. So he went home.
The dude inherited the trailer from his mother after she died. What had once been a cute, attractive home had deteriorated into a rusting tin can.
When he pulled up in front of his house the headlights caught a cat eating something. As he got out of his car the cat took off. He saw the hind legs and tail of a baby squirrel sticking out from the cats mouth.
“Mmm…that’s attractive,” he said out loud as he trudged up the stairs.
The dude spent hours on the couch watching TV, drinking beer and tossing lighted matches into the ashtray.
(Note: the photo is of Minute Man Park – from tripadvisor.com)