A couple of weeks ago, my parents emailed me with a picture of a big old pine wardrobe that someone in their condo building was giving away. I showed Ken the picture and he thought about it for a minute, then said, “You know that built-in cupboard in the upstairs hallway, the one made out of plywood that we keep sheets and pillowcases in?”
Me: It’s not plywood. It’s just not the best wood, but it’s not horrible.
Ken: I’ve always hated it. What if I rip out the built-in and we replace it with that wardrobe?
Me: It’s built right into the ceiling. You’d have to replace the drywall and then patch and paint behind it.
We picked up the wardrobe from the very elderly parents of the guy who lived in my parents’ building. They were literally adorable, both in their 90s. He insisted on helping Ken and his son carry the wardrobe out to our trailer, while she insisted on showing me their house, including the rugs that she’d hand-knotted herself. We promised to send pictures of the wardrobe in place once we’d completed the project. And so the process began, as most home renovations do, in the ‘one thing leads to another’ school of fix-it projects.
1) Rip out the old linen closet. Discover a very cool hollow space at the base that would be perfect for hiding valuables, or love letters, or human remains, or old clocks. Discover that there is NOTHING in there. Wander the house in existential disappointment for 10 minutes.
2) Find some drywall for the ceiling. The old linen cupboard pre-dated the upgrade to the hallway, and the previous owners had simply drywalled AROUND it, which left quite a gap. Go to the store to buy drywall compound. Purchase Pokémon toys, shampoo, and chocolate in addition to drywall compound because I’m AT THE STORE, KEN.
3) Put up the drywall. Tape it and patch it, as well as all the holes in the wall where the nine-inch nails were holding everything in place. Not Nine Inch Nails the band, because that would have been super cool. But no—just stupidly long nails that ripped out pieces of lathe and plaster when Ken crowbarred the cupboard out.
4) Continue to apply drywall compound, because Ken is a fanatic.
5) Let the drywall compound dry. Search the house for the one can of paint that might match the rest of the walls in the hallway. Find three different cans, none of which match. Determine that now the ENTIRE hallway will have to be repainted.
6) Sand the drywall compound that coats the walls like a powdery white lover until you’ve almost scrubbed into the next room so that the walls that will be hidden behind the new wardrobe will be supersmooth. Spend half an hour vacuuming up all the dust.
7) Contemplate the waste of opportunity around having a very large space that would have been perfect for gold bullion, a severed hand, or even a rat skeleton, but which has been squandered. Realize that reality is never as good as your imagination and that you may be obsessing just a tad.
8) Mix two colours of paint together to get an approximate match. Decide that it’s not approximate enough to avoid having to repaint the ENTIRE hallway.
9) Curse the wardrobe. Curse it long and curse it deep. Rip a small piece of painted wallpaper off to get a match at the paint store. Meet a girl who is a WHIZ at paint mixing and who makes you paint that is indistinguishable from the rest of the hallway.
10) Realize that, if nothing else, the whole experience has provided you with a writing topic in a week in which not much happened.
In other news, there are less than 3 weeks until At The End Of It All, my new short story collection, drops. I’m super-excited. I don’t know how these things work, but if you want to host me on a blog tour once it’s out, I’ll repay the favour by promoting you and your own work, or posting a review, or whatever you like. I’ll even come to your house and look for ghosts, or name a character in my next book after you. I’m easy. And if you want to grab At The End Of It All as soon as it’s released, you can go to the Potter’s Grove website, or pick it up on Amazon.