One Thing After Another

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.
Ken: Cool!

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.

Renovation Woes

On Wednesday, finally fed up with the appalling turn of events, I swept into the kitchen dramatically. Brandishing the textile in question, I addressed my wrath at the room’s occupants, who were in the middle of a porch renovation lunch break. “THIS—” I pronounced with a violent flourish, “THIS is the GOOD TEA TOWEL! And just look at it! You have sullied it beyond redemption!” Naturally, I was met with protests:

“But it was hanging right there!”
“There was nothing else to dry our filthy hands on!”
“What’s a good tea towel?!”

“No!” I exclaimed, putting up a hand to silence their futile defense. “It simply won’t do.” I reached into a drawer and pulled out another, brand new tea towel. “This is now the good tea towel. You will recognize it because it has glitter thread running through the pattern. It is not—and I repeat NOT—to be used.”

If you are not familiar with the concept of the good tea towel, let me explain. There are the tea towels that you use every day, the ones you dry things with, fold up to put under a hot saucepan or even, dare I say, use to extract a baking pan from the oven. And then there is the good tea towel, the one that’s just for show. I’ve had this issue before—once, when I was living in Toronto for work, I had a roommate, a lovely girl in every other way, except for her insistence on using the good tea towel. It was white and black, in a charming ‘Paris’ motif, and it hung from a hook in a spot that was obviously chosen for its display properties. There was another tea towel, a plainer one, that was close to the stove and sink, and simply screamed out, “Use ME!” Yet my roommate kept using the good tea towel, until it was no longer ‘good’. I would come back after a weekend at home to find it hanging all crumply and stained. I would wash it and then replace it, and put the other, everyday tea towel in a more convenient spot. But she never learned and her tenure with me was short, as you can well imagine.

This is what happens when the rules are ignored.

And you may scoff at the good tea towel, and most likely you are, but here’s a fact: Laura Secord didn’t abandon her children and make her way alone through the forest to warn the British about an impending American attack just because she felt like going for a jog. No, she was sick to f*cking death of the U.S. soldiers using her good tea towel. It’s true. We won the War of 1812 because of the good tea towel. Of course, when the soldiers left Laura’s house, they also left behind that one fork—you know the one I mean. It doesn’t match any of your other forks, you didn’t buy it, and you have no idea where it came from, yet every time you reach into the cutlery drawer, it’s the first one your hand grabs, until finally, in a fit of pique, you yell “Stupid fork, I hate you!” and you throw it in the garbage. I may or may not have done this recently.

But these are the kinds of stressors you have to deal with when your house is undergoing renovations. It got substantially worse yesterday, when Ken and I were driving back from Home Depot with a large load of wood in the trailer. I was already a little freaked out at his bizarre need to tell me that he had to take the corners slowly in case the trailer tipped over, filling my head with visions of lumber all over the road and twisted metal everywhere, but then this happened:

Me: I need a new go bag. I don’t think the one I have is big enough now.
Ken: Go bag?
Me: In case of fire. I have a bag, and a list of things to put in it, like the external hard drives, jewelry, the box of special notes and cards, my mother’s watch…
Ken: The good tea towel.
Me: Obviously. But I think I need a new bag. There are a lot of things to take.
Ken: I’m assuming that in this scenario, Kate, Atlas, and I are out of the house and safe.
Me: Of course. You’re more important than any stuff. But once you’re out, I’ll run to the back bedroom, kick out the window, and throw the go bag and all my Paris paintings onto the balcony then climb down off the side porch.
Ken: Porch? Your plan would be perfect, except you’ve apparently forgotten that we currently don’t have a side porch.
Me: WHAT? F*ck.
Ken: You could always go out the window by the stairs and leap from the front porch to the spruce tree.
Me: I’m not A LEMUR, KEN.

And now I not only need a new go bag but a new fire plan to go with it. Ken suggested that I could tie a rope to one of the brackets in the brick and shimmy/rappel down to the ground, and I was like “How am I supposed to do that carrying a bag and several paintings, KEN?”

So now, he and his crew (i.e. Kate and her boyfriend) are under strict orders to get some kind of structure up immediately. And stop using the good tea towel.

It’s a long way down.