Late last night my brother-in-laws father died. His name was James MacLaren Lansche. He was a neurosurgeon in Pocatello, Idaho. The most direct thing he ever did for me was provide me a brother-in-law, thanks to my sister I guess, along with a friend and cycling partner when we're able. Less directly, they provided me a sense of family while I was in graduate school at Idaho State for a couple of years in the later 1980s. They fed me, housed me on occasion, brought me up to their Island Park cabin on the Henry's Fork and Jim and his wife Joan were also the first members of the extended to meet Tobias after his birth. It's quite a loss and considerably greater for my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. For what it's worth, this attempt at a novel is dedicated to the memory of James MacLaren Lansche, a wonderful man.
Back to the story:
If that neighbor, Bob, hadn’t gotten the city on me, I wouldn’t be here in the hospital nursing this broken hip, and I wouldn’t be looking forward to convalescing at Junior’s house, where I’d rather not have to spend any more time than necessary. Sure, the house is showing its age. No one disputes that, but I just don’t have the money to keep it up like I used to. When I was younger I could do the work myself, maybe get Junior to help out when I needed him, but in the last few years, it’s been tough. Like I said, I was kinda happy to see the new roof on the place. It took a little more time than it should have, but it’s an old house and stuff can go wrong. First they had to pull off all those tarps that were keeping out the rain. We put those up pretty good, good enough that they lasted for years, more years than I can remember. A little bit of moss was growing beneath, and beside those tarps, but that helped keep the rain out as well.
After the tarps, all the old shingles had to come off. Cedar holds up pretty well over the years, takes a beating from the rain and snow and sun we get over the course of a normal year, plus the scampering of the squirrels that run across every roof around here. There was a lot of moss as well, because the Ponderosas keep the roof in the shade, especially the north facing part. Those trees have to be at least 80-feet tall, with bark five or six inches thick. The squirrels love those cones during the summer, chewing ‘em up, dropping the cores in the yard and on the roof. Gets pretty messy, but what can you do? Squirrels gotta eat just as much as anyone or anything else that’s living. It took six, maybe eight, maybe a couple more, weeks to get the roof cleared off, new plywood down, and new shingles over the top. Some of the eves had to be rebuilt as well. It looks good, overall, though the roofline isn’t so clean as it was when it was first built. It looks like there’s some small waves rippling across the roof, but it’s an old house. That’s to be expected. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do much more than supervise the boy and his crew as they did the roofing job.
When it was all done, I thought that might quiet down the neighbors, but it did just the opposite. I thought they’d appreciate that we were making the house look good, but all they saw was that since we could do the roof, we should be able to do the rest of it, and faster. Mostly it was that college professor Bob writing letters to the city, circulating information around the neighborhood to make me look bad, like I was doing something wrong. Anyway, after the roof, the boy s scraped the whole outside of the house and put on a fresh coat of paint. It looked so good it reminded me of being a kid again. The inside of the house has always been kept up, but now that the outside was looking good again, I almost expected mom and dad and Rachel to come through the door, to sit on the porch.
Problem is, the porch still needed some work, so after the painting was done, the boy and his crew started digging to put in footings to hold up the porch, to rebuild it one board at a time, just like the craftsman he is when he puts his heart into a project, and he put his heart and soul into this one. Both sets of stairs had to be torn away from the porch so they could be rebuilt once the footings had been poured. The boy even brought in his backhoe to dig some trenches for the new water and sewer lines the city said we had to put in. That didn’t take but a few hours to dig up, but then we had to run the line into the house and the city said we had to have a licensed plumber to do that job, so we’re still waiting to get that done. After that, it was back to the footings. We got those framed in, laid some rebar, tied it off and were ready to pour after doing a bit of clean up. That was nearly two months ago. Then I fell and busted my hip and now hear I am in the hospital, still, waiting to go to the boy’s house in a day or two.
The Jew doctors wanted to give me a new hip, but I told that I didn’t have insurance or money for anything that fancy, that I’d just have to get on with what God gave me. They seemed a bit concerned, but I don’t think that was the case. I think they were acting that way so they’d think they had my best interests in mind and that I’d go ahead and tell them to put in the fancy hip. But then I’d owe them, even if they never asked me to pay, I’d be in their debt, and I was already in enough debt to the hospital that I didn’t want to go into debt to some Jew doctors as well. Bloodsuckers is what they are. That’s why they get into medicine, so they can show how smart they are and then take your money, telling you that it’s in your best interest because they’re so smart and know so much better. God damn them.
So here I am, waiting for the boy to get his house in order so he can take care of me because the city, thanks to that damn Bob, said I had to vacate the house while it was being fixed up. I wish that son of a bitch had never crossed my path, never moved into our neighborhood with his so called progressive thinking, telling us what we can do with our house and property. They even made us put up a chain link fence to keep people from getting in and rooting around things, not that there’s much to root around. Just walking by anyone can see the old basalt and cement foundation, looking as good as it did nearly 100 years ago when it was first built. A bunch of people think the concrete foundations are better, but not me. If they could see how well that stone foundation has held up, they’d think different.
Even if the boy got the porch fixed up, he’d need to fix my bathroom before I could go home. And I think those damn folks at the city think they can come in and do an inspection, make sure the house is up to code. They’re not coming in, not if I have anything to say about it. It’s my house and property and they can’t tell me what’s to be done with it. Maybe they can make me hook up to the sewer and water and pick up my trash, but they’re not coming inside. But the state of the bathroom has me not even wanting to go back just yet. I can do without a lot of things, but not a bathroom off my bedroom. After they painted, they discovered some dry rot in the wall and had to bust it out. They left a gaping hole to the outside where the wall beside the bathtub was, wide open to the world. No way I was using that bathtub, toilet too. It was just as well to have to live with the boy, though I’d rather not be going there with a busted hip. It got professor Bob off my back as well. I hope he’s happy. Had he left well enough alone, the house might not look so good as it does, but I’d be in my home, there wouldn’t be a fence up around the place to keep out vagrants, and I’d still be able to climb the steps into the house. Hell, there’d still be steps to climb up into the house.
When I get out of here, I gotta find a way to get that Bob off my back. Enough of the neighbors like me that I think I can hold him off from making things too tough on me and the boy. I don’t much worry about the folks right next store. They complain about my house making the neighborhood look bad because it needed some paint and shingles. They turned that house into apartments and rented the rooms to anyone who had the cash. They’ve had some darky living there for a couple of years now, maybe longer. And he wasn’t the first of them to come. Before him there was some old lady darky. I’m not sure why she lived there. Her kids moved her in. Guess they didn’t want to live with her either. Plus there’s a bunch of college kids moving in and out every spring and fall, and just lowlifes, single women with young kids, slutty young tramps and their boys, that kind of crap. However much they might complain about me, they need to have a good look in the mirror. I own my home, my property. Those complainers are just renters and should take whatever comes there way. So what if they don’t like the smoke from my fires, from burning my garbage. The hell with them, that’s what I say. The hell with them.