This is an old short story I wrote shortly after high school. I have never much liked the story, but being written nineteen or twenty years ago it was strangely prophetic about my fathers heart troubles. And, no I did not know how they fix a house foundation.
I lived there for 37 years, well off and on anyway. My parents had bought the house a few years after it had been built. I was 3 then, so I guess it’s fitting that the house and I are over-the-hill in the same year.
After my parents had died, they left me the house. It had always been my home even when I had my own place. They had kept good care of it, but there was only so much that my dad could do.
In his latter years his congestive heart failure prevented him from doing much of anything strapped to an oxygen tank. And my mom, well, my mom couldn’t do anything without getting frustrated out of her mind when it didn’t go just right. OCD ran in the family and she had to stick to her ‘routines’.
“Well, the foundation is sinking, and it’s getting deeper. I ‘spect it’s this La Nina weather pattern, too much rain for this part of the country.” Jim said. He was the local general contractor. He wasn’t cheap, but I wanted the house fixed, not patched over.
“What can we do?” I asked, dreading the impending answer. I didn’t want him to say there was nothing to do but start over.
Jim sucked air through his teeth, trying to dislodge some of his lunch.
“We can try to lift the house on jacks, but that will only be temporary, it will start to sink again in a few years. What the house needs is foundation with support pylons.”
I nodded mostly relived.
“One is expensive and the other is really expensive. But, a new foundation could help the house last for 60 years with the right care.” He made sure I knew what he was going to charge and that if anything unforeseen happened it could cost more.
I agreed and signed the contract to create a new foundation for the house. I was also having him remodel the house and add on two extra rooms and a full bath. It wasn’t about money. I had plenty of that, well enough of it anyway. I wanted my children to grow up in the same house that I did, if I ever had children.
The process of lifting the house up and placing it on a trailer was awesome to say the least. I stood across the street huddled in my jacket. It was starting to get brisk in the mornings, but Jim assured me that the foundation would be finished well before gets cold. I worked the zipper up and down twice, before I forced myself to stand still with my hands in my pockets
I watched as the house of my childhood was lifted off the ground, and loaded on to a trailer. All my childhood memories of climbing under the house to play had flooded back to me. I had once gotten stuck under the house and had a panic attack. My dad ripped up the floor in the living room to get me out. To this day I still won’t go into tight places. Not that I’m claustrophobic, I am just very aware of how easy it is to get stuck.
I could see my dads patch job on the floor. It was visible but very well done. The sunken floor joist fell loose. Cracked in half from the extra pressure it had been supporting. Decades of dirt fell lose, showering the trailer.
Jim came across the street. “We will reinforce the current floor joists with more modern material. We will clean the underside up as well, and replace any rotten wood we find. The new foundation will support the joist all the way across, as well as giving a good side support to the house. You won’t have to worry about warped floor boards anymore.
I thanked him and went to my hotel. I hadn’t been sleeping very well, I was afraid that the house would just collapse when they lifted it. I unlocked my hotel door and relocked it and then unlocked it again. I entered and repeated my lock unlock lock pattern. I checked all the lights and made sure they all were working twice before I sat down. I opened my brief case and took out the days work.
Numbers, the only true constant, I poured over the numbers well past lunch. I didn’t count things as such. I just new they were right or wrong, it was a gift. I found five mistakes fixed them, and faxed them back to the office twice. They understood my obsession and were lenient, because I did my work and I did it fast.
I went to grab a bite to eat at the local deli. Oh, how I had missed that deli. I ordered two sandwiches and paid for them. I would take the other sandwich, and give it to someone who needed it. There were plenty around town.
Late afternoon the next day I got a call from Jim. He wanted me to come down to the work site. I dreaded the worst. Maybe the house collapsed on the trailer, or the inspector came by and said the house had to be demolished.
I pulled to a stop and locked and unlocked and locked again my car doors, before rushing over to Jim. He was looking down at where the foundation would go. Lodged in the dirt was an ancient dingy baseball, stitching was still red-brown. Ruth in black ink shone like a beacon. I reached down and worked it lose from the dirt. I squeezed back tears. I had lost that ball, when I was stuck under the house.
“Isn’t that something? Who knows how long that has been under there?” Jim said
“Twenty eight years ago. My Grandpa gave this ball to me when I was ten. I lost it under the house not too long after that.”
I took the ball and went to my car. I unlocked it.
And got in.