I move slower… these days… when an opportunity opens to inspect a discovery of ‘antiques’. Jaded? “Getting old”? Over forty-five years of ‘such-same’, plural, over & over, again and again? Or be it a cool calculated emotion-never-shown Salmagundi of hard won professionalism… deployed? Or all? And more? Hiding like hidden magician's cards in the slip of my shirt’s cuffs… to be pulled from behind a “YOUR EAR”?
This does not mean that I did not ‘show up’ ‘right away’. THIS GUY…I show up right away for it’s ‘an easy’. BEEN THERE DONE THAT OVER AND BACK ‘while they watch’ BOTH of US ‘have been’ so “HEY”. And I parked on the side driveway next to the ‘his truck’ and… see that the estate is being painted white again.
And see that there is a big ole contractor’s dumpster between the side door portico and the first shed. That shed was… and still is… “The … Wood… Shed”. Door open. Old with new ‘firewood’ inside… I see…
AFTER I ‘see’ (denote) that there IS ‘old furniture’; chairs and small tables lined up NEXT to the dumpster AND extending to an odd old wooden dust covered gathered… pile… of ‘old stuff’ AT the front of the wood shed door… appearing; these items, to have been designated to be “PUT THERE”.
I digest these glanced observations from thirty to forty feet AND: OUT of the portico door pops an… eighteen years and four month’s high school graduated ‘kid’ carrying two more… crummy seats-punched-out Victorian stick chairs… to the dumpster pile. I… “don’t know the kid”
“HE’S INSIDE?” I say.
“UPSTAIRS.” he says. He stops, holding the two chairs, looks at me and… seeing that I make no notice of him or the ‘it’; the “ANTIQUES”… he puts the chairs by the dumpster and follows me into the …Captain Merritt Kimball Estate.
At the head of the top of the front stairs I find a giant contractor’s style mess of ‘ripped out’ everything with rubble, saved stuff, electric cords, power tools, bright lights, removed bathroom fixtures, new bathroom fixtures, white dust on everything and… a modest and low ‘old door’ open dead center on the back wall of all of this that shows as a big black dark spot; a black hole… at the rear of this well lighted white ‘bathroom job’ contractor’s wasteland. The ‘kid’ goes into the dark hole of the doorway and… doesn’t get very far and… starts to pull on something I can not see while I can see him bend slightly and…
“WAIT, WAIT.” I say toward that human form in the hole AS my acquaintance, the “Mr. Contractor”, releases his attention from his trim molding craft cutting at his waist high positioned with his back to me chop saw and… starts to greet. We both turn and proceed to the …black hole. The kid ejects himself willingly from the entrance to the hole. I am deploying my… tiny shirt pocket flashlight. Mr. Contractor… has white dust all over his bare forearms and… sort of wipes his hands on his (blue jean) pant’s front.
I’m at the black hole doorway first. My light shines into this darkness. The light ‘hits’ old stuff ‘all over’ ‘full’ ‘everywhere’ …right away. “Jesus.” I say.
“That’s what I said.” Mr. Contractors says.
“Got a lot of it huh.”
“FULL all the way BACK.”
“I can see”.
“Opened this door to THAT. Found the door UNDER the WALL BOARD”. We both look at the sides of the doorway now bare old wood wall at an angle showing where ‘the ell’ (the original house) “JOINS” the “MAIN HOUSE”. “OLD. What do you think?” he continues.
“CRAWL SPACE. Full. Just closed it up. Been that way. WAS that way. When they made the… what is this? An old bathroom.”
“Well.” Mr. Contractor says. “Not THAT OLD. Always BEEN a BATHROOM. You know: KEEP REDOING IT. Doing the WHOLE THING now. We are. SEE.” He says gesturing to the white dusted and well lighted contractor’s site MESS.
“Yeah. So. WE FOUND THAT. We gotta put THE WIRES from the kitchen UP TO HERE. STRING ‘em THROUGH THE CEILING we figure NO PROBLEM. But we didn’t know about the door and this STUFF. ANTIQUES RIGHT?”
“Guess so. Looks like ANTIQUES to ME.”
“YOU WANT THOSE? We gotta get ‘em OUT OF THERE. The electrician’s COMING. Like I need THIS MESS IN THERE. Gotta get it out.
“Right now. I called the owners. I said we got a problem. I told ‘em I got where I gotta go FULL of OLD JUNK. They didn’t know about it. NO BODY knew about it I said. GET IT OUT OF THERE If IT’S IN YOUR WAY” they say. OK. Where do I put it I say. Throw it out they say. Do whatever you want. I make him (gesturing to the ‘kid’) start to carry it out. And I see those are ANTIQUES. So I called you. YOU WANT ‘EM”.
I shine the flashlight into the darkness. I shine it on the old chimney half way back. I see the small chamber fireplace. There’s stuff piled all around. There stuff all the way back. The space, including the under the eves, is, about twenty-four wide by, maybe, thirty feet deep. My flashlight beam roves around. Fast. “Three trucks” I say.
“Three trucks?” Mr. Contractor says.
“Truck Loads; three truck loads”
“With the stuff already outside.”
“Right. Three hundred cash”
“Three hundred? For THAT?” He says gesturing into the black hole. “You can HAVE IT. Just get it out of here”.
“No. Three hundred. I’ll get it out”
Mr. Contractor looks me hard in the face. Then he turns to the kid who is as far away from us as he can get without leaving the site. “HELP HIM GET THIS JUNK OUT OF HERE!” he says to the kid. The kid startles to a state of alert… sort of. He turns, walks towards us and… Mr. Contractor says “Help him.” as he walks back to the chop saw.
“We’ll take it ALL outside first.” I say directly and in a defining tone to the ‘kid’. “Take EVERYTHING out of here and pile it in the YARD”. I reach into the dark as I pocket my flashlight. I retrieve two more …crummy Victorian stick chairs… and hand them to the kid… who takes them and walks away to the front stairs. “LET ME USE THIS LIGHT” I say toward Mr. Contractor’s back as I lift one of his lights into the …old eighteenth century …long sealed shut… crawl space that was once… ‘the chamber’ of ‘the original house’.
GET THAT STUFF OUT OF THERE … became the ‘number one’. I did that and on my return from my first ‘haul out’ load I did… hand three hundred dollars as a wad of folded twenties to Mr. Contractor who… glanced at it, stuffed it in his rear pocket, said nothing and continued to work at his chop saw.
It took an hour and a half to ‘empty it’; the chamber. The electrician came about an hour into it. I didn’t say anything to him at all. I saw him looking at the large mound of ‘old stuff’ we’d made by the dumpster. I watched on the sly. He didn’t touch anything. But did actually look longer than I liked. But. He didn’t touch anything and didn’t say anything. “IT’S ALMOST EMPTY” I said as I returned to the doorway. The electrician, peering into the darkness, was blocking the doorway but he moved when I said that. He stood back. I was hauling from way down beyond the chimney by then. When I came back from my next ‘haul out’ load the electrician said to no one in particular
“I GUESS I’LL GO DOWN AND START COMING UP FROM THE KITCHEN BOX. YOU’LL BE DONE BY THE TIME I’M READY DOWN THERE.” It was obvious the electrician had spoken with Mr. Contractor about …the stuff… me and … what was happening to the stuff. He went down to the kitchen and I never saw him again… except from across the yard when I was loading the truck loads and… he was going to his truck. He looked pretty hard at the truck loads… I felt. I could hear him in the kitchen during the last of the haul out. Nothing happened but I kept ‘on guard’ for him the whole time I was there. The ‘kid’ helped me but never showed any interest in anything. At all.