Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Worn Collars - Part Twenty-Nine - "A Brush With Death"

Worn Collars

Part Twenty-Nine

"A Brush With Death"

            The actual end; the ‘distribution’ of Arlington St. John’s ‘estate’ including the equity assets (trust funds), Maine property (Arlington’s house in Maine) and the contents of that property (the ‘old books’, et al)... came with no fair... or fanfare.  “IT” “HAPPENED”.
            The sort of funny way.
            The housekeeper, who kept her eye out for ‘storms at sea’ and ‘all weather’... did not figure it out too fast.  First (after the full four years trickled by) a “deed” was “passed”.  This was not understood.  It wasn’t until Arlington’s electric bills were forwarded from the bank(s) to the housekeeper with an attached emendation to “change the account” followed by inquiring telephone calls about “What is this about” that
            She (the housekeeper) “found out”
            Found out that from ‘then on’... SHE was the one who “PAID”.
            “Ahhhh...”:  THAT moved things along.

            Arlington St. John’s house and contents suddenly became a ...hired taxi cab... waiting... with the meter running.  “Oh.” became a daily ritual involving the housekeeper’s wallet and its active participation... in “sustaining” “the property” (“is now your responsibility”).
            So that “moved things along”.  I said.
            Actually I said “WILL move things along”.
            That is what happened.

            I was called
            WE... had the “WILL YOU PAY” (“HOW MUCH”) – “I... CAN... pay” (“HOW MUCH”) conversation again.  That slid sideways to the ...I to her... “HOW MUCH”... “DO YOU WANT?”.  Of course that didn’t work but... it did open the door for my follow-up query “IS-THERE-A-LIST” (of what there is and how much it (‘the stuff’) is ‘worth’ (valued by the estate).
            There was no list and... she had to telephone the bank about “what” the ‘contents’ was “appraised for”.  The bank was slow in getting back to her.  Apparently... they had no concise valuation on what was IN the house.  Their valuation was... principally... “the property” (as a ‘whole’).
            “So how much do you want.  Maybe I can pay that.”
            I restated.
            “I don’t know.”
            No surprise there.

            “Well tell me when your ready.”  The housekeeper actually accepted that as some sort of ‘terms’ and I didn’t hear from her for about two weeks.  Then she was back... on her smart phone... to me.  “Ok?”
            “Ok what?”
            “How much do you want?”
            “I have some offers”.
            “For all of it?”
            “For all of it?”
            “The entire contents”.
            “I think I just want to sell the books”.
            “That’s most of the contents.”
            “Yes but.”
            “The rest is his mother’s stuff.  You know that.”
            “Yes but”.
            “But what?”
            “They only want the books”.
            “I want all of it.
            “All of it?”
            “Everything in there.  Except the china cabinets.  He wanted you to have them”.
            “I’ll buy it.  I will clean it out.  The house will be empty in two days.  You can sell it (sell the property).  It will be empty and ready to sell.”
            “How much will you pay”.

            “Can pay.  I can pay...”
            “Thirty six hundred... fifty dollars:  Three thousand six hundred and fifty dollars”.
            She (the housekeeper) stood there.
            I figured... out... in my mind... that ‘any offer’ on the ‘books’ would be two thousand to twenty-five hundred (dollars) ‘for the books’ WITH the cabinets as an ‘unresolved’ AND....
            My gut (got) said this so I the house.
            What was the essence of ‘gut’ (got)?  There are (were) “I GUT” (I got) two thousand to twenty-five hundred... old books...; an actual number of old books... ‘in there’.  Damny can count that high... at a buck... an ...old... book.  That simple; “stupid simple”***.  After four years... coming after forty years... Arlington’s rare books come down to “stupid simple”.  Why?  Has one watched someone, for example, parallel park their car recently?  Et al.  It is the ... “O L” (operating level).
            It (the Operating Level) is in the whole (the ‘big picture’)... a that.  THAT... is...‘not much of a threat’ to... old (rare) books.  (“Old imprints you say?”)  I, herein, have written one hundred and forty pages demonstrating ‘not much of a threat’.

*** Obvious to I... but perhaps not to the reader... is this what I ‘work with’(base a dollar offer on).  It is NOT ‘actual dollar value’ of the “stuff”.  I base my offer entirely on ‘what it will take to buy this’.  I review all the factors I can gather... with actual dollar value of the actual ‘stuff’ being one... bit player... factor... and configure what dollar amount ‘will work’.  Again; purchase offers are not based on actual value of the stuff.  I save that factor for when ...I... sell... “the stuff”.

            The housekeeper:
            That was fine.  It was... at least... a thousand more than she thought I was gonna say and
            I clean out the house too.
            Again:  “Stupid Simple”
            But with a brush with death.


            The “contents suddenly becomes a ...hired taxi cab... waiting... with the meter running.  “Oh.” becomes a ‘right now’ ritual involving MY wallet and its active participation... in “sustaining” “the property” (“is now MY responsibility”)  ...right now... and until “empty”.  I
            Leave... and a whole bunch of other...
            I wrote out the check from my ‘in my pocket’ check book and she
            “I know it is.” When I handed it to her saying “It’s good”.  I said I “am going to change” (my clothes) and very swiftly... went to the truck and retrieved my ‘work clothes’ satchel WHILE doing speed dial smart phone “It’s a go” preplanned call... for help... who empty boxes loaded on two trucks were not quite ‘waiting around the corner but... close enough.  I “Where is she?” (the housekeeper) and she wasn’t in the book room but
            SHE COULD BE
            At any moment but I
            Reminded myself that the... bottle of window cleaner, the crumpled and soiled dried up paper towels AND the stack of books they’d been used on... at least two years ago... were EXACTLY ‘the same’ as ‘been left there’ so MAYBE... “I’m okay on this (Housekeeper going in the book room and
            ANYTHING AT ALL.

            So I went in the bathroom and changed my clothes.
            I’d never been in Arlington’s God damn bathroom ever.  No one ever went in there EVER except Arlington and the housekeeper... I could bet.  I heard her saying something about ‘cashing the check’ to my back as I went toward the bathroom.  ‘Good.  Go cash it’ is my HOPE.  In the bathroom... I closed the door.  Turned.  Looked at the toilet.  The sink.  Back to the toilet.  “Jesus Christ” I said out loud.
            On the back of the toilet were two... books.  I recognized both of them.  They are both ‘biblical tome’ type rare book man rare book reference books.  One, on top, was, in dust jacket with protect glassine wrapper Carter’s ABC FOR BOOK COLLECTORS.  It is standard ‘must memorize’ and is used ‘forever’ by an active ‘old-book-er’.  So... good ‘on toilet’ reading.   Under it... was “McKerrow”.
            “AN INTRODUCTION TO BIBLIOGRAPHY” (Oxford, 1927 (1948 this edition).
            “Ok... ok” to...just make this easier... John Carter ‘stand alone’ defines McKerrow in his “ABC”.  McKerrow is... an ‘opposite side of the scale’ of (rare book) fundamental... to an old booker.  It is a sort of physics text book about how a book is physically and how to right-write a ‘looks like physics’ formula that says how a given book is physically...:
            “Yeah” just light on-toilet reading.

            So, for me... I probably had my McKerrow around for twenty years before... now thirty years ago... “I” “FINALLY” “READ” “IT”... cover to cover... and... I didn’t put it on my toilet.   But that’s so Arlington... to do that; you know:  READ about writing a physics formula for an old book while... taking a crap.  So...:  “Jesus Christ”.  And I should have denoted the ‘brush with death’ warning right then... AND... the “ABC” was ‘there too’.  So I change my clothes and “walk” from the bathroom taking the THEY ARE MY BOOKS NOW with me.   To the old book room.  I don’t know where the housekeeper ‘went off to’.  I sit in Arlington’s chair... at his old book room desk.  I don’t touch anything.  I don’t look at the window cleaner cleaned books stacked on the desk.  I was just about start to “WAIT” when my two... confidants... show up and:

            I deploy orders... to ‘do this room first’.  “Everything”.  “Start to the right of the door go all around in order do not over pack the boxes seal each one mark it with (assigned code) leave the cabinets alone empty don’t mess with anything I want this done as fast as possible into the truck and out of here NOW.”
            These two guys wouldn’t know ‘old book’ ANYTHING.  One collects coins and has worked with me for years with no change of antiquarian world view at all (“coins”; a ‘one trick dog’).  Younger number two fancies himself to “deal in paintings” and “art”.  I don’t help those causes.  He’s on his own.  Not visiting a museum is a big part of his plan.  “That takes care of that”.  Don’t it.  Arlington did not have any paintings in his house.  So that left ‘my guy’ with... ‘old books’.   I know he has not read ‘one of those’ (a book) ‘in a while’ (ever).  His wife (who happened to be going by... “ha, ha”) asked me “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH ALL OF THEM?”
            “Read ‘em”.
            “OH YOUR NOT REALLY!”

            We had it (the old rare book room) empty and “trucked off” in three hours.  The housekeeper was back.  She didn’t say anything and I assumed that my checking account balance had dropped.  She looked in the old book room.  The cabinets were empty.  “I don’t know where to put them” she said.  “Her problem”.  Right?
            She didn’t seem to care.  About the rest of the stuff.  In the house.  I did care ...about how she cared... could care... could change her care.  Cares.  “KEEP RIGHT ON IT” is the ‘estate cleanout rule’.  DO NOT SLOW DOWN.  But... the day was done...SO...

            “Give me the key so I can get in here early”.
            “I’ll be up.  Come get me at the house”.
            “No.  They’ll be here at seven.  I’ll be in here by six.  We may be done by noon.  By two for sure”.  I turned back to the old book room when I said that.  That’s when I had the ‘a brush with death’.  The room was empty.  I saw that.  It stopped me cold.  I hadn’t said good bye.
            I’d just cleaned it all out:  Arlington’s old (rare) book room.  Everything I’d... from 1969... I’d forgot... to just stand there... no... I should have been ‘sitted’.  I... the guest chair.  Even that was already on a truck.  I forgot to say good bye... to a rotten man who was a rotten book collector and his old (rare) book room.  That I’d just ‘clean out’:  It was gone.

The End.

1 comment:

  1. The well planned and well executed "getting the stuff out" is commendable.