Tuesday, February 09, 2010
FFF #20 - Martha
FFF#20 - Working titles - "No Sense of History" or "Shit, I had another one but it's gone now" - So I settled on "Martha"
"His life would have been a lot simpler if he'd just said no." Starter sentence from David Barber
His life would have been a lot simpler if he'd just said no.
It all started with the phone call from a friend needing his expertise and hopefully his tools to jack up and rebuild some timber framing of an old Cape his friend had bought at a Public Auction.
"Shit John, we should have that ole Cape jacked up and beams replaced in less than a week. What else you got going on? Not much is my guess."
John hung up the phone angry. His friend knew him too well. He had nothing else going on other than staying warm, feeding critters and watching infomercials. His wife had left him months ago just as his construction business fizzled and died when the real estate market flipped upside down.
John was early. He was always early. He liked those quiet moments before equipment was unloaded and before other nail bangers showed up to run through his strategy for the day.
He walked around the classic old New England farm house linked haphazardly by a series of small outbuildings to the barn. His eye followed the roof line of the mish mash of structures. It dipped and doodled, following some undulating path of it's own making. If he had his way, he'd tear it all down and build new. John hated this type of construction. Rehabs were a pain in his ass. They never went smoothly and often times he ended up chasing money that did not exist.
"Okay Bill. Let's see the inside."
Bill turned the key and pushed in the back door. The usual dusty and moldy bad air of a house buttoned up for too long came blasting out. They both stood back for some moments to allow fresh air to find it's way inside.
"So Bill, when did Old Man Bean die?"
"He didn't. He's up to Augusta at some Alzhiemer's retirement home. Bank sold his house and land for him so the last days of his life are covered. Seems a shame to see an old family die out like this. But you know Life goes on and I am always there to take advantage of what it offers up. I grabbed this place and all the acreage for under $250 K. Shit, even if I tore it down and subdivided the land, I could make a killing. Bad market or not."
"Then why not tear it down?"
"John, you have no appreciation or sense of historical significance. This is the second oldest home still standing in town. Dates back to at least 1810. It's a plank house. Has slots cut in the vertical planks so the early settlers could stick their muskets out and fight off Indian attacks. The pit sawn planks have to be three/four inches thick and some are almost four feet wide. I restore this place and find the right buyer, I could pocket a couple of hundred grand. You know those rich folks from away, they just love antiques."
John was not convinced. This place needed huge dollars thrown at it to bring it back. Replacing the rotted sills and joists had to be just the tip of this nasty ice berg. But Bill always paid in cash and it had been a long time since his last pay day.
Bill helped John get the screw jacks out of the truck and down into the dirt basement. When faced with hauling over a hundred pieces of oak cribbing, he suddenly needed to fetch coffee for them both. John smiled as Bill drove off toward Penny's Stop n Go. Shrugging, he became a machine and mindlessly hauled two at a time down. It felt good to use his muscles again without the baggage of his brain getting in the way.
Bill showed his usual good timing by wheeling in the dooryard with coffee just as John picked up the last two pieces of cribbing.
"How the Hell you do this every time I'll never know Bill. You always show up when the last board is off the truck, the last bundle of shingles is on the roof, Shit man, you have laziness down to a science."
Bill put on on his hurt face. " Aw man, come on. I pull my weight. Someone has to fetch the coffee....... And by the way, Penny says she never sees you anymore. You know that woman is single again. You could do a lot worse bub."
"Right....I'll be sure to rush over there. Just what I need in my life right now. Another woman to fuck it up."
Bill hung around long enough to help set the cribbing and jack up the first section. He made a big show of looking at his watch. "You got things covered here? I have an appointment with that witch at the Historical Society. You know how she is. Has to okay all the materials we use if I want this house to be considered for the Registry."
John smiled again. Working in a 5 foot dirt basement was no picnic for either of them. "Yeah okay , I have it under control. But you keep prancing off like this and my bill will grow appropriately."
"Shit John. You gonna charge me? I thought friends helped out friends with no notion of compensation. I mean if they are friends in the first place."
"Get the fuck out of here asshole. Go suck up to your Hysterical Society buddies. But yeah, I will be pickin your pocket. Might just charge you twice the going rate just cuz you are such an asshole."
Hunched over in that low basement, they looked at each other and grinned. Their friendship would never be in question and they both knew it. Bill brushed off his legs and turned towards the bulkhead. "Be back in a few."
John settled in to the job at hand. Moving quickly, he set up to more sets of cribbing and a couple of screw jacks. Just as he began to take the weight off with the first jack..............
"I thought that bonehead would never leave. He'll be gone til tomorrow. But you knew that."
John jerked up and caught a joist on his noggin. Turning around he was confronted by what appeared to be someones Grandma wearing a billowed out ankle length dress and a 3/4 length white apron with fancy fillgree along it's edges. Her hair was tightly wound up in one of those silver Grandma buns. She appeared to only be half there. He could see right through her to the granite foundation behind her. He said nothing. Just stood there hunched over and rubbed his head.
"You can close your mouth John. Yeah, we really do exist."
John's mouth closed and then opened as if ready to speak, then it closed again. He turned and found some cribbing to sit on and parked his butt hard. He looked at this spirit and again his mouth opened as if about to speak.
"Come on John, get it together. Accept this sooner than later and we will both save ourselves much time and aggravation"
"Uh, well jeezum, I guess I just never gave ghosts much thought........." And again he seemed to be at a loss for words.
"Well, I'll give you points for having some sand anyway. You haven't run screaming out of here. That's the usual response. Lordy, you should have seen the gyrations Old Man Bean went through the first time we met. Took a vacation. Didn't see his skinny butt for 2 months."
John began to compose himself. He was sober. He had not smoked dope for years. And being the go with the flow kind of guy he was, he always tended to accept most things on face value. But this was pushing even his abilities to accept.
"Uh I guess I oughta know if you have a name. And then maybe how and why are you here?"
"All good and reasonable requests John. Basic and to the point. My names is Martha Bean. I was married to Ezekiel Bean and bore him 4 sons, one of whom was the father of the man you local time folks call Old Man Bean."
Martha moved closer to John. "Mind if I set down? These ole bones still ache." She gathered her generous dress at her fanny and parked next to John. "There now. Better?"
John was busy trying to calculate the arithmetic of how old Martha was. She looked at him and with the beginnings of a grin, "I was born 150 years ago. I died 80 years ago, just after Old Man Bean pissed in his first diaper."
"You can read minds?"
"Some of you live ones come in clear. But I didn't read your mind, it was you counting your fingers that clued me in."
John quickly clasped his hands together. He had never lost that unconscious tendency to use his fingers when running figures or lists through his head. It used to embarrass him in school, but not enough to stop doing it.
"So what is it you want from me Martha?"
"John, it ain't what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. Of course I do have some requirements before we can begin our relationship."
"Well duh John, ain't nothing free. You should know that what with your failed marriage and business going belly up."
"Ah, you know about that. Seems you know a lot about me. I know next to nothing about you.........................But let's get to it. What is it you can do for me? This ain't' going to be some kind of Ghost and Mrs Muir thing is it?"
"Well now that you mention it, yeah, just like that. Although the author of that tale never really got it right. Or maybe he was just afraid of having the book banned."
John was getting suspicious. This arrangement was beginning to look like a one way benefit. "I dunno, maybe I don't want anything to do with you. You are a ghost after all. Never seems happy things happen around ghosts."
"John, John, John. You know that blow up doll you've had stashed in the bedroom closet? Well dear, you can throw that plastic bitch out. I know how to keep a man happy between the sheets."
John was flabbergasted. This kindly ole lady was talking about sex. "But you're old and wrinkled and shit."
"Oh really. Well how's this?"
The air seemed to move and a blank silhouette formed where Martha had existed a moment ago. John stared at the apparition as it changed into a carbon copy of the plastic bitch he had stashed in his closet. Only her mouth was not frozen open, it was speaking.
"John I can be whatever you want. I just can't do it here. This place is done for me. Old Man Bean is gone and who knows who will move in next? I need new digs. Your digs."
John and Martha settled in over to John's house. Life was wonderful at first. John went to bed every night knowing he would wake up with a grin every morning. But several months into the relationship things changed. John had bedded every fantasy woman he could imagine. Every night was spent in sexual ecstasy. Then one night he turned to Martha. "Martha, I need a break. I just want some shut eye tonight."
Martha looked peeved. "John, you remember what I said about "having some requirements"? Well, you are about to break our agreement. Roll your ass over and let's have some fun. You don't want to end up like Old Man Bean, do you?"
I rushed this one and did little editing. I know it can be trimmed and/or expanded. But I had to get-er done cuz I just enjoy this too much.