A Second Chance -- Chapter 51

SecondChance.jpg

A Second Chance

By Dawn Natelle

Just a short series of vignettes to keep the story moving: Dawn

MONDAY, June 13, 2016

Rachael was up early and got Bobby fed and off to school. Then she headed back to the church and the house next door where Mrs. Winchester lived.

As she got close, she saw Larissa, Carly and Mikki heading in from the opposite direction.

“Yippee. The whole team together again,” Carly said. Apparently she had slept over with Mikki the night before.

“No, Rachael can’t help us,” Mikki explained. “It will only be the three of us on this project.”

“I’m helping the lady in the house next to church move,” Rachael explained. “She is moving into a nursing home in a few days.”

As they neared the church they could see that there was a lot of work underway. On the back side of the church men were already on the roof, clearing off old shingles, which slid down to a commercial collection bin parked underneath between the two areas of scaffolding. On the street side of the church was a second bin, and men were erecting scaffolds on either side of it.

Rachael continued on to the house, while the other girls went to the church, with Mikki already filming.

“Gary and a man Mikki didn’t know walked up. “Hi girls, this is Skid, foreman for this project. He’s here to help you brush up on safety issues.”

Carly, who had Mikki’s old camera started taking pictures.

“First off,” Skid said in a no-nonsense voice, “whenever you are on my site, you will always wear a hard hat. We did some work on these last night, and the fitting inside should be small enough for a girl’s head. If not, we will adjust them further. You will wear the helmet at all times, and always keep the chin strap tight.”

“Next, whenever you are on the roof you will wear a safety rope. He held up a harness. Who here will be going up?”

“Me and Carly,” Mikki said. “Larissa has a thing about heights. She says she is as tall as she needs to be.”

Carly filmed as Mikki got into a harness, which went around her legs and then up and around her shoulders. “You probably won’t need this,” Skid warned, “but it must be connected to the cable at the church peak at all times when you are on the roof. If I find you unconnected, or not in a helmet, even for a second, then the project is over and you will be asked to leave.”

Carly then got into her harness. “I’m not going to be climbing the roof,” she explained. “I just want a little corner somewhere that I can film from.”

“Bark,” Skid shouted. “Can you take a couple of 2x4s up and make a little perch in the front corner for this young lady to film from. One board for her legs, and then another for her rear. You are going to be sore sitting there all morning,” Skid warned, “but at least your legs won’t cramp up from trying to hold your position on the slope for a long time.”

Mikki then filmed Carly getting her outfit on. Once that was done, Mikki headed up the scaffolding like a monkey, soon reaching the top. One of the men already in a harness grabbed the rope, and walked it to the top of the roof, where he fastened it to the cable that ran along the peak of the roof. Carly climbed up slower, and soon found the resting place that Bark had made for her. Her support rope was also connected, and she nestled into position at the lower corner of the roof.

Larissa stayed on the ground, and filmed her friends climbing up with her phone, and also took shots of work happening at ground level.

Most of the action was on the roof, and Mikki was right in the middle of it. Skid was up there as well, supervising the crew, and occasionally explaining what was happening to Mikki.

“We started at 7, so we have a good two hours of work in,” he explained. “The men are using shovels and pitchforks to lift the old shingles, which are then fed down to the bins below. We’re over half done lifting the old shingles on this side, which is coming wonderfully. We may not have the same luck on the other side, which is the southern exposure. Those shingles are in worse shape, and may break apart instead of coming off whole. That might mean we have to take each nail out by hand.”

He moved off, and Mikki kept filming. She had enough memory cards to hold a couple hours of video, so she kept the camera running, trying to get good angles of the men lifting the old shingles, and then showed the debris sliding down to the eaves. Larissa got shots of the shingles falling over the eaves, and down into the bin from the ground.

Later Skid came back, when almost all the old shingles were gone. “The men up there are replacing some areas where the roofing has rotted through,” he said, pointing. “Again, the other side will be worse. All the leaks are on that side, and we expect to find a lot of rotted boards there. We are almost ready to cover this side. We are really making good time.”

“What do you cover with?” Mikki asked.

“There will be a row of felt paper at the bottom,” Skid said. “Then we are going to cover the rest with Tyvek house wrap. It normally doesn’t get used on roofs, but I think it will extend the life of the roof by at least five years. We are using 35-year shingles, but you seldom actually get that long … with the Tyvek I’m hoping we will. The shiny side goes up.”

He held out a sample of the white material, which usually would wrap a house before the brick or siding was installed. One side was slick, and the other side was a bit rougher.

The material went on quickly. Gary had rented nail guns for the crews, and it only took about 10 minutes for each of the rows of Tyvek to be installed. By 11 a.m. it was all down, and the men were starting on shingles in the lower corner opposite to where Carly sat.

Carly was a bit afraid sitting on the top of the roof. She was near the eaves, which were still 25 feet in the air. Mikki, on the other hand, was fearless, and was all over the place. She had even sat near the steeple to get shots of the surrounding area. Carly was glad ‘second shooter’ status meant she could just park herself and take shots, like right now where she was filming Mikki jumping about on the peak.

Although Carly didn’t notice it, Mikki had gotten something on one of her sneakers, and then stepped on a scrap of Tyvek that was laying upside down. What Carly did see through her viewfinder was Mikki starting to slide down the roof on one foot, going faster and faster. The last three feet of the roof did not have Tyvek, since tar paper was nailed there, but that didn’t slow the girl down. Instead, she arced over the edge of the roof, with her hard hat flying to the left, and her expensive Nikon camera going to the right.

She had screamed all the way down the slide. Carly started to scream as Mikki neared the edge, and below Larissa started to scream as she looked through her viewfinder and saw Mikki fly through the air over the edge of the eaves, heading for the ground.

All work stopped at the screams, and men watched the slide in horror. Those on the ground, including Gary, saw the girl flying through the air. Then the rope played out and went taut, and arrested the arc. A second later Mikki was hanging upside down in the air. Larissa wanted to run towards her friend, but something made her hold back, continuing to film on her phone.

Carly was nearly hysterical, and grabbed onto the neck of the crew member who came to her aid. She thought she had witnessed the death of her friend. The man carefully worked her along to the scaffold, where he got her to the planking. She was unclipped by a man at the top, and slowly was half-carried and half climbed to the ground. As soon as she was over the edge, she could see Mikki hanging there, upside down, and not moving.

The men on the crew were all in action. They paired up on either side of the rope that held Mikki aloft, all along its run up the roof. A man at the top undid the clip from the cable, immediately clipping it to his belt. He then started down the steep slope, as the men fed the rope out hand by hand, slowly lowering the girl to the ground.

Mikki regained consciousness as her head was face to face with Gary, still upside down. Skid was on the other side, and the two men reached out and took her shoulders, so that in another minute she was horizontal, and then laying on the ground.

A few minutes later an ambulance squealed into the church lot, followed by a van with Stoner Photography on the side. Mikki was already on the stretcher when she saw her dad.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said. “I think I broke the good camera.”

“The camera be damned,” Bob Stoner said. “Are you all right?”

“Yes,” she said with a wan smile. “It wasn’t what I was planning, but I guess we proved that the safety measures were good. I’m a bit sore where this harness goes around my legs, and I think I blacked out for a bit.”

Bob got into the ambulance with his daughter, after handing his keys to Gary, who had two men drive his van to the hospital for him.

Just then Rachael came around the corner from the house, where she had gotten a lot of work done for Mrs. Winchester. “What happened?” she asked Larissa, who was still holding a shaking Carly.

“Mikki fell off the roof,” Larissa said.

“What?” Rachael shouted.

“She’s okay, but they just left for the hospital in the ambulance,” Larissa said.

“We have to go,” Rachael insisted.

“No, we have to go to school,” Larissa said. “We talked to her, and she says she is fine.”

“How did it happen?” Rachael said.

“Like this,” Carly said, somehow calming down now that Rachael was there. She replayed the video of the slide down the roof on her camera. Larissa followed up showing Mikki come flying over the edge, only to jerk to a halt, followed by the rescue.

“Wow. And I was right next door and didn’t have a clue. Bring those cameras to school. At least we will be able to explain to our teachers why Mikki is missing afternoon classes.”

-- -- -- -- - - - -

Helen rose and looked out the window to watch the majestic Niagara Falls from her hotel window. Steve had wanted to take her on a honeymoon to remember, mentioning Paris, Rome, and Athens, but Helen had refused. She insisted that they be back for Sunday morning services. She wanted to honeymoon at Niagara Falls, where her grandparents had, so he had booked a week at Fallsview Sheraton, overlooking the falls.

They had driven less than two hours from the church to their hotel, and had a relaxing evening last night. It was not the first night they had slept together: Helen had considered herself married to the young constable since they had prayed at the painting. But it was the first time they were legally married, and that made it a bit special.

“What do you want to do this morning?” Steve asked from the bed.

“That,” she said, pointing out the window at the Falls. “I want to sit out somewhere where I can watch the falls. It is one of the Lord’s most impressive creations, and I want to experience it fully.”

So after a breakfast in the hotel, Helen and Steve walked along the pathway to a place where they could look down at the majestic falls. Helen sat down crosslegged in her jeans, and Steve sat directly behind her, letting her lean on him as she studied the falls.”

“Do you want lunch?” Steve asked a few minutes later.

“What? So soon?” Helen asked.

“It’s almost one,” Steve said. “You have been staring at that thing for nearly four hours.”

“I have? It is just so awe-inspiring,” she said. “But yes, I do need to feed you, although I would like to come back here tomorrow.”

“Maybe after lunch we can visit Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the Wax Museums,” Steve suggested. “There are supposed to be a lot of things to do at Clifton Hill.”

---- -- - -- - - -

The three members of the Vandereynd family rose from the prayer rails at the painting. It was the second time Lisa Vandereynd had prayed. The first time had ended her alcoholism. The first time for his husband Hans came when the painting had alerted him that his daughter Autumn had being trying to hang herself in the three-car garage of their bungalow. The second time had been with his wife, and it had made him realize that his devotion to his work as a contractor was destroying his marriage and (nearly) his family.

For Autumn it was a first time at the painting. She wore a turtleneck sweater that covered the rope burns on her neck. She rose from the painting feeling better than she had felt in years. The teenaged angst that had driven her to try suicide was gone. She understood things at a deeper level now, and decided that casual comments made by her classmates would no longer drive her to the depths of despair.

“I want to move,” Lisa said. “I want to move into this neighborhood. Can we?”

“I thought the bungalow was your dream house?” Hans said.

“It was,” Lisa said. “But my dreams are different now. Everything there is so new and modern … and tainted. I became a drunk there. My daughter nearly died there. I don’t think I will ever be able to go into that garage again.”

“Well, I definitely don’t want you to start drinking again. The bungalow is one of the nicest houses in the subdivision. We have a lot of equity in it. But all the homes are older around here. Do you really want an older home?”

“Actually, I do. We would have to fix it up inside, but some of these old houses are beautiful. I want to be a traditional wife in a traditional house,” Lisa said.

“Well, let’s ask this man if there are any houses for sale in the area,” Hans said, gesturing to Gary, who was doing a shift in the lobby.

“I overheard your conversation,” Gary said, “and it happens that just yesterday a man who owns two houses in the neighborhood told me he wanted to sell. They are rental properties, but could be made into a family home again. One has three units, and all are empty. The other is slightly smaller, with one tenant in the lower unit. The upper there is inaccessible at the moment, due to the stairs being condemned. I have a work party going out tomorrow to fix them.”

“Who is the agent handling the sale?” Hans asked.

“Actually, there is no agent,” Gary explained. “The owner was so rattled by the upstairs tenant nearly falling through the stairs that he just wants out of the property rental business. I guess the building inspector gave him a rough ride for letting the stairs deteriorate. Plus the upstairs tenant is threatening to sue. I do have the keys to the places, if you want to look.”

“No agent?” Hans mused. That would lower the price somewhat. “Yes, if you have time we would love to see the houses.”

Gary phoned into the shed to get someone to replace him in the lobby and then walked the family down to the first house. “This is the one with the bad stairs,” Gary said. “It looks like Mrs. Cassidy is awake downstairs. We can ask if she will let us look around. As a tenant she has the right to insist on an advance notice, but she attends our church, and I think she will let us in.”

“Gary, and some friends,” Mrs. Cassidy said as she came to the door. “What do I owe this pleasure?”

“Mrs. Cassidy,” Gary said. “Have you spoken to Mr. Hunt lately?”

“The landlord? No dear, why?” the older lady said.

“Well, it turns out that he is looking to sell his buildings. This family is looking for a place to buy. They wanted to look around.”

The three quickly made it through the building. It was small, although of course with the upstairs it might be large enough for the family, even though it would be less than half the space of the bungalow. They returned to the living room, where Gary was consoling a weeping Mrs. Cassidy.

“What’s wrong?” Lisa said, immediately going to the sobbing woman.

“Well, Mrs. Cassidy was not aware that the building was being sold,” Gary explained. “It is a bit of a shock to her.”

“I don’t want to move,” the lady sobbed. “I was hoping this could be my last home.”

“Well, I certainly won’t move you out of your house,” Lisa said. “We have another house to look at, but we certainly won’t buy this one, and evict you from your home.”

“No, but that just means that someone else will. Even if they do buy it for rentals, they are liable to raise the rents beyond what I can pay.”

Gary left the sobbing woman and took the family five houses down the street, and unlocked the empty house, one unit at a time. Hans’ professional eye could visualize the three units as a single home, and explained how the layout would work to his wife and daughter. Autumn made a claim on an upstairs bedroom that had a widow’s walk balcony over the front porch. Two other bedrooms upstairs could be merged into a master suite, with the kitchen behind being converted into a walk-in closet and master bath. There were two more rooms upstairs, which would become a guestroom and an office for Hans.

Downstairs small kitchen to the front apartment was back-to-back with the kitchen of the rear unit, and Hans suggested that they be merged into a large country kitchen. The front bedroom was originally the living room and could be restored to that function. The other unit had two bedrooms, and had a small bathroom at the rear. The front room would become a parlor or a library, mirroring the living room, and the room behind could be restored to a dining room with good access to the kitchen. The final room at the back was claimed by Lisa as her den. It had beautiful views of the large backyard, where Lisa said she would plant a garden next spring.

“I didn’t think you were into gardening anymore,” Hans said.

“I always was, but that neighborhood was snooty, and gardening was considered lower-class by the other women. Look, there is a garden behind nearly every house you can see from here,” Lisa said.

“Yes. The bones of the place are good. Much better than the other place. The new owner there will have a lot of work to bring it up to code. I think that the tenant is right: they will need to raise her rent.”

“That is so sad,” Autumn said. “I wish we could buy both places, and let her stay in her home. She seemed like such a nice old lady.”

Lisa looked at Hans: “Can we?”

Hans calculated. “With the equity we have in the bungalow, and a mortgage quite a bit smaller than the one we have we could carry both places. The upstairs there needs a lot of work, and a bit downstairs.” He turned to Gary. “You said you have men coming to work on the stairs tomorrow. Are they experienced in doing stairs? They can be pretty tricky.”

“One is a certified carpenter,” Gary said. “The other two will be just helpers. I don’t know if Stan has done stairs. I think he was a fence and deck man. Most of the top carpenters are working on the church roof this week.”

“Let me send one of my stairs guys tomorrow. If I’m taking the place, I want the repairs done right. I will pay for the lumber. And Gus can look over the rest of the place to see what needs doing up there. Let’s talk price.”

Gary told him what the current owner was asking, and Hans came back with a much lower price. He noted that the one unit was condemned and could take a lot of work to replace. He made his offer conditional on his man inspecting the upstairs apartment.

Gary phoned Mr. Hunt and put forth the offer. The man thought for about 12 seconds before agreeing, but only if the offer was outright, with no condition. Hans agreed: he felt he had a big enough discount to cover all the renovations that might be needed. Mr. Hunt was happy, claiming that he would finally be able to get a good night’s sleep. He offered full access to the apartments over the time before closing, so Hans could have men start the renovations.

“Can you start right away?” Lisa asked. “I know you have a lot of other jobs on the go.”

“Yes, but this is the home for my family. I know that my family comes first: now.”

“But first we have to head back to that old lady. We can’t let her fret all night about her house. We can tell her that she can stay there as long as she wishes, at the same rent,” Lisa said.

----- --- - - -- -

Rachael had spent the evening working on a special project. The Top Girl and Boy speeches would be tomorrow morning, and she had come up with an idea. Once she finished, she was ready for bed. Geoff and Maria had turned in early. The one downside to their day off was that on Tuesday Mike would be off, and that meant they had to go in for the 11 p.m. shift.

Dear Lord

Thank you so much for saving Mikki today. I know your hand was in that affair, and I don’t know what I would have done if Mikki was hurt … or worse. I owe you big time, and will work especially hard from now on to pay you back.

Amen



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