Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Renovation (part1)


March 17th 1987

Hello. Hi. My name is Mike.

The doctor has told me to start writing this dumb diary because he thinks it might help. As if I've not got enough on my plate already! He says, “Mike, I know what it's like, sometimes you want to say things but you think they are things you can't say – you think people will make fun of you for saying them, but you don't need to show them to me or anyone, just write them down.”

I guess the doc has a point, but it still feels dumb.

I'm gonna try and keep it up maybe a week or two at the most, before I get real busy. Work is good at the moment, Joe and Charlie say we've got projects to keep us busy up until August, which is good 'cos Louise has some time off around the end of August and I think we could both do with some kind of holiday, it's been a long year.

Anyway, this week we're up at some old house way out in the woods somewhere. I'm not a very good writer, I don't describe so good, but it's beautiful: real old style house, all wood with a raised porch and that kinda thing. One half is modernised, and that's where the family who are paying us have been living, but they want the rest renovating and made hospitable for the winter.

We don't get a lot of this kinda work any more, but it's nice to see a family who don't just want to make everything look like all the houses on TV, they basically want to keep everything the same as far as possible, but they need us to replace damp bits, wire it up properly, sand stuff down: that kinda stuff.

Louise has been getting up for work real early so she can cram in some overtime to save for stuff, and she's been leaving me my breakfast cold on the stove because she's gone by seven in the morning and it's only just gone eight and I'm still here. She's real good like that though, I don't think I'd know what to do without her sometimes, I even burn coffee when she's out, I'm useless.

Breakfast is just beans and sausage so I only have to warm it up, which I can do in the microwave. I don't like using the other stuff, I'm no good with it.

Joe comes around nine or ten to pick me up, so I guess I can write up some more at lunch. This still feels kinda dumb but the doc says it might help.

It's the afternoon now and I'm sat on the Mountford's porch writing this. Joe and Charlie asked what I was doing and I know they probably wanna laugh at me for it but they didn't, so that was good. If it was Dwight or Frank they'd be telling me I was a sissy or something and it'd really put me off. To tell the truth I was kinda looking forward to writing something, just because this place is so nice and relaxing.

The house is fairly deep in the woods and it definitely has that New England magic too it. Probably been here for a few more decades than I've been alive, even has it's own well and a shed round back with a rusty old generator in. It's warmer than it should be in March, but with all the trees there is plenty of shade, and the porch is good too. It's just so calm here. It's serene, and maybe a little too quiet, but we've got plenty of work to do.

Most of the house is fine and we'll just need to do some sanding and some painting, maybe fixing up the windows and stuff as there is a lot of damp due to how poorly insulated the whole place is. Oh man, I say some damp, but this one room is practically rotten. That one is gonna be a big job, some of the wood is buckled and broken in ways I didn't think wood could break. The room itself is gonna be a peach when it's done though, has these nice big bay windows with what was probably a sill that used to be seats, and it faces out on a real pretty patch of flowers and stuff near the well which is probably why it's so damp in here, foundations running down into the ground near where the well is... probably some seepage and that's caused all this rot to creep up. Weird room though, never seen wood all bent outta shape like that before. Doesn't smell too bad though, I've seen apartments with less rot than this and they've stunk. Helluva thing that smell, enough to make a grown man sick.

Well, oughta leave it there any way. Charlie's stuck the radio on and there's that damn awful Huey Lewis and the News song on again. I swear, kids will buy anything if the radio tells 'em to.

March 18th

I didn't write in the morning today. I found it real hard to get out of bed, but I felt bad for staying in so long when Louise is already out and at work. We had a good night last night though, she stayed on later than she had expected to so she got take-out because she said she couldn't trust me not tu burn water and so we ate that and watched a movie on TV, I can't remember which one it was but Louise had loved it so that was good. I like it when she can take some time off and relax despite working all those long hours and looking after me.

I had a bit of an episode last night though, but it wasn't so bad. Probably why I didn't feel like getting up this morning and probably why Charlie said I looked like shit this morning.

We did more work on the house today, a lot of sanding and such. The Mountford's left today for New York, they're going to meet their kid who moved out there last fall and does art or something. They were talking about making that back room near the well into some kind of studio for him. I think that's a pretty good idea, the view from those bay windows, over the flowers and into the woods... you could get lost looking out there. It'd be great for a creative guy like they say there son is, I didn't catch what he was exactly but I know he's no banker or businessman.

I stood a while in that back room today, as I say it's a real nice room and because there isn't any smell the damp isn't that bad. It feels colder in there because of it though, but it's not too cold as the breeze that gets in is pretty warm anyway. Joe was saying we might need to dig under it and around the foundation and maybe insulate it a little, so we gotta rip up all these floorboards.

Those floorboards are weird though, all twisted outta shape, like someone's taken a rib cage and just played hell with it, like it was made of putty, all twisted and weird. The boards start and finish places that doesn't make sense. I think it's just because of how rotten and warped they all are, it makes it hard to figure how they all fit together, but you can definitely see the outline of where those seats in the window should be, it all kinda curves around there and some bits are made up into little box like seats, sticking out like baby teeth or something.

Charlie still keeps putting the damn radio on, it's nicer here when it's quiet so I wish they wouldn't bother. They still keep playing that Huey rubbish. I don't get on with it but what do I know? I've never been good with music.

March 21st

I didn't write yesterday because I had another episode. I'm only doing this now because Louise says that the doctor knows what he's saying because she did the same when she was little, wrote a diary about all the stuff she was thinking about when she was a kid. She even got it out from the spare room and showed me all the stuff she'd written about when she was a teen .

It was all stuff about boys and clothes and that kinda girly stuff and she said it all reads real silly now but when she wrote it she'd thought it was so important and that she had to get it out or else it would mess with her head. She said she used to be into all heavy rock music and stuff and died her hair black and wrote all the time in her diary and she said it really helped. She's so good to me that I felt like I owed it to her to carry on writing just a little bit longer.

She's sleeping now and I’m just writing this on the couch with a beer. It is kinda relaxing I guess, better than watching the TV anyhow. I think the attacks are a bit better than usual, I don't fit as violently any more and it's been a long time since I bit my tongue or the inside of my mouth or got hurt from fitting so hard. Sometimes I feel stupid when I remember things that have set me off, when that space shuttle exploded last year, I had a bad spell for months and I couldn't do any work because I'd have an attack every day and it was dangerous around the tools and stuff.

I feel bad about that because we wasted a lot of money with me off work which is why Louise is having to do all this extra work. The pills and stuff have helped I guess, but the new doc is all progressive and has all these fancy diplomas from all the big colleges and he said we should try things like this, so I'll give it a try. He probably knows best.

Yesterday at the house the work we got done was pretty good, we started digging up the ground on the side of the house near the well with a mini Bobcat excavator we got on rental for a good price. The ground is pretty dry on top but it gets pretty damp but it's still solid so it should be good for a house to stand on. Because we've dug it up though you can see the rot in the wood around the foundations. It's pretty bad, all winding up around the outside like veins or a vine creeper or something, which means it's probably real bad inside. I think they're pretty lucky that this side of the house hasn't collapsed on itself.

But, the wood that we've exposed bugs me. It's all rotted and like I expected, but none of it is twisting like the boards indoors. I'm no expert on wood so I don't know if it's just a different kind or something. It doesn't matter much, on Monday they're gonna deliver some new floorboards so we need to get to work ripping the old ones out.

I'll leave it here today. It felt kinda good to write in here again I guess.

March 23rd

Well Louise is off work today, she's complaining of a bad headache and I'm not surprised, she's put in a lot of extra hours at that office and I guess it's all just catching up with her. She still got up with me and made me coffee and some toast, and then we just lay in bed for a bit. It was relaxing except for the cars all going off to work down the street. I'm thinking we should maybe look at moving instead of getting a holiday now, somewhere quieter than this place.

At the house we've had all the wood delivered so we spent all morning ripping out the old floorboards in that back room. I asked Joe and Charlie if they thought the wood was all weird too but they said it was just warped from the damp and it wasn't any worse than they've seen.

Now, I'm not saying they're lying but I've never seen it that bad before, it was starting to look to me like roots or arms or something all zigzagging over and under each other and bending up at angles that didn't look right. I think maybe I'm just in a bad way because of the episodes and stuff so I don't really push it with them. The boards rip up easy any how and Joe and Charlie are having a great time doing it, they always like wrecking stuff more than they like fixing it back up.

We found a weird thing after ripping up all the boards so we stopped for a while so Charlie could phone the boss and ask for the Mountford's contact details. Underneath all the floor there, there is all the rest of the underfloor stuff that we expected, old pipes and some stonework for the foundations, but there is this door down there too. Charlie reckons it's some kind of old basement or storm shelter. The boss says he'll contact the family and ask what we want to do with it, so for now we just get back to fixing up everything else in the remaining rooms and painting it all nice.

Louise has got me writing this again before I come to sleep, she says I gotta be strict with it or it won't do much good, but I don't have much of anything to write really. I'm enjoying working on the house, it's so damn quiet out there and it feels great being away from all the noise and stuff. I told Louise about that song they keep playing on the radio, she says it's a pretty big hit and it's called Jacob's Ladder. I told her I didn't like it and she laughed at me and told me that I'd never got on with pop music, but she thought it was a good song. It probably was, but I didn't like it, it ruined the way that place felt when they put the radio on, I liked it best when we was all working in the quiet of the trees.

I think I'll talk to Louise some time next week about moving, I want to move to an old house in the woods maybe, or at least out of the city. That way, we can be on holiday whenever we're together.

March 24th

We got a call from the boss in the morning, he says the Mountford's weren't sure what the door was for but told us the constructions plans were probably in the local library and that they had no use for any cellar or storm shelter, so we could see to it however we wanted.

Dwight ran the plans over to us because he was off out of state to do some work somewhere out west, so he thought it'd be easier for us to just sit tight and wait for him. He asked me how my diary was going and if I had a lock on it with a bit of a smirk but he's not mean really, just a dumb jerk sometimes. Charlie and Joe didn't join in so he quit pretty soon and he'd brought us some sandwiches so we ate them whilst looking over the plans in the kitchen.

They were pretty straightforward plans and showed that there used to be a trapdoor in the room that lead down to that other door which was the opening to some kind of storm shelter just like we'd thought. It was pretty deep according to the plans, but nothing really unusual. Someone must've taken out the steps and the trapdoor and re-done the floor a long time ago, maybe that's something to do with why all that wood was different to the rest of the house.

We called the boss and let him know we'd go down and clear it out and maybe think about filling it up with concrete. If it was that deep it was likely contributing to the damp, what with it being this big hollowed out space in all that wet earth. He said it was a pretty good bet and he'd just make sure that the family didn't have an issue with that, although he said with what they'd told him earlier it didn't sound like they would.

At home again, Louise is still pretty bad but she made me something to eat before going back to bed, she says she'll go to the doctors too if it carries on any longer because her boss says there is lots of overtime going still and she's desperate to get back. I told her she didn't need to worry about it but didn't mention my idea yet.

We went down into that shelter earlier. There are old iron beds and chairs down there, rusty as heck because it looks like a lot of moisture has seeped in over the years and pooled in some of the corners. There is lots of wooden panelling down there, and support struts and the like. It's all rotting and it smelt really bad with the damp and the stagnant water and the rusting furniture, but no one has used it for ages so that's to be expected.

The was an odd thing though, some kind of metal hatch or door on one of the walls at about chest height. It was really rusted, and the wood around it was rotted worse than I’d seen upstairs or down here. I knew it was odd because I'd not seen it on any of the plans. Charlie said it wasn't really that odd and he'd seen this kind of thing in old houses before. He said they were in a lot of houses that were built before the Civil War, and that they'd had tunnels and escape routes and all sorts added in without any official declarations.

Still, I found it a bit... disquieting, just because the wood looked the same as before. It was all rotted but the grain didn't make any sense, regardless of the rot. The swirls and lines were mixed up and splinters stuck out in places that didn't feel right.

After we'd cleared some of the beds out I got a bit short with Charlie because of the damn radio, and that stupid Ladder song again. He told me to relax about it and didn't know why I had such a problem with it, he said it was just a song. I told him it wasn't the song even though he knew I didn't like it, just the needless noise in such a quiet place. I don't think I hurt his feelings too bad, but I must've seemed pretty angry as he switched it off and we carried on putting the finishing touches to the other rooms without much noise of any sort.

It feels good reflecting on that kinda thing here, I know I was a bit of a jerk about it and I feel pretty bad about it, but maybe it's just because of how I've been feeling recently, I don't know.

March 25th

Feeling pretty groggy today. Woken up by Louise who was rushing about to go to work. Said she's feeling better, made me eggs and coffee and said sorry for getting me up but she had to hurry out.

Had a dream last night, about a ladder of all things. I was on the ladder, and it was cold. It was pitch black but if I knew straight away that I was gripping the rungs of a ladder. I felt really tense as soon as I figured out I had no way of knowing how high off the ground I was. I couldn't see anything below me, and above me there was the tiniest pinprick of light, like a star in the night.

I moved one of my feet off the rung it was on and reached down with it, stretching for another rung. It swung there in the darkness and it felt pretty sure there was nothing below. I pulled myself back up and then used one hand to feel about for anything, but I couldn't even find a wall, it was like the ladder was hanging from something way up above.

I remember panicking in my dream and then starting to climb like a madman. Just going one hand over the other as fast as I could. I swore I could feel the darkness around me moving and changing, as though I was making a swift ascent, but the light at the top stayed real small like a speck of dust. That was when Louise woke me up by dropping a shoe or something on the floor near the bed, and the dream just ended right there.

I felt stupid, but I told Louise when I came round properly. She thinks it's that song that mentions it but she was too busy rushing about to really think about it. I was pretty selfish and pushed a little bit more she said she thought the ladder was something religious she'd hear about once and laughed saying that maybe I was finally finding God after all these years but that I'd have to save it until tonight.

Work was light today as we were waiting for cement to seal up this shelter. Joe was annoyed it hadn't turned up so he went back to the boss to see if they could sort something else out quicker. He seemed a little agitated but Charlie didn't know why. There wasn't really anything for us to do in the morning whilst we were waiting so Charlie asked if he could go to town a little earlier than lunch and do some stuff at the bank. I don't know he asked me, but I didn't have any objections so he went at about eleven and promised to bring back donuts or coffee.

When he was gone I did a stupid thing, and I'm only writing it here so I can maybe look back on it and make some sense of it. I went down into the shelter and tried to force that hatch open. It would barely budge because it was so rusted, and it's hinges were covered over by the wooden frame around it. I pulled on the handle that was welded on, but it was rusty and pretty thing and after a few minutes of me yanking on it the thing just clean snapped off, but not before it budged just a little bit at the top. I couldn't really get even my finger tips in the gap, but I felt the air coming through and it was damp and stale and cold.

I eventually prised it open with a crowbar we had lying around in the one of the tool boxes. We usually used it to prise up tough boards and planks, but it worked just the same on the hatch. I nearly threw up when it swung open though, a great wave of cold air just rushed out, that's the best way of describing it, and the smell awful, just rot and damp and mould.

I left it a few minutes and went to sit upstairs on the porch in the sun, but after giving it five and letting my stomach settle, I went back down. It still smelt bad, but not as bad as that first initial rush. Before it felt like the air had hit me, like it had some kind of real force behind it, but now it felt settled and stagnant, save for a slight breeze coming from the opening.

The opening appeared to be some kind of shaft, it was bigger than the hatch and maybe big enough for a man to crawl down. I contemplated doing this and I felt stupid after a few seconds. Shortly after though I must have had some kind of episode because I only remember waking up near the ladder we'd used to get down here after Charlie had come back with coffee.

I was bleeding from my nose and mouth and Charlie said it looked like I'd had a pretty bad fit and it was lucky I'd not fallen in any of the water down there because I could have drowned even in something that shallow. He was right, and he looked pretty scared as I'm sure he'd only seen my fit once before and probably didn't really know what to do. He mentioned I'd been murmuring before I came round, but he couldn't make out what I was saying.

I really didn't remember any of it so I told him that and then we had coffee and decided to call it a day, it was the early afternoon after all and it didn't seem like we were getting cement any time soon and Joe hadn't come back either.

I started writing all of that pretty much as soon as I got back and stopped when Louise came back pretty early. Her overtime had been cut short due to a power cut. I didn't want to ruin her surprise break from work so I didn't mention anything that had happened and she was pleased I was writing, but I stopped so we could enjoy the rest of the evening. She made an excellent meal, but she's still really tired from being ill so I let her get to bed and started writing this again.

I'm remembering weird half images that I must have had when I had my attack earlier. I've never had that before, but I've also never wrote about things like this before, so maybe this helps me remember. I guess this is why the doctor told me to do this.

What I'm remembering doesn't really seem to help though, it's just a weird thing, like the darkness from the tunnel was tangible or something similar. It looked like it was flowing out, like the air had before, but it was twisting like the wooden floorboards had before, in ways that didn't really make a whole lot of sense to me. It didn't feel right, and I swear I remember hearing a low rumble or vibration in the earth.

I'm remembering it like that, but it's broken, and weird. Kinda like a bad film or home video. It isn't really right in my head, and maybe I just saw the shadows strangely because of the fit and the rumbling could have been Charlie arriving in the truck which is why I heard it from the ground. I don't know, and I'm a bit frustrated so I'm putting this away for a bit now.

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