Friday, August 1, 2014

Chapter 8

"Mr. Baffa might not like us poking into his stuff."

Sawyer said, "Ain't his stuff.  He signed it over to you.  Didn't that part get explained?"

I was trying to absorb that and just kinda stood blinking.  "Hey, you ok?"

"Uh ... I guess so.  But won't he be back?"

"Nope.  Last I heard he's only got a couple of days left."

Surprised, confused, wary of Sawyer's seeming indifference, and a lot of other things I wasn't ready to examine I said, "He didn't look like that when I saw him."

"You probably didn't see him in good light.  Plus he was more than likely hopped up on a bunch of medicine.  He's bad sick and all eat up with cancer.  Most folks are surprised he's still breathing as it is.  Gramps said Baffa is as surprised as everyone else and kinda figured God was refusing to let him out of his misery until he took care of this one last thing ... you."

I shook my head.  "I might not be sure about too many things right now but I do know the one last thing he was taking care of wasn't me.  It was this house and the land.  That's what he said anyway."

Sawyer looked at me as we stood in the entry way and said slowly, "Might be so.  Baffa got strange as he got old and he wasn't what you'd call real normal before he went off to war.  At least that's what Uncle James said a couple of times."  He picked up a pad of paper and a pen and carefully asked, "This ain't gonna freak you out or anything is it?"

"Not freak me out exactly but it does feel weird.  But it’s just more weird on top of weird so I guess I need to just get over it."

"Yeah, I would say I'm feeling a little of that myself.  So, bottom to top or top to bottom?"  When I just looked at him he said, "The house.  You wanna start at the top and work our way down or bottom and work our way up?"

"Oh.  Uh ... what exactly are we looking for?"

"Need to see if anything really needs attention and just an inventory and stuff.  I don't know ... pretend we're looking to buy the place and we're you know like checking it out to see if it's worth the price tag."

"Ok.  Yeah ... yeah I can do that.  Might as well start at the top then.  That's the way you clean a house ... top to bottom so you don't track dirt through areas you just cleaned."

"Top to bottom was what I was thinking too to start with the biggie.  The roof looks ok from the outside but it’s hard to tell with those old slate roofs.  You can do these stairs?"

"I'm fine.  Our wing of the school had a freak ton of stairs and I get along just fine there even when it is like a stampede in the hallway.  Just don't expect me to run or carry anything if there isn't a handrail for balance."  I was used to people thinking I couldn't do much but that didn't mean I liked having it pointed out all the time.

When we got to the top floor - the third floor - even Sawyer was breathing hard in the dusty air.  "That last flight was kinda steep.  You ok?"

My hip was starting to ping but I wasn't going to let him know that.  "I'm fine."

"You don't look fine.  You look like you hurt."

I glanced at him and finally admitted it.  "The risers were funny on that last flight.  Narrow, steep, and tall."

"They were that.  I've never been in a house with three floors and it looks like there might be an attic too," he said pointing to another narrow flight of stairs at the end of the dark hallway."

"Oh joy," I huffed.

"You don't have to.  I can ..."

"Sure I do.  Let's just get on with it."

But when we got there the door at the top of the stairs was locked.  "Great," Sawyer muttered.

Something caught my eye in the dim light from the funny round window on the landing and I told him, "Top of the door frame."

Carefully he looked up and then reached and found an antique key.  "Well lookey.  It fits."

We pushed open the door and Sawyer whistled as he flashed his flashlight around.  "Reckon there's any skeletons up here?"

"Looks like there's just about everything else so why not that," I told him.

"Sure 'nuff.  Looks like the roof is ok ... or at least nothing going on I can see."

"You want this cleaned out?"


"Cleaned as in emptied and reorganized or whatever."

He nodded.  "Eventually we'll need to but it can wait.  It'll have to wait.  We need to get settled and after that we'll have crops coming in and Gramps expects us all to help so we can get a share."

"Share of what?"

He looked to see if I was joking then shook his head.  "I keep forgetting, you might be a ridge girl but you've lived in town your whole life."  We left the attic and went back down to the third floor.  "For the next couple of months most of our time is going to be spent cultivating and then bringing in the garden, the stuff in the orchard, and the field crops and doing what we've got to do to preserve the harvest.  Family is too big to count on store-bought stuff and Gramps doesn't think the stores are going to be open regular like they used to be for a long time."

That I could believe.  Even the Brensers had been down to whatever they could get out of the charity boxes from their church and meals had gotten harder to piece out even using those lessons all of us in the hospitality track at school were taking.

The third floor was a long hallway with doors opening off of it on one side and a line of windows on the other.  Two of the rooms didn't look like more than big walk-in closets but a couple of them were pretty big.

Sawyer said, "Kinda weird set up.  And they're all empty."

"And no bathroom up here either."

"You're right, good catch.  Baffa told Gramps he'd leave some house plans and other papers that would help figure things out.  Don't know where he left them though assuming he remembered to."

"Might be with the papers he was telling me would be in his nightstand only I'm not supposed to get them until he dies."

Sawyer snorted.  "Forget that.  We'll look for them when we get down there.  I'll stick to the bargain Baffa made but that ain't part of it and seems kinda stupid when it doesn't need to be.  I don't like the kinda surprise them papers could hold so keep your eyes peeled for important stuff like that."

I nodded.  I felt a little silly but agreed to go along.

Second floor was more normal but musty like it had been closed up and hadn’t been used in a long time.  Poking his head in everywhere Sawyer said, "Big room on the end must be the master bedroom.  It has a room attached to it that you can also get to from the hallway so that's probably a nursery or something.  Gramps' house has a similar set up and that's what he said it got used for."  I tried not to show how uncomfortable that made me.  "Four more bedrooms; two big ones and two little ones.  Then that bathroom at the end of the hall.  Tub in there looks like you could float a bass boat on it.  I kicked it, it’s a real cast iron tub but it sure needs re-surfacing ... might be the original enamel on it."

I nodded.  "The water stains are pretty orange and thick in the sink and toilet bowl too."

"Didn't smell so hot in there either so I need to check the p-trap."

"The what?"

"The plumbing.  There's a u-bend in the pipes and if the water evaporates out of it or there's a leak it can let the waste gas back into the house.  Do me a favor and check the linens on the beds and check the curtains for dry rot, mold, or mildew while I check the floors for water stains or soft spots."

About five minutes later I feel something crawling on me and when I turn my head to see what it was I came face to face with a little face.  I must have shrieked then froze because when Sawyer came running and asked what's wrong all I could do was whisper, "Get it off."

"Get what off?"

I turned real slow and asked, "Is it still there?"

"Oh man, hang on."  It took him a moment but he finally got it detached and then over to the window.  "Piece of glass is out.  Looks like they covered it with plastic that has dry rotted.  Probably how it got in."

"Was that what I thought it was?" I asked trying to get rid of the creepy crawlies.

"It was just a little bat.  Hey, it didn't bite you or anything did it?"

"No.  But check the curtains to make sure there's not more of them."

While he did that he said, "We'd smell them if they made a habit of coming in here.  No ammonia odor anywhere, not even the attic.  We'd had 'em get in the warehouse and try and roost and it only takes a couple of days for them to stink the place up.  No smell so they don't make a habit of it.  Maybe the plastic just split.  I've got some cardboard and I'll tape it over the hole until I can get it fixed."

I shuddered.  "A flying rat.  That's all that is."

"Actually bats are beneficial.  They eat a lot of bugs.  Having a healthy bat population is a good thing."

"If you say so."

"Have you looked in the closets yet?"

"There aren't any closets except in the big room and I didn't look in there because you wanted me to look at this other stuff."

He turned back from the window and just stared.  "Most girls I know would be in every nook and cranny by now."

"Boundaries.  And rules.  Every house I've ever lived in had them.  The biggest one was you don't go snooping in other people's stuff."

"This ain't other people's stuff.  It's yours."

"Well pardon me for still finding that hard to believe."

"You're pardoned," he said with a small grin then laughed.  "You were stiff as a board when I was plucking that little thing off you."

"Ha ha."

"So you're scared of dogs and bats.  Anything else?"

"I'm not scared of dogs or bats."

"Sure looked like it to me," he said with another grin.

"Then you need glasses," I told him turning back to lift up and bedspread only to start coughing.

We both left the room with our eyes streaming.  Sawyer griped, "Bats and flying dust bunnies.  What next?"

"Locusts," I deadpanned.

Sawyer looked at me and then started laughing.  "You're alright you know that? Tell you what, we know what's on this floor so let's go down to the first floor.  The windows up here are all painted shut and there's not going to be any cleaning until I can get that fixed."


  1. the house sounds HUGE!!!! I have to agree with the greek god, I'd done been all over the place and into every nook and cranny... and I was raised to NOT be like that.

  2. Such fun. I like their banter. That house sounds huge. It will be interesting to hear about the land.

  3. Allllllllllllllright I am all caught up, great chapters and story Kath.

  4. Caught up again :) I love this story already!