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Construction News Chapter 3.2 – The First Curse August 23, 2006

Posted by jeanne in construction news, Rough Draft.
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Velha sat looking up medicinal plants that thrive in full sun. She was making a list, more of a chart, with plant heights and widths and water requirements. She sat gazing down at the back yard thru the window, looking at the rows of bricks she’d used to mark the slope. She was thinking that she was going to need to build some terracing going down the yard. She’d started raking off the gravel that had paved her yard for so many years. She hadn’t yet gotten to the bottom of it, and the ground was hard as cement unless it was raining, so she’d gotten out there the last time it stormed and worked over it with the metal rake. The rain had been warm. There was still gravel everywhere, and sand was accumulating at the bottom of her yard every time it rained. She’d need to do at least three terraces. What could she use to build them?

She was also fantacizing a row of azaleas along a newly constructed gravel path. Maybe a fish pond. All the tall flowering bushes, especially the fragrant ones. And how best to jungleize the property line so she wouldn’t have to look at concrete and car bumpers?

Kudzu. There’s a thought. She considered it. They had problems with kudzu back there already. All that had to happen was for a rootlet to find its way thru the ground to the barest crack in the new concrete. It would be a matter of weeks before whatever landscaping they were planning to install would be sporting shiny new tendrils of invasive omnivore. Looks like she didn’t have to do anything to fix them in that area. It’d happen anyway. A little instant karma. There was a god.

Satisfied, she went back to working up a plan for her new sun spot out back. Where am I going to get that much cow shit? she wondered.

Men in pastel button down shirts and kakhis were hovering around the site this morning. Noting things on legal pads, standing around talking on their cellphones. They looked important. They acted important. Forman was there pointing things out, but they were ignoring him, and walking around the site like ir was the Moon.

Velha looked up pictures of the surface of the moon, and stumbled upon a conspiracy to fake the moon landings, where she spent almost an hour following links and weighing evidence. Then she followed a link to the 9/11 Conspiracy.

They’d found a bunch of old tanks buried in the ground, and these were either the guys from the office or the guys from the EPA. Mostly likely the office guys. They didn’t look like they were used to getting their hands dirty. They peered at one tank and kicked the side of another.

Ah, there was the EPA. A big, beat up, red waste disposal hauler come to suck whatever it was out of the biggest tank and go off and test it. A short hauler drove up into the site and let the bulldozer load up two of the tanks side by side. Once the tanker truck was gone, the crane and shovel spent a good twenty minutes pounding the empty tank until he had it folded it up into a little wad of iron small enough to put on the back of another hauler.

The bulldozer was running around like it was a school recess, digging up this, shovelling that, running around doing whatever he wanted, as long as he was filling dumptrucks. He cruised around like a male dog. Every time Velha looked, the guy with the cowboy hat was plowing dirt and raising earth and concrete in some wildly different part of the lot. What a sandbox.

She turned her attention back to her study of a new crop circle. It appeared two nights before, in England, and the field researchers were just getting details it up on the website. It was very elegant, and she was studying it for meaning.

It kept trying to say something to her. She thought if she could just wrap her mind around it, she might understand. She was right up next to the monitor, staring. Her eyes felt hot and stingy. The circle had something to do with energy, patterns of obstacles and flow. It was somehow relevant to what was going on in her life. It gave her a signpost, if she could only grasp it. It was an energy. It had intelligence. If she could learn to swim in it, she could bring anything to pass with a whisper.

She sat up and rubbed her eyes as the insight faded. Her back was stiff. She spent her days studying all these wonderful truths and mastering strange systems of esoteric knowledge and perfecting her immortal soul, but she was really just a little old woman sitting in the spare bedroom, who got tired.

She sat gazing into her back yard, the formerly intact green screen now slashed with vistas of red dirt. The buldozer was continuing to scrape the bank. It was at what looked to be a steep angle, pushing dirt up the hill sideways. She typed in another search term. Earth energy.

Velha sat and thought about the life of a shovel operator. Shovelling up dirt and loading it into dumptrucks, digging holes, pushing over trees. Destruction. What’s his worldview if all he does is tear things up and clear them out? Does he vote Republican or Democrat? Does he vote? Would it matter?

Velha counted seven scoops of dirt to a package of Kellog’s Raisin Bran. Floating thru her head this morning it was commercials from when the kids were little. The dumptruck driver sat there facing forward while his truck shook and rocked and sunk into its springs, and the bulldozer made nasty banging sounds really close to his chrome trim. Then the bulldozer beeped his horn and the truck moved off, the netting rolling automatically back to cover his load as the next truck pulled up.

She wondered where they went. She could see them turn down Bissey Street and get in the right lane to turn onto Maine heading for the highway. She could hear them pass by the other end of Ahr Street, shifting gears and gaining speed as they climbed the rise up Maine toward the entrance ramp. Where they went after that, she didn’t know, but a powerful urge rose up in her to follow them and see what they were doing with her dirt.

She figured maybe fifteen trucks going back and forth all day long, a twenty minute drive to the landfill, maybe a twenty minute wait in line at the dump, and drive back to wait in line to get more dirt. All day.

The old couple were surprised to see several women driving the dumptrucks. They went for their dog walk that morning past all the trucks lined up waiting for the bulldozer guy to get there. They were drinking coffees and cokes and standing aorund smoking cigarettes, talking and joking.

The couple stopped, and everyone came up to pet the doggy. The old man muttered something and the dog stood stock still and allowed the touch. Then he went and lay down behind Altman, traumatized.

Velha was talking to the women. ‘About how many trips do you make every day?’

‘Bunches,’ said the stouter of the two women, a blonde in cutoffs and a wife beater.

She was hoping for a number. ‘Do you have time to read or do other things?’ she’d asked. Maybe they had knitting or mending. Maybe they sat there listening to the radio and snapping gum. Maybe they sat there with laptops and cellphones. The driver frowned at the question: Of course not. ‘Well, that sucks,’ she said consolingly. She was thinking about suggesting talking books, but didn’t.

The other woman, a skinny blonde with bad teeth said, ‘At least we get paid by the hour.’

Altman spoke up. ‘That’s always good. Especially with the traffic.’ He sidled up to her and they fell into conversation. Velha began chafing to move on.

During their after-lunch dog walk, they met Thing One as they rounded the corner. He saw them first and headed across the street to intercept them, wiping his hands on the bottom of his t-shirt. His head moved constantly. He watched everything as he crossed the street. The sky, the corner, behind people’s fences, down their driveways, in their windows. He began saying something as he approached, tho it took them awhile to hear him because they were both a little deaf. Or inattentive.

‘The finest steel,’ he was saying, ‘really heavy and well-built, solid handles.’ He was posing in front of them, his hand gestures as expressive as Vanna White’s, his demeanor serious, yet assuring. ‘Pots I’d be proud to own, if I had somewhere to put them.’ he cackled merrily. ‘But I don’t, so out of the kindness of my heart I’m coming over here trying to find them a home worthy of such fine quality.’ If he’d had a hat, he would be clutching it to his chest.

She was thinking, Yeah, why are you wasting my time telling me this, why don’t you show me, but all she said was ‘Yeah,’ and went on, dragging the dog.

She was sitting in her chair with a glass of tea, thinking how nice and cool it was for late June. There was a wind coming thru her end of the house – cross ventilation, the miracle of old house construction.

The bulldozer lurched down the hill, struggling in the dirt. Velha heard the engine whine as it tried to move, and looked up just in time to watch the bulldozer slide into her pecan tree, its metal treads grinding into the trunk. She could see it shudder and lurch in pain.

A moment later, the heavy machine got a purchase and surged up the hill away from her tree. She rushed out to inspect the damage, furious. There was a huge gouge in the trunk, and inches of inner tree had been savagely ripped away by steel treads. By somebody who saw trees as obstacles if he looked at all.

The wound was weeping sap, bleeding. The leaves said Shock Shock as they rustled, and the branches were stiff with pain. It wasn’t until she came around the tree trunk that she noticed other gouges on the trunks from where the silt-fence digger had squeezed through the space between the trees.

She had wondered what they were doing isolating her pecan from the rest of the trees in her yard, but she didn’t say anything because she could see how going behind a couple of trees made a straight line along the yards, and there was probably some really good reason why they couldn’t run the line around her trees instead.

She worried that it would give them subconscious license to destroy them, having her trees on their side of the silt fence, in no man’s land – the easement. What did the guy think when he hit it? Oh well, it’s coming down anyway?

She stood in her back yard and looked around. The bulldozer had crushed all the periwinkle and ivy in the back of her yard, but they’d grow back. They’d scraped the smaller trees putting in the silt fence, and now her pecan tree was seriously damaged.

As she watched, standing not twenty feet away, the bulldozer began planing the ground right next to her pecan. She could feel the ground shaking beneath her feet. The clanking of the treads ripped thru her skull. Suddenly she was frightened of falling.

The dozer proceeded safely past her pecan, and she breathed a little. Then it swerved and plowed into the smaller tree right next to it. With a shudder and a crack, the tree was on the ground and there was a big gaping hole in the screen of trees in her back yard.

She stalked up to the basement to tell Altman about the damage so he could go out and coat the trunks with pitch, and went upstairs to look up the right phone number and complain. Her fingers shook as she thumbed through the government section looking for the right entry.

She got a black lady downtown. ‘City arborist’s office.’

The words poured out of the old lady. She was shaking with anger and betrayal. They said they’d take care of everything.

The woman’s voice was soothing. She told Velha exactly what to say. ‘I’m going to pass you to his voicenail. You tell him this, that you are concerned that construction activities are endangering the safety of a mature tree on your property. Tell him that, and tell him where you are, and give him your phone number.’ Velha felt weak. She stood at the phone composing herself, trying to remember what the woman had said. Her voice was so kind, that’s what she mostly thought.

‘Hello, this is Velha Cobble at 295 Ahr Street.’ She spoke slowly and precisely. ‘I have a concern about my old pecan tree in the back yard because the construction guys are bashing into it with abandon. They’ve just plowed up a different tree.’ Then her courage broke and she started to blather. ‘Oh help me if you can. They’re out there now and they’re awfully close to my big old pecan that they’ve already damaged.’ She walked to the window, hoping the sounds were audible thru the phone, trying to convey the urgency of the situation. ‘It’s the big new complex they’re fixing to build out on Bissey Street. Near the corner of Maine. I don’t know what it’s called.’ She trailed off. ‘Please stop by the site if you have a moment.’ Help us, Obi-wan; you’re our only hope.

She had no hope of the arborist coming out so late in the day. She sat out with her husband on their porch in an old metal glider, having tea and cookies. The couple loved their porch. It had various hangings (devices) that Altman put up in specific places, and Velha was growing a pile of orchids on the big table because she could.

They would normally be discussing their day, but dumptrucks cruised by every thirty seconds. Empty, they rumbled loudly off the highway and down Ahr Street, one after another, taking their foot off the gas to brake at the corner, their exhaust systems sounding like dragons with lung cancer. They revved to turn the corner onto Cyde Street, sometimes at the same time as a full dumptruck rounded the corner heading back to the highway. Sometimes there were two empties and a full one passing in front of the old couple at the same time. They had to fall silent every time. The house shook.

She returned to her work noticing that the bulldozer was idle. The driver was out of the cab, talking to some red-shirted manager (all the managers wore red that day) while the dunptruck drivers sat in the shade of her tree.

She called the arborist. Every fifteen minutes until he picked up his phone.

‘Arborist,’ he answered.

He’d received her message, so Velha had only to restate the case. ‘And then they came along and took down my little tree.’

‘How little? Under eight inches doesn’t need a permit.’

‘It was on my land.’

‘What?’

‘The easement is ten feet into my back yard.’

He paused. ‘What’s your address again?’

They spoke about tree damage, but that was already done. He sounded more concerned about the planned grade changes and the prospect of covering the roots with more dirt. She felt sure he’d be out in the morning.

Velha looked up grade changes and followed the links to tree wells. She was somewhat reassured that it wouldn’t kill the tree to dump more dirt on it, as long as it was done judiciously. Gravel-filled wells around the tree trunks held promise, tho the anti side was very adamant. She went from there to how to build fish ponds, and the rest of the afternoon was spent fantacizing about her back yard.

After awhile she noticed that the noise out back had ceased. The bulldozer had stopped, and it was still only mid-afternoon. The dump trucks still idled on the lot, the drivers now lying in the cool shade. Then a service truck drove up, a white pickup with lots of cabinets and tools on the back. She saw a guy spread himself out on the treads, stretching out his legs to balance his reach into the engine. After that, everybody went home.

Thing One was back, standing proudly in the middle of her porch, surrounded by seven or eight hideously scratched, bent and broken pots and pans made of the cheapest non-stick aluminum. She laughed shortly. ‘I think I have enough cookware in my kitchen for now, thanks.’

‘But you said you wanted them!’ he protested, spreading his hands. He was indignant. ‘I went to a great deal of trouble getting these, I’ll have you know. I had to fight off someone who saw their outstanding quality and wanted to make a buck off it himself. No way, I told him. They belong to a great lady.’ He moved his hands and feet as if he were dancing, shuffling along the floor, manic and panicky at the thought of losing a sale.

She smiled at him warily. Thing One was too crazy to understand her point of view, and it was useless to argue, because he would use anything she could say as an opportunity to prove her wrong. She couldn’t handle the stress of a pointless argument. ‘I’m afraid I can’t use them,’ she said, backing into the shadows. ‘Sorry.’ She could hear him cursing as she fled to the spare bedroom.

The neighbors arrived on their porch at four for another meeting with Joe DeVeloepr and the bean counter whose name nobody remembered. The men were late. Velha and Susan Nextor sat in rocking chairs while Star occupied the glider. They were drinking sweet tea and talking about money.

‘We want to know what they’re going to do for us, since we don’t need any of the improvements everybody else is getting. That’s why I’m here,’ Star said confidently. ‘We think we’re entitled to some extra cash for the inconvenience, and Gordon’s studying too hard to come to the meeting, so I’m going to handle it.’ She looked brash. Velha admired her attitude.

‘It’s the noise,’ she went on. ‘It’s gotten so bad that we can’t study.’ The women made sympathetic noises.

‘My kids are having trouble sleeping,’ said Mary Nextor. Velha wondered if they slept during the day. Maybe they were vampires.

Guy appeared in the yard, on his cellphone. He paraded past for a few minutes, finishing his call, then came up on the porch and squeezed in beside Star, who looked annoyed. She was planning to sit next to the developer and use her charms on him. Guy enquired minutely about the tea when it was offered, and politely declined, then launched into a description of all the herbal waters he and Fred had been experimenting with. Echinachea and mint water. Rosemary and lime.

‘Now, there’s a pucker drink,’ Velha laughed. ‘How about basil, oregano, and mint?’

He countered with, ‘Our last discovery was iced coffee and rosehips.’

‘They drank that hot during the Depression.’

‘Oh.’ He looked offended.

‘I know, how about foxglove and verbena with a pinch of nightshade, for the kick?’ only Altman thought it was funny. Guy looked at the pitcher with suspicion.

‘Another thing is, is that we want them to keep those dumptrucks from coming down Ahr Street at all,’ Star said.

‘Yeah,’ June Nextor agreed. ‘Why do they have to come by all day? Why can’t they just go down Maine and come in from Bissey Street?’

Guy started to explain. ‘They’re replacing the sewers all along Bissey at the moment, and they’ve started replacing them along Maine Street too. That’s a major intersection over there,’ he continued, pointing northeast behind their houses. They knew that. ‘It’s to reduce congestion. It’s only for awhile.’

‘How long a while?’ Star was suspicious.

He shrugged. ‘I don’t know. A couple of months.’

‘How long an eternity are a couple of months of no sleep?’ Star flung herself back on the glider. It slewed around like an amusement park ride. Guy looked uncomfortable. ‘They’re going to completely block the rear access to our house, and we got stuff going on.’ She ran her hand thru her hair and looked distraught. ‘It’s vital that we have the alley open right away.’

He shrugged elaborately. ‘Talk to Joe.’

It was the first thing Joe addressed, after gulping down half a glass of tea while he caught his breath and said hey. He and the beancounter sat on the bench under the mailbox. ‘The alley won’t even be closed at all down on the Maine Street end,’ he said. ‘The only houses affected will be past Guy’s house up to Cyde Street.’ The Nextors, the old couple, the kids.

Star jabbed her finger on the Cyde Street end of the map. ‘But this is where we live. You’re in the middle of breaking up part of our driveway right now. We can’t get in, back in the back, and it’s very inconvenient. We’ve got to have that alley open.’

‘It’ll only be closed until we finish building the driveway.’

‘And when will that be?’

Joe mumbled something and before she could ask him to repeat it, rose to greet Maggie, who was rushing from her car. Star smiled grimly and sat back in the glider, sipping tea.

Maggie had skipped out on closing entirely. She’d locked up the fridge and pantry and left two of her most competent and trustworthy homeless helpers to do the dishes and lock the door behind them. She was wondering if she shouldn’t go back and check on them when the meeting was over, and sipped absently at her tea and tried to concentrate. Then she started wondering what Star was doing there. And then she wondered if she was getting enough to eat. And then she wondered what kind of choices she was making. Maggie wasn’t listening to a thing Joe was saying.

The map was unrolled. Everyone leaned in and started pointing at their properties. They particularly pointed out Ahr Lake, between Guy’s and Maggie’s yards, the spot in the alley that collected water, mosquito larvae and rats all year round. It was the dog’s favorite section of walk. Except for the mosquitos, the old couple enjoyed the lake too. Velha would take her shoes off and squish thru the cool mud. Altman would gaze at all the bugs making their livings in or near the water.

Nobody else remotely liked it. Guy was in the middle of saying that what they needed was a load of dirt on their yards to create a slope so the water would collect somewhere else.

Velha and Altman were looking at the topgraphic lines that showed the dip in Maggie’s yard okay, but showed everybody else’s yards sloping gently to the back of their yard and their trees. Their yards only needed the meerest enhancement of the slope. It sounded like Guy was talking about lots of dirt.

Maggie pointed to a circular object drawn in down at the corner of Guy’s and Maggie’s yards. ‘That’s going to be the drain?’

Joe nodded. ‘Into the pipe that runs from Cyde to Maine,’ he pointed west to east. ‘We’re putting in a catchment basin. Eight inch pipes. That should stop your drainage problem.’ Then Guy, Maggie and Nancy looked at each other.

”But we still need the dirt,’ Guy hastened.

Nancy agreed. ‘And my stumps removed.’

‘I want my treees taken down and a big hole filled in,’ Maggie added.

‘We want a pool,’ Altman said. Everyone turned to look at him, the developer with real concern on his face. He couldn’t tell if the old man was smiling under that beard. Finally, Joe decided to laugh.

Velha felt like asking why Guy needed so much dirt. But it would be impolite to pry. Maybe he wanted his yard the same height as Maggie’s, which was higher ground, except for the dip.

‘We can fix it, whatever it is, the answer is yes,’ Joe said with enthusiasm, something he’d picked up at a motivational seminar. ‘We can put a swale from their trees,’ he nodded at the old couple, ‘to the drain in the alley by your yards,’ he nodded at Maggie and Guy. ‘Those two improvements will collect all the water that comes off your yards, and we’ll just channel it away.’

Guy was frowning. ‘What’s a swale?’ The developer turned red explaining that a swale was a kind of shallow trench used for drainage, very unobtrusive – it went right back to Capability Brown in the 1700s – they’d called it a haha.

But Guy was scowling. ‘Do you mean to say a ditch?’ When he thought ditch he thought gully. He reared back and sneered. ‘I ain’t having no ditch in my back yard, I’m sorry.’ He looked around at the others. ‘Way trashy.’ His eyes fixed on Velha. ‘The solution to our problems is dirt, and if we can’t all do the same thing, then we’re going to have drainage problems, right?’ He looked away and shook his head. ‘But I guess we all got to do what we got to do.’ He sighed like he was losing his faith in humanity.

The bean counter spoke up. ‘What do you think would be a good solution to the problem?’

‘How would I know?’ He stared at the developer. ‘That’s what we’re all hoping you can tell us, I’m sure. We don’t know anything about construction.’

‘Well, I’ll tell you this much. We’ll do whatever it takes to make you folks happy. We want to start out our relationship right.’

Maggie smiled shyly. ‘Can you tell us when the alley will be useable again? I’ve got storage in the back and I need to get to it at all different hours.’ She looked apologetic. ‘Catering jobs,’ she shrugged.

Joe looked at her. She looked back. They decided right there that they liked each other. ‘I’m afraid we already talked about that, and I’m pressed for a business meeting, so if it’s okay with you I’d like to bring you up to speed after the meeting.’ She nodded modestly.

‘We’ve already arrived at a better solution on the alley,’ he continued, beaming at them. ‘We’re going to start the ramp at the basin, so all the water that used to come down the hill onto your yards will run down the gutter we’re putting in. There’ll be a wall between it and you, just a little one.’

He waved off questions of exactly how high. ‘We’d have to ask the engineers, and they talk funny.’ They laughed politely. ‘Anyway, we’re going to build you each a little ramp and curb cut, so you’ll all have access to the alley.’

‘I think I heard Maggie ask when the alley would be open again.’

Joe shook his head. ‘I’ll tell you the honest truth. We had the alley tied to the critical path, but y’all’re still in the thinking-about-it phase, so what we’re going to do is, is we’re going to detach that part of the project from the rest of it, and deal with the alley when you’ve got your minds made up.’

‘When do we get our money?’ Susan Nextor asked.

The developer beamed at her again. ‘We’ll bring around the checks just as soon as we start on the alley. Why don’t we meet next week and you can each tell me what you want done back there. But,’ he nodded at Maggie, ‘people who want trees down in their yard have to get permits right away, before the equipment is gone.’

Guy asked, ‘And how much time does that give us?’

The developer consulted with the bean counter, but neither of them were sure. Maybe another month. No longer.

Star looked pained. ‘Can you stop the dumptrucks from coming by?’ she whined. ‘They make so much noise.’

Joe had a ready answer. ‘Can’t change it,’ he said brightly. ‘The plans were filed with the City months ago. By the time we could get it changed, they’d be gone anyway.’ Star rolled her eyes, collapsed back in her seat, and lost interest.

The construction guys stood up together, like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee and unstuck their pants from their legs. Everyone rose.

Velha asked, ‘What’s the next stage?’

Joe turned back, like a salesman with one foot in the door. ‘It’s the latest thing (plasma torch) in soil stabilizing. It’s called a vibro pier. It’s going to go down 20 feet and hold up the whole building, and all it is is just compacted gravel. It’s even earthquake rated. Yeah, and we’re going for LEED certification. That’s green,’ he nodded reassuringly to the crowd. ‘Green is good.’

Guy made a call and began wandering thru the yard talking. Mary Nextor darted home to the kids. Joe and Maggie wandered off down the street to chat.

The old couple had dinner and took their last dog walk. They stopped to examine a big black plastic tarp, maybe forty feet long. They were on the northeast side of the lot, on Bissey Street. Dirt was piled up under the plastic. The dirt was much darker than the other dirt, more like strong coffee than cheap powdered hot chocolate. It looked wet.

Velha went up to the pile and sniffed, and came away, her nose wrinkled.

‘Don’t you remember how I’ve been pulling the dog away from that black seepy stuff? It’s been coming from under the dirt for years.’

‘I thought it came from the restaurant dumpster.’ But when she looked, she could see the stains continuing back into the weeds from the dumpster at the edge of a diner. ‘It flows across the sidewalk I remember. And it stinks.’

They walked in silence around the corner onto Maine. ‘Did you notice on the map where everybody’s surveyed property line runs to the left of everybody’s actual fences? By a matter of feet?’

‘I sure did.’ He was walking along, whistling under his breat.

‘I like seeing our house and our yard on a map,’ she said. ‘I look at it and I can see how it’s going to look in a couple of years as if the new plants are already drawn in.’

He was thinking about the property lines. ‘It’s going to cause trouble when everybody moves their fences.’

‘I don’t think they could draw a straight line when they built up this area back in the ’20s. The fence lines lean, the back lines curve. Guy’s slants north and ours slants south.’ (Plans.jpg to geocities page)

‘Maybe it’s strange gravity. It sure looks straight when you’re back there.’

‘It’s not straight on the survey map.’

‘Hmm.’ Altman had a few instruments he could use to investigate.

Velha said, ‘I’ll have a look back there tomorrow.’

‘It could be, back then they didn’t use surveys, and just put up their side fences wherever they thought their lines were, and maybe the gas station just built the hill any old way, and people built their back fences around it.’

‘Do you think?’

Well, it seems pretty casual.’ And it did. The bend of the alley into the middle of their back yard was a shining example of casual. The side fences were clearly built around the alley.

‘I wonder how long it’s been since the alley ran straight thru to Cyde Street.’

‘Probably about the time backyard deliveries became rare.’

They turned the corner on Ahr and headed home. The dog peed on every inch of the short commercial corner, the workshop, the WIC store, the sandwich shop.

They passed Maggie’s house. It was dark. ‘I thought it was interesting how Star was so quiet after her mom joined us.’

‘She’s still just a kid.’

‘What did Thing Two want?” she asked as they walked up onto their porch, the dog giving Altman an assist up the stairs.

He shrugged. ‘He was just trying to sell me some siding. He’s got some source he can steal pieces of siding from, and he’s been going around telling me I should replace various boards with his top quality stuff. But he brought me the cheap plastic stuff instead. I told him if he can find redwood, I’ll buy it from him.’

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