Daily Prompt: Odd Trio Redux
Time for another Odd Trio prompt: write a post about any topic you want, in whatever form or genre, but make sure it features a slice of cake, a pair of flip-flops, and someone old and wise.
It was summer when I first arrived; hot and humid. My rented wooden house was at the edge of town. No AC but the window screens were, for the most part, intact so as long as there was a breeze it was tolerable, but just barely; and the insects were kept at bay. Soon after getting moved in I found myself in need of something at the hardware store (I don’t remember what it was that I needed but it’s not important to this story anyway) so I decided to walk into town and get it. That’s the day I met the Churchill’s.
I’d seen the house before; it was a big vintage two story affair perched on a slight rise, with a wooden shingled, steeply pitched, roof and a wide front porch that stretched the length of the house. The porch was the dominating feature from the street and I coveted one like it. This one however, was a shambles. A good two thirds of the floor boards were missing but the ones that were there seemed to be in good shape.
On this day there was an old man sitting in an Adirondack chair on the unweeded front lawn. He sat in the shade of a big evergreen and directed a young boy wearing flip flops who was engaged in carrying lumber up to the porch, one board at a time. I guessed they were getting ready to repair the porch deck. This is the country. People are friendly, or at least like to maintain a pretense of being so. I waved to the old man and wished him a good morning.
“Hey,” he said, “You must be the new guy. The guy who rented the old McCullough house.”
“That would be me.” I confirmed and turned up towards him to offer my hand. “Name’s John Darling.”
“Morning John, I’m Richard Churchill. Folks call me Chooch so, you might as well too. Over there is my grandson, Terry.” I waved to Terry who was making his way back to the street to fetch another board from the trailer. There were a lot of boards still on the trailer, 2 x 8’s from the look of them. “Whadda ya do John?” Chooch asked.
“I’m retired sir. I just moved up here from Florida.”
Chooch chortled, then choked a little and coughed. When he recovered he said, “I think you got that backwards son. You’re ‘sposed to retire to Florida not from Florida!”
“Yes sir,” I replied, “You’re not the first to tell me that.”
‘I reckon not. Well, nice to meet ya John.” He said and plopped back down in his chair. He forked up a bite from the piece of cake he was working on and put it in his mouth. “Reckon we’ll see ya round.” He said with his mouth full, crumbs flying onto his lap.
On the way back home from the hardware store, young Terry was still carrying boards and Chooch appeared to be dozing in the shade, empty cake plate resting on the wide arm of the chair. I decided to be a good neighbor and started helping move lumber. I could carry two boards per trip while Terry had to drag one at a time. “How old are you Terry?” I asked.
“I’m eleven sir, but I’ll be twelve in October.”
“This is a pretty big job for you to be doing alone.”
“I’m used to it.” he said, “We do it every summer.”
“You do? You repair the porch every summer. Why’s that?”
“It’s mainly because Grandpa always misjudges how long winter is going to last. We heat the house with the fireplace and a couple of wood burning stoves. Grandpa refuses to put up more than five cords of fire wood to last the winter and with this big house, that’s just not quite enough. By spring we’re pulling boards off the front porch. Dad used to rebuild but since he died it’s just me. Grandpa’s too old.”
We got the last of the 2×8’s up to the porch and Terry started sliding them into place. The new boards were already cut to length and I noticed then that every third board was still nailed securely on the porch. I helped Terry and we slid two new boards between the nailed boards that were still there. It didn’t take long but every so often I would glance at old Chooch who was still sleeping in the shade.
“Terry, we’re going to wake your grandpa when we start nailing these boards down.” I said and glanced around for a hammer.
“Oh, I don’t nail ‘em down.” He said. “That’ll just make ‘em harder to pull up come spring. I just put a couple of shims between each one to snug em together – makes ‘em easy to pull up later. Besides, I don’t think Grandpa’s really asleep. I think he’s watchin’ us.” Terry started pushing door shims down between the deck boards and snapping them off.
I looked over at Chooch. He looked asleep to me. “What makes you think your grandpa’s not asleep?” I asked.
Terry stopped what he was doing and looked at me. “Promise you won’t get mad?”
“Grandpa says that the old McCullough house has a different tenant every year.” He went back to work with the shims. “After spending a winter here folks either move back down south or they find, or build, a better house up here. A place of their own. This is the third year in a row that we got a McCullough house tenant to help tote the wood up and rebuild the porch. Grandpa’ll be pretending to wake up soon and he’s gonna want to barbeque steaks. You’ll be invited.”
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