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TOPIC: The Handyman

The Handyman 8 months 3 weeks ago #3795469

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The Handyman

Louise never questioned where their handyman had come from or where he lived.  She just knew that he seemed to be able to fix anything.  No excuses, no tricks.  He fixed it, he charged a fair price, and it stayed fixed.  She thanked her lucky stars that she had noticed his flyer taped to a fire hydrant.  “Handyman.  Good Rates.   Good Work”.  He had rescued her family many times.  The jammed garbage disposal.  The clogged toilet that turned out to have a baby toy buried deep in its innards.  The ceiling light that flickered and made sizzling noises.  He had cheerfully fixed them all and it amazed her that he immediately knew, in each case, exactly what to do.  She had recommended him to all her neighbors and she often saw his beat-up pickup truck in the neighborhood, usually loaded with fence posts or roofing shingles or other signs of his trade.

And so it was after two days of hard rain, when she noticed water in her basement, that she called him yet again.  He said he could come by and take a look at it the next day, but when she told him she was worried that all their belongings might get ruined, he agreed to come that very day.  She watched him poke around in her basement, then followed him into the back yard where he surveyed the lawn and garden next to her house.  “I see the problem”, he said.  “The discharge pipe on your sump pump is clogged.  The pump itself is running, but it can’t push all the water out quickly enough”.  She asked if he could fix it and he smiled.  “Yes, ma’am.  I suspect I can.

”He worked about an hour and a half, snaking out the length of the pipe and cleaning out the sump well.  While he was there, he checked her furnace filter and told her she needed to pick up a new one at the hardware store.  He gave her the dimensions and showed her the old filter so that she would get the right one.  While he was cleaning his tools and getting them ready to take out to the truck, he mentioned offhandedly to her that this particular house had always had wet basement problems.  She realized for the first time that he must have already been working in the neighborhood before she and her family moved in. 

“What do you mean”, she asked?

“Well”, he said, “the ground is low here.  They probably shouldn’t have put a house down this far when they built the subdivision”.

“When they built the subdivision?  Were you here then”?

“Oh yes”, he said.  “Long before your neighborhood was built, I used to play as a young boy in this very area.  It was always wet.  In fact, we called it the swamp.  But don’t get me wrong”, he hastened to reassure her, “with that sump pump working right, you shouldn’t have any problems”.

“You were here as a boy”?

“Yes, ma’am.  I grew up in a farmhouse that sat right over there on that knoll.  Of course, they knocked the farmhouse down when they built the houses in your neighborhood.  In fact, they knocked off part of the top of the knoll itself”.

The thought bothered her.  Had his family been evicted during the development of this land?  She decided to ask him.  “Did your family own this land”?

“No, ma’am.  We rented the farmhouse.  This had been my family’s land for over two hundred years, but my grandfather lost it when times got tough.  The bank let us rent the house for a few years after that, but then we had to leave when they built these houses here”.

“Two hundred years”?

“Yes, ma’am.  Two hundred years”.  He closed his toolbox and snapped the catches tight.  “You see those houses”?  He pointed to her neighbors’ homes.  “We had tobacco in there.  And over there …” he indicated with a sweep of his arm, “timothy grass.  Our vegetable plot lay partly in that yard and partly in that other one there.  And you see that big oak that stands in the corner of your back yard?  I proposed to my wife right under that tree at a picnic lunch she made on a Sunday many years ago.  She said yes”.  At that, he gave Louise a big smile and stood up.

Then his face grew serious again.  “My brothers and I tried to buy back the land and the old house a few years ago, but we couldn’t raise the amount of money that the developer offered.  We watched them knock my grandfather’s house down with heavy machinery.  I was able to salvage a few boards and fixtures from the wreckage and I made some furniture with them that I prize to this day, but the lumber from the old barn was lost to me because it had a market value and they sold it”.  He looked around the surrounding yards and shook his head slowly and then returned her gaze.  “I love this land and I still try to take care of things here the best way I can.  In the only way left to me.  You know what I mean, ma’am”? 

With that, he picked up his tools and walked to the truck.  “Now don’t forget that furnace filter.  If you need me to, I can come put it in.

”Louise watched him drive off. She walked the length of her yard to the oak in the corner, feeling a bit like an intruder. She had the new sensation that she might not so much own her property, but instead might merely be borrowing it for a while from a family's history.  She leaned back against the trunk and imagined their picnic, the checkered table cloth spread on the ground, the wicker basket filled with cheeses and fruits and bread and dreams.  Filled especially with now forgotten dreams.


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The Handyman 2 months 1 week ago #3870241

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I live on land that has been in our family since the 1800`s. This story touched my heart!

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The Handyman 2 months 1 week ago #3870348

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I'm glad you liked the story. It's actually based on a real-life case. My son-in-law's family owned and lost land near where I live now. To this day, I always notice that he looks in the direction of their land when we drive by. He can point out places where he played as a kid and points out an abandoned and dilapidated building that was the old post office in a one room store. His family came here so long ago that he has loads of distant cousins that he hardly knows but whom meets and greets at their reunions. He has an old black-and-white picture of his grandfather leading a team of oxen on a narrow dirt road ... a road that is now wide and paved and carries speeding commuters instead of slow hay wagons.

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