This story is by Sweeps McNulty and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“It’s not safe not being able to park in our driveway,”
My wife had been saying that for months. Of course I would like parking in the driveway too. “I guess the potholes are not getting any better by themselves,” I responded.
“Really,” Rachel said dryly.
That was last month and I told her that I’d take care of it. It wasn’t a joke but I’m afraid that it sounded a bit like one.
The next day her first bout with morning sickness set me into planning. I mean you’ve got to do something. I can’t just stand by and watch. If Rachel is going to puke, I’m there to help. I’ll hold your hand Rachel. She wasn’t interested.
I was almost late for band rehearsal that afternoon. My being late for practice would have been a first. A first at least since we got management and shaped up. Band leaders need to be a good example. Making music is a business.
It seemed to me that my life had become more like a sit-com on a daily basis. The band members and crew would ask how things were going. One band member had actually had a baby. I told her about the vomiting episode that morning. She was wise to that and wasn’t making things easier for me. That’s a drummer for you. Always counting. Always moving things along.
“Dad told me that Mom and he have been talking about turning the back bedroom of their house into a nursery,” Rachel told me over a dinner. “You know how they want to be help.” I couldn’t afford to have them ahead of me.
At home we didn’t know a lot about what we were doing. First time homeowners and now a baby coming. It was interesting trying to make plans but we weren’t the first couple to have to figure this stuff out. We asked friends. Others volunteered some tips.
I spent three weeks shopping around on the phone for contractors who would work in cement for the driveway. Most didn’t work on steep slopes. I finally gave in and signed a contract. That may be the moment that comes back to me most often. It sealed the deal even more than signing at escrow on the house purchase. I signed the work contract to a bid far too high for my taste, but it was almost the lowest cost bid that I had gotten.
Having bought on a hill you’ve got to pay your dues, eventually. It was time.
Finding a kind of independence has been our pastime. Adjusting to the situations we have put ourselves in has been a learning experience. Living in a hillside home you can be glad a half gallon bottle of milk comes in plastic. Glass is not going to work here. Did it ever? If you drop a plastic milk bottle at the top it will bounce, roll and ricochet into raccoon territory. I’ve seen it!
We haven’t found our place in our new world exactly, yet.
Take dealing with the car. You can always park on a shoulder on the narrow road out front. But that is illegal I think. Though I hadn’t gotten any tickets. You may have to lug the groceries up through the potholes and on the flattened flowers in the garden. That gets you to where we climb 14 steps to the porch and the front door. But we are young. And one of us is pregnant.
Rachel has been saying that climbing up through the potholes and the trampled garden makes no sense at all. I’ve begun to look forward to seeing if the car will actually fit in the garage.
I might bring home the keyboard more often if the car can park near the door. If it won’t disturb the baby that is. Guess I’ll leave it in the studio.
And I could see this all coming when “the baby bump” started showing. My father-in-law Abel had provided me the list of contractors he suggested I contact.
I’ve seen Abel stand and look at the rutted driveway from the street for a quarter hour. It’s like he was planning a way to build the pyramids. I have just stood there looking at him looking up at the divot pitted path to the garage door.
Abel knows I don’t have a clue about cement work. He might, I don’t know. He is good to not mention it. I’d appreciate it if what he was thinking not be brought up at the dinner table. I had other things on my plate and he probably knew some of it. He wasn’t an inconsiderate man.
Whenever he and Faith left from a visit they would hold hands and gingerly scale the garden and broken cement surfaces down to the street.
One Sunday we sat in the living room by a nice fire that I had made with Presto Logs. Coffee and cake after dinner.
My French roast pour-over and Martha’s trademark carrot cake. I don’t know if Martha really likes coffee. She has a way of sipping like a hummingbird. Her lips must touch the coffee but the cup isn’t tipped much if not at all. The cup flys to and from her lips. The chatter is mostly from her and between each sentence she expeditiously fits in a bird-sip. I must appear to gulp. Who wouldn’t next to her.
Martha’s carrot cake is my favorite and Martha knew it. She seemed to like me for liking it. Otherwise did she like me at all? So happy was she about the baby coming in November that she glowed. I had seconds.
“We are going to have the driveway done in June, Mom. There will be cement steps in it to make it easier to come up,” said Rachel.
“Who’d you get son,” asked Abel?
“Abel, I couldn’t get any contractors from your list,” I told him. “I sure tried. One was just too expensive and his job date was way out. That was Superior Construction. The rest didn’t do small jobs and steep driveways were also a problem. So I got a guy that Emmitt from the band knows. His name’s leRoy and he is licensed. leRoy says it will take a week. You met Emmitt. Plays sax. Cost was about half but, you know, I think he will do a very good job. I can show you his drawing.”
Rachel broke in, “Danny, I got an order for more graphics work from Kama Curios. That’s a good account.” She turned to her dad, “Dad, I’ve been getting more work all the time and I can usually stay here instead of going to the downtown office.”
The next day leRoy brought over some new plans and we sat down on the curb in front of the house to look at them. I told him his drawing was not at all like the first drawing. LeRoy said that his original didn’t take into account the proper width of the driveway, which needed expansion.
“I’m sorry leRoy,” I said. “This change isn’t what I want. I don’t think this is going to work. We need something else and fast.”
LeRoy knew that he wasn’t my guy.
Time to get serious. Time for me to be the husband and the father and make a difference. Like our drummer Raven would shout at the start of a gig, “OK, lets make it happen! 1 – 2 – 3.”
So back to the drawing boards I went. This time I had work for a new paving and step installation contractor, and now I had calls in to an electrician, a landscaper, a floor refinishing company and a handyman for the house and especially the kitchen.
It occurred to me that I finally had a deadline that meant something. Saying goodbye to Abel loosened my tongue.
Another thing. The west coast band tour dates were soon to be set. I’d have to see about that. Life happens.
When the in-laws visited a month later they were very appreciative of the work that had been done. Abel still held Martha’s hand on their way up and later on the way down on the new stairway. This was done out of habit I want to think.
The next day I parked in the road’s narrow shoulder to allow for the electrician to upgrade our service.
After the electrician left I looked in the street for my car. It was gone. I found a yellow parking ticket tacked to a fir tree in its place. I’d been towed.
Rachel and I have enjoyed looking down from the porch at the new cement steps along our new driveway. The wide steps lead up along the garden, not into it. That looks right. That’s our “Stairway to Heaven.”