Sea View

by Howard Faxon

Copyright© 2012 by Howard Faxon

Fiction Story: I suppose we've all done it--fantasized about various ways and places to retire if we would ever hit that one bit lottery ticket that hits you like manna from heaven. Here's my take on how retiring--and staying busy--might be.

Tags: Slow   Violent  

Every time something good happened in my life I bought a lottery ticket. When I solved a nasty computer problem at work I bought a ticket. When I got my car repaired and it cost less than I thought it might I bought a ticket. When my grand-niece was born I bought a ticket. I suppose being Buddhist this was a perverted way of playing on my karma.

It paid off. I won the Illinois Mega-Millions game as the single winner for that drawing. The twenty-year payout was for forty million dollars. After the tax man bit me in the ass I found that I would receive twenty one million dollars spread out over twenty years. Yep, I could live on $1,005,000.000 dollars a year tax free, no problem!

I was bleeding money through the hole in my credit card. My first action was to get Citibank's clutching fingers out of my wallet. Next I cleaned out my poor fourteen-year-old Jeep Wrangler. Its soft top was in such poor condition that the zippers were splitting from age and shrinkage. I traded it in on a Range Rover Sport with a sturdy frame hitch and trailer light connection. I wanted a utility vehicle that was better made than the jeep. I never even considered a hummer because every time I saw one I felt a deep clawing need to reach for a can of white spray paint and write "I'm an asshole" on it. I spent more than I thought I should on a large box trailer then half filled it with large lidded storage containers. I didn't want to stick around the Chicago area any longer than I had to. It was early spring, almost May in fact. The grass was brilliant green and lush after the brown mess of spring. The punishing spring storms hadn't materialized yet.

I gave my notice at work. Since I was the only tech in the place my boss' eyes showed that he wasn't happy. (That panic-stricken look was quite distinctive.) I turned over all my passwords and contacts, patted his shoulder and left him slowly rocking in the corner. (I had been doing two people's jobs for a few years, ever since my supervisor retired, plus added fingerprinting duties. Let's see how HE liked it.)

It wasn't only the weather that made me want to move. Before leaving high school my family travelled across the United States and Canada dragging a camping trailer behind us. I saw some pretty amazing things in our travels but what hit me the hardest were the oceans. I sat in wonder watching the tide at the Bay of Fundy despite a fog so thick that I could barely see twenty feet. I thirsted to live where I could hear the slap, crush and churn of the waves against the shore.

My online research suggested that I not try for the west coast because of the over-population of the entire seaboard. I did not tolerate damned fool crowding well. I held great respect for hurricanes and did not want to get "up close and personal" with one. Thus the southern and south-eastern seaboards were eliminated in one pass. I'd been to the greater Boston area on our trip as a teen. I felt it was a great place to shop but it wasn't my cup of tea--it was too 'big city'. I used Google maps to explore southern coastal Maine. Hmm. Portland. The climate was similar to that of the Fox river valley west of Chicago yet tempered by the enormous heat sink of the ocean. Cape Elizabeth looked promising. It was closer yet to the sea and was close enough to Portland to easily accommodate shopping or dining. I contacted a realtor in the area and made some inquiries. Hurricane Irene had just blown through the area. I gambled that they'd had their ration of crap and wouldn't get another storm of that scale for a good long while.

At the end of Zeb Cove Road sat a newer ranch-style home with four bedrooms and three baths. It featured an open floor plan, an attached two-car garage and best of all, the sea was visible from the rear of the house. The property ended at the shore line. It wasn't a sand beach--no, far from it. It was shelved metamorphic rock that guaranteed to tear the bottom out of any boater unwise enough to attempt a landing. There was a small flat rock beach (a scarf?) where a boat could be taken in or out just to the north of the house, but the rear approach directly behind the house was very rough and shielded by a very small island. Hurricane Irene had taken out two of the neighbor's houses. The previous owners of the place I was interested in had bought up those properties. The owners of the remaining house had perished in a car accident several months before while returning from a post-Christmas excursion to Boston, some one hundred and twenty miles down the coast. The asking price was $645,000.00 for the house and the four acres it sat on. I arranged for a five year loan that wouldn't penalize me for an early pay-off then counter-offered $600,000.00 with a $100,000.00 down payment. A month and over seventy thousand dollars in fees and insurance later I owned the title to a house.

I picked through my possessions for anything worth keeping. I planned to get the house furnished in mission-style oak regardless of what the place looked like inside. My existing furniture was dismal. That was being generous. The kitchen goods got packed along with all the tools, my clothes, computer stuff and books. Some camping gear and collapsible camp or 'campaign' furniture came along as well as my bedding, towels, vacuum cleaners and cleaning supplies. I had a big, heavy oak two-drawer filing cabinet that damned near killed me getting it into the trailer. The last things I packed were a radio, several small desk lamps and the few fans I had. Everything else was taken away by a removal company. I paid "Merry Maids" to come and work the place over while I headed over to an army surplus store for a cot, a sleeping pad and a couple of olive drab U. S. Army wool blankets. I was too old to be happy sleeping on the floor. I found a French medical litter that I could prop up on a couple of storage crates. It would do fine as a cot.

I spent the first night in Carmel Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. It had been a long day's travel. My lower back ached, my right hip was frozen and my right knee had me in misery. I checked into a hotel with a spa. I got some Advil inside me and spent an hour in the Jacuzzi before I even considered dinner. The rest of the trip was going to be taken in smaller stages, with rests and a bit of walking about in between. I was over fifty. I no longer could do what I did when I was thirty!

After an early breakfast I drove through Cincinnati and on to Cleveland, Ohio. There I stopped for the day. I had dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, a chain restaurant with decent grub. The next evening I found myself in Rochester, New York where I ate at a Golden Corral restaurant, known for its extensive salad bar and better-than-usual steaks. The fourth day I stopped in Springfield Massachusetts, original home of the near-legendary Springfield Armory. In the United States the Springfield name rivals that of Skoda Arms in Europe.

It was a nice, easy three hundred mile day that saw me in Portland in time to find the realtor's office before closing, where I took possession of the keys and a sheaf of documents that they'd been holding for me. I felt strange with that key in my hand. It was the first home I'd ever owned. I forced myself to wait until morning to find the place. I took a room for the night in a run-of-the-mill motel, had a very nice locally-caught fish dinner and went to bed. It took a long time getting to sleep as my expectations both fair and foul bedeviled me.

When I rose the next morning I had a light breakfast then investigated the local furniture stores. None of them had what I wanted on display but one store had good photographic illustrations of what their vendors stocked. I bought and paid for a kitchen set (featuring an old-style, farm kitchen work table), a living room set (including a well-padded couch, an over-stuffed chair and an ottoman) and two bedroom sets (with queen-sized beds to match my bedding) and two broad library tables with captain's chairs, all to be delivered and assembled within one week. I then bought a cell phone and service plan from a local vendor and called the utility companies to insure that the services had been turned on in my name. My next step was to determine what cable TV/Internet vendor serviced my home and get that turned on as well. I prepaid to get my LP gas bulk tank filled then bought a 2-wire DSL modem and arranged for its activation. The last thing I did in town was to buy a half-dozen steaks, some sandwich fixings, a case of beer, a big sturdy cooler and ice. I headed home.

I never would have found the place without my GPS. I wouldn't say that it was in Satan's arm-pit, but that last road left a bit to be desired. When I finally pulled up to the house I was--satisfied. Vindicated. It appeared huge from the front. The property was partly covered in trees and brush but a lot of the undergrowth had been cleared. That would change. I wanted it overgrown and full of animals. As soon as I could afford it I'd have an arborist lend me a hand. There was a big loop driveway with quite a few trees within it, hiding the house from view until the last moment. I opened the door and sniffed. Good. I didn't detect any mildew or must. The wooden floors echoed as I walked through the rooms. The house had been emptied and professionally cleaned several months before when it went on the market. It had been built on a slab which was pinned to a rock jetty. I checked the electrical service panel in the utility room and closed the breakers. Several lights came on around the house. I was glad to see a washer and dryer already installed next to the service panel. The water heater, kitchen stove, clothes dryer and furnace were gas-powered. I lit the pilot lights. There was a thousand pound white-painted LP gas tank behind the house. I hoped that there was enough fuel in it to last until the supply truck came. A large sliding glass door gave the kitchen a back walk-out. It was quite hard to open. I almost ripped the handle off of it. I figured that the salt spray had gotten to the rollers. I was going to have that thing replaced by Thermo-Pane French doors first thing. A small patio would get built as well. Some sparse weeds covered the thin layer of dirt leading down to the shoreline. I shook my head at the raw condition of the back yard's landscaping. A few bags of pine bark chunks would cover things near the house nicely but they'd have to be re-applied each year. I anticipated that the winter storm wash would strip it all down each year. Perhaps a row of landscaping timbers would keep them in place. I'd have a go at it.

The kitchen needed some work. The stove was uncommonly cheap and barely serviceable. The small refrigerator had been propped open to keep it from getting musty and cool air was pumping out of it. I closed the refrigerator doors then looked around for ice cube trays. Nope, no luck. I realized that I'd better dig out a pad of paper and a pen to leave on the counter for a while. I'd be writing shopping lists until the cows came home. It was obvious that whoever designed that kitchen certainly wasn't a cook. There wasn't much counter space and it was darker than I preferred. I realized that I would easily talk myself into ordering a nice, big food preparation island with electrical service, lighting, shelves above and slide-out storage below. Those would be perfect for larger appliances such as a food processor, a mixer and a slow cooker. I might even spring for a turkey oven.

First things first! I needed to pour water and when I'd purchased it, mineral oil in all the floor drains, flush all the toilets, run water in all the sinks and run some water in the tub/shower. All the black water J-traps had to be filled or sewer gas would back-flow into the house. When I opened the windows to air the place out I stood still, listening. There it was. I heard the sea from the rear of my own house. Wonderful! You couldn't peel the smile off of my face with a belt sander.

After I got my taste I decided my next action item was to empty the trailer. First the paper towels and a spray bottle of 409 came out of storage, along with the rest of the cleaning gear and a garbage can. I cleaned the shelves in the linen closet as well as all the kitchen shelves. I tend to keep my cleaning stuff in dish pans. They came in the door and went directly under the kitchen sink. The towels and bedding began to fill the linen closet. I picked a bedroom with an attached bath and set up in there. Soap, a towel, toilet paper and all the normal bathroom things went into their places. Next I set up the litter for my bed, put a camping pad over it, and a sheet over that. Since the evenings were cool I dug out a storage container full of blankets and pulled one out. I set the container beside the cot to serve as a bedside stand. A lamp and radio were set atop it. Hmm. No clocks. Screw it. My cell phone has a clock display.

I found the house DSL connection in the living room. I set up my computer and TV/monitor on a folding table and plugged in the DSL modem to let it talk to momma and get comfortable. I hooked up the TV tuner of my flat panel monitor to the F-connector on the wall and turned it on. Very good! I had a few stations, including a digital rebroadcast of what appeared to be the local stations. Very very good! I'd get my cooking shows on PBS!

[F-connector: central wire with screw-down collar, used for most traditional cable-TV connections]

After my rest I started populating the kitchen. Then I came across the boxes of books. Rats. I had forgotten to buy book shelves. Out came the paper work. I set up my other folding camp table in the kitchen eating nook and sat in my cheesy Target (tm) folding chair. I had plenty of signal strength on the phone so I gave the furniture store a call. I ordered eight six-foot-tall blonde oak book cases with adjustable shelves to be delivered and installed as soon as possible. My credit card number insured next day delivery.

The refrigerator was cold by then so I transplanted the contents of the ice chest into the refrigerator. I drained the melt-water from the bagged ice and put what cubes remained in the freezer. The kitchen was littered with empty storage containers by that point. It was time to explore the garage. An obvious door led directly from the kitchen to the garage. It was roomy. It had a painted plywall inside wall instead of bare studs, and a big gas-fed forced air heater hung in an upper rear corner. From these signs I assumed that the garage was insulated. I'd pull off a wall panel later to check but I was pretty confident, given the climate. The back wall featured a big, solid work bench next to a door leading out the rear of the house. Now I had a place for my tools. I put pegboard, pegboard hangers and paint on my shopping list. I needed some 1x1/2 wood furring strips to go between the pegboard and the wall to keep the hangers from scoring the wall up. The pegboard has to be painted because it's just fiberboard with holes punched into it. It tends to self-destruct quite quickly under regular use.

By that time I was pretty pooped. I fried up a New York strip steak and consumed it along with a beer. I used a flashlight to dig my pillow out of the trailer, took my first shower in MY house and went to bed.

Dammit. I missed my alarm clock. Every time I woke up at night I tried to check the time. I'd have to buy one as I left the old one behind. That went on the shopping list along with a Weber grill, sixty pounds of charcoal and lighter fluid.

I continued unpacking the trailer. My clothes gradually found themselves hanging in the bedroom closet. The firearms and ammunition went into the linen closet, as did the vacuum cleaners and extra toilet paper. When I hit the camping gear I carefully unwrapped my oil lamp and set it up on the kitchen counter. I made sure that the end drawer under the kitchen counter held a couple long fireplace-style lighters as well as a hefty flashlight. If I lost power and it was cold outside I could still keep warm in the kitchen by firing up the stove with a manual igniter.

Everything was eventually unpacked. GAWD, my back! As I stretched my tight lower spine and hips, I asked myself 'why not get a hot tub?' I slowly grinned. One of those bedrooms was getting water-proofed, tiled and plumbed for a Japanese tub. I added it to the list. All the walls and floor would have to come out and be replaced by waterproof green-board, the stuff used to line bathrooms in modern construction. It would need better ventilation as well.

Four guys arrived in a box truck with the pieces for eight big book shelves. I had the guys cover one entire wall of the living room with them, as well as tie the frames together and anchor them to the wall. In a couple of hours they were finished. I tipped them a twenty each and they left with smiles. I dug out my electric drill and bits and secured the center shelves of all the units from both sides with drywall screws. That way the vertical members wouldn't bow out under the load. After swallowing four Advil I spent the rest of the day sorting and shelving my books.

I went into town to look for a specific contractor. I had a few jobs in the pipe. I looked up the company that had built the house. They were still in business and were willing to take on a few renovations. We discussed (1) converting the tar-paper roof to slate, (2) replacing the sliding glass doors with heavy French-style insulated glass doors, (3) renovating a bedroom into a spa room, (4) building a small deck, (5) installing a fireplace with a swinging crane that I could use to grill and cook, (6) stripping and re-sealing all the wood floors and (7) building a large kitchen island with power outlets, lights and heavy-duty drawer glides. I realized that I'd have to put off some of these changes (namely, the fireplace and the roof) until the next year to keep from stripping my working capital, but getting the planning down seemed prudent. When we started talking costs I was pleasantly surprised. Excluding the fireplace and roofing jobs I could have everything done for about seventeen thousand dollars. We agreed for the renovations to start the day after the next, Friday. I suggested that he work on the floor sealing first as the furniture was due to be delivered and installed soon. I was to leave the sliding glass doors unlocked when I left and disappear for a week. I paid him up front and headed for home.

I spent the next day making lists. I really wanted to stock that kitchen. It also bothered me that I didn't have much freezer space. I put a chest freezer on my list. I scratched my head about where to put it. I determined that the only reasonable location was the garage. I could afford the space for a rather large freezer there on the outer wall.

I was tired of eating fried steaks. I lusted after a charcoal grill. I can't help it if I'm a staunch carnivore and like my meat licked by a fire. It's the way I was trained.

I called the contractor and added a small job. I wanted a closet with heavy shelves built between the garage and the kitchen for a canned goods pantry. We agreed on a price. Later in the summer I'd call him up to put in the clip lines for a canvas wall. There was no rush on it. I'd envisioned lines of recessed eyes hidden by hinged brass strip covers. We'd see if he could produce a design to match my concept.

I spent the next week based out of a hotel. I left the trailer parked in their lot while I shopped. I took the trailer along to pick up a barbecue grill, some patio furniture and the chest freezer because of their sizes. For the rest of my shopping I concentrated on canned goods and small appliances. For twelve hundred bucks I bought a good home-model Wolf gas range with a very nice oven. (The home models have double walls and won't burn the place down. They also don't require a two inch gas supply pipe like the commercial models do.) I also bought a slide-in electric oven with a broiler to build into the kitchen wall. They both would be delivered and installed after I returned home. I'd check later to determine if the stove had to have a fume hood above it.

At the same place I bought a bit Sub-Zero (tm) reach-in refrigerator that would take the place of the old kitchen fridge.

Book stores! Restaurants! Live music! Museums! I had fun that week. I learned that Portland boasted at least five universities and that drove a hard core night life. I also learned that rock lobster is alive and well in Portland Maine. My goal of losing one hundred pounds found itself in peril that week. I bought nearly my weight in books (I'm a jumbo-sized guy. 'At's a lotta books.) and latched onto a few movies. The town taken as a whole was pretty small compared to a Chicago suburb like Hinsdale or Naperville but it was the largest city in Maine. It was 'condensed' and provided all the services that one could reasonably need or want. If I found something that wasn't available locally, Boston was within a day's drive, and the Internet had shipping.

I figured that now that I had a place of my own I would do the newly-rich American thing and buy into a surround-sound home theater. I contracted with a local company to do it up right. Holy Crap! I didn't know that they made flat panel displays that big! I shut him down at 72 inches. It was mounted in front of the couch. The guy that ran all the wiring was a genius. High definition audio has come a long way from Dolby. Fucking wow. I then resolved to pick up a few THX-audio-enabled movies to push the system a bit.

My furniture was all that I'd hoped it would be. It was comfortable and beautiful. I fell asleep on the couch and woke up without a single pain. Now that's a metric to believe in. (to take comfort in?) I set up the grill on my brand spanking new back porch along with the Adirondack chair and patio table I'd bought. I backed the trailer into the garage and slid the chest freezer out, dragged it to where I wanted it and plugged the thing in. Wonderful. I had a place to keep half a cow and nothing to put into it. Sigh. The canned goods went into my new pantry, then I put the cooler back into the car and parked the trailer beside the garage. A hand truck got the new fridge in and the old one out.

I wanted to find a local butcher. I didn't have a phone book so I hit the Internet. Perfect! Pat's Meat Market was right up 77 and off to the left a bit on Stevens Avenue at the north end of town. I picked up a cooler full of wrapped steaks, chicken breasts and stripped pork loins on ice, then put in an order for a half carcass of prime grade, dry-aged beef cut into steaks, roasts, ribs, stew beef, tenderloin roasts and burger. I also ordered twenty pounds of thick sliced center cut pork chops and ten pounds of double-smoked bacon cut in 1/4-inch-thick slices.

I had a small order of marrow bones, veal liver and veal kidneys prepared for baked marrow dishes as well as steak 'n kidney pies.

On the way home I stopped off at the furniture store. I asked them where I should go to purchase a hot tub. One fellow there had an idea and gave me directions. A half hour later I was dickering for a home installation. I'd have to learn how to use the chemicals to keep the water sweet and to keep any growing things out of it. I knew that many municipal water supply installations used ultraviolet light to sterilize their water. I made sure that the hot tub was UV tolerant before I signed the paperwork. My contractor was going to get another small job to install a couple of water-proof halide lamps.

I had dinner in town, satisfied that my meat would keep on ice in the cooler as it had been chilled to well below zero. I made sure to get home before dark. I was still uncomfortable with the local roads. I spent the evening going through my new book purchases, examining, ordering and shelving them. As I sat on my couch I looked at the wall where I wanted the fireplace. I thought about the history of the fireplace in the home and how stoves evolved. I decided to go with a cheaper, more efficient solution that would still allow me to watch a fire from the comfort of my living room. I decided to have a Franklin wood stove installed instead of getting a fireplace constructed by a mason. The cost savings would be substantial and the impact on my home insurance would be significant. I picked up eight huge bags of pine bark chunks at a local hardware store and put them down around the periphery of the patio. It only cost about six bucks per twenty pound bag. The landscaping timbers cost a bit more, but they wouldn't blow away during the winter storms off the ocean.

I hadn't been keeping as close an eye on my bank accounts as I should have. I used the computer to check my master balance to find that I still had over three hundred thousand dollars on account. Most of my start-up purchases had been covered by then. I had to buy firewood and the Franklin stove, arrange for snow removal and pay recurring expenses such as property tax, insurance for the house and car, the electric bill, the water/sewage bill, trash removal fees, food expenses and the home loan. The last item wasn't due until after my next lottery payment would arrive. I didn't have much to worry about other than keeping myself occupied thruout the fall and winter. If it came down to it I could take some continuing adult education courses at the local universities. In the mean time I planned to learn how to bake like a pro and refresh my knowledge of the computer languages, Perl and C. I hadn't explored Cape Elizabeth at all!

The next day the spa company came to install my hot tub and the redwood surround that came with it. I got a pamphlet covering how to care for it and a sample kit of the chemicals involved. I was informed that it would take most of a day to come up to temperature. Rather than empty the thing down the drain when changing out the water, thus putting a strain on the local sewage system, I bought a small sump pump and a hose to string out the window. Looking at that tub and surround I thought about slipping and falling. My eyes opened wide. I had no health insurance! Once I quit my job, Blue Cross wanted nothing to do with me! I immediately went on line to find a health insurance broker and arranged to pick up a policy. The terms insisted that I find a local practitioner and get an appointment for a general health survey. I shrugged and thought about playing doctor bingo, but then recalled hearing about a physician referral service back in Chicago. The local hospital had such a service and I took advantage of it. Dr. Chambers and I had a discussion about my plans to lower my weight and agreed with most of what I was doing. He suggested adding daily walks which I agreed to. Now I had to cut a path around the property to walk on! I took the easy way out. I hired a contractor to put in an eight-foot fence at the property line. He had to clear out the trees and brush to get his truck in there so I was set. For a bit more he promised to set in a wood chip track inside the fence. He took about a month to get it done.

My next bit of insurance was a burglar alarm. A four-footed burglar alarm. First I tried the local humane society shelter but didn't have much luck. Then I asked around at a couple of local veterinarians. I was looking for a Shepherd, Akita or an Alaskan Malamute--big, smart dogs that would tolerate the climate well. It seemed that a family with a newborn had a two-year-old Akita that was stressing out. They lived in-town in a house with a small yard. I offered to buy the dog for two hundred bucks if I could make friends with it. The doc wrangled an invitation for me that weekend. I had supper with the family and got introduced to Tom. He liked me well enough, so Mr. Aster put Tom's leash in my hand and I signed over a check to him for two fifty. They gave me his dishes and the open bag of dog food. When I opened the car door for him back at the house and removed his leash he turned into a runnin' fool. Tom came back one happy doggie. I put his dishes on the back deck and filled them with food and water. I called my friendly neighborhood contractor to install a big insulated window in the garage as well as two big doggie doors--one in the back garage door and one in the door leading from the garage to the kitchen. I'd have to teach him how to use 'em, but I knew he was smart. He'd pick it up fine.

Tom needed someplace to sleep. I cut two army wool blankets into two-inch strips and braided them into a nice, thick rug. I used "button and carpet thread" to finish it off. It ended up being about an inch thick because I double-folded the strips as I braided them. I checked with the doc to find out what dog food I should be feeding him and stocked up. I got some of the wet stuff in cans for a weekly treat and wasn't bashful about feeding him table scraps. The fat would keep his coat shiny and the exercise of running around the property would keep him from getting chunky.

Speaking of fat, I was down twenty-two pounds! It was a good start. My goal weight was one-ninety or less and I started at just over three hundred. I had a ways to go, eh?

I got the Franklin stove and the halide lamps installed. Tom loved the doggie doors because he could go out for a run or a pee whenever he wanted. The fence was finished before July came around. Tom and I walked, then as I became fitter, jogged around the fence line. I had signs installed, legally posting the place as no hunting and no trespassing. I bought two brutal looking twelve-gauge pump shotguns and had a gunsmith add aiming lasers to both of them. I bought both buck shot and slug shells for them. They had black plastic grips and were parkerized. One went by the front door and one by the back. My .357 lived in my bedside stand along with four full speed-loaders. I made it an action item to find a range for monthly target practice. I checked the shotguns' lasers monthly as well to determine if the batteries needed replacing. The laser units I bought intentionally required big 123A batteries because they last much longer than wafer batteries and 123A's can be had for about a dollar each when bought in volume.

I was getting pretty good at baking bread, thanks to my Kitchen Aid mixer and a little scale. I mastered how to make pound cake and pizza dough. I bought a stone for the electric oven and a peel (long-handled, flat-bladed thing to get pizzas in and out of the oven) and experimented with pizza sauces. I pretty much reproduced a recipe from a north Chicago pizza joint, including the garlic sausage they used. I used to work for Firstar bank before they were bought out. It was near Andersonville, just north of the loop. We had a branch there. Across the street was a bar/restaurant that offered the best pizza that I'd had, bar none. The latest location map for US Banks close to that is 1953 North Clybourn Avenue. That can't be it. I recall it being near Devon on Clark. I also remembered that next door to the bank, just to the north, was a fantastic bakery.

It's a good thing that I'd read up on Akitas! When Tom started grumbling and talking under his breath I just dug into his fur and massaged him. He groaned and settled down. The next time I went to town I bought a couple of dumbbell dog toys in heavy rubber and several sets of dumbbells for me to exercise with. I wanted to swing them around as I jogged. One day Tom mouthed one of my weighted dumb-bells and looked at me in surprise. He then threw it up into the air and caught it, then trotted off with his new toy, tail waving in the air. I never saw that dumb-bell again and several replacements came up missing as well. I bought a couple of twelve-pounders and left them out. One of them disappeared. I stopped losing dumb-bells. That's when I replaced that missing twelve-pounder.

I was happy as hell that I'd found a butcher that made beef jerky as it's a weakness of mine. I also adore hunter sausages (They're smoked and dried until they're little brown sticks, kind of like Slim Jims but not so fatty.) and a good, hot garlicky italian sausage. Pat's Meat Market made mine to order! They'd also made smoked jerked (kippered) beef for me. It isn't dried as thoroughly as jerky but the smoking process keeps it sweet for a long time. Whenever Tom smelled it on me he bounced up and down on all fours like crazy. I didn't have the heart to dissapoint him. It was a special treat for both of us.

I spent many afternoons on the back patio drowsing in the sunlight and listening to the surf. Tom grumbled in his sleep and enjoyed the afternoons beside me. I found that he liked his beef medium rare with a little bit of salt.

I printed out an advertisment for weekly domestic help and posted them at all the universities in Portland and in the biggest coffee shop in Cape Elizabeth. I offered one hundred bucks for two to three hours work per week cleaning the place up. I noted that they must like dogs.

I got several hits but most were worthless. Finally I found a young lady from Husson University that needed some cash. Kate Ainsworth was a cute blonde that needed some cash for next semester's books. She was an intense little thing that dove right in to cleaning. When Tom stuck his nose in she loved up on him until his tail nearly beat the floor senseless. I offered to cook dinner for her. She was hesitant until Tom leaned into her sideways and damned near knocked her to the floor. We had pizza and beer. While discussing her classwork I found that she was in a quandary over what to do for her independent study project. I was determined to teach her PERL. It was quite a useful computer language and totally opaque to most of academia. The fact that I had over a dozen books on the language didn't hurt, either. I loaned her one of the two "Camel" books that I owned on the subject (The master book co-written by the language's author, Larry Wall) as well as the Coriolis Perl Black Book. I scheduled us for three hours a week of tutoring.

I used the Camel book to design a syllabus (path from here to there describing what order to present subjects and concepts in a class so that they build on each other). The first two weeks I spent drawing similarities to other languages, then the differences. After that I took off into web database design using perl modules to interface with MySQL. I touched on credit card processing and distributed, or web-based processing models. I was prepared to take a step or two backwards if she didn't get it, but it wasn't necessary. She kept right up. By the time the semester finished I had an indecently clean house and she had an "A" in independent study. I was surprised how fast PERL came back to me!

I took a little trip to Husson University and put forth a proposal that they reccomend a "filter" class for first year graduate-level students in PERL. If they tanked the class then they didn't have much of a chance with the upper level classes. I got a surprisingly positive reception even though most of the teaching staff didn't know PERL from ALGOL-66. I was going to teach that fall!

When I got home one day poor Tom was mumbling to himself and licking his dick. The poor guy was in his mid-teens in doggy years and horny as hell. I decided to to something about it. I advertised for a 2-year-old female Akita.

Some twelve hundred dollars later I drove to Bangor to pick up Amy. I could tell she was nervous despite the fact that she accepted me. I think it was the smell of Tom on everything. When I pulled into the drive way and opened the door, Tom was sitting there sweeping the ground with his tail, the picture of a furry gentleman. Amy jumped down and after a bit they touched noses, then off they went into the woods. I sighed. True love. I ordered two more army wool blankets to make another sleeping rug, more hamburger and more dog food.

The weather was getting colder. I took to wearing a barn coat outside when sitting on the patio and soaking in the sunlight. Tom and Amy usually sat in the sun with me. I bought six face-cords of hardwood and a chiminea. (A chiminea is a Mexican pottery fireplace that stands about three feet tall. Once the pottery heats up from the fire within, it makes a great patio heater.) The firewood was stacked inside the far garage wall, leaving enough space to access the freezer. I realized that if the power went out I could survive most anything but a lack of water. I bought twenty plastic 5-gallon jerry cans and boiled them out. Then I filled them full of sweet water and dosed them with silver nitrate to keep the contents potable. They were then stored them in the garage. If a hundred gallons didn't do the job I'd buy a water buffalo and fill it in town. I also bought a propane-driven generator that would power the chest freezer.

Each morning and evening I ran the fenceline with the pups. I always packed a pistol and a couple reloaders in case I became a target. I didn't expect trouble but being alone as I was, not being prepared when my weapons were available seemed sheer foolishness.

The evening of the first frost I lit a fire in the Franklin. The pups settled down and watched it, drowsing in the heat. I did the same from a bit further away, stretched out on the couch. The warmth and the smell of the burning firewood were truly special for me. It reminded me of the years I spent at various rendezvous across Wisconsin.

Around mid-day each and every day I spent some time sitting on the patio and listening to the sea. When the wind came up and whipped the waves I lit my chiminea and huddled close to it for warmth, but I still sat and listened to the breakers. My heart and soul were eased.

Through Fall I continued to push myself around the path encompassing my property line. I didn't run and I didn't jog--it was somewhere between the two. I continued to lose weight. I was down forty-three pounds!

I advertised to purchase a full set of Encyclopedia Brittanica circa 1976. I wanted to buy a set that was published before they separated out the macropedia and micropedia. The split never made a lick of sense to me and I couldn't find a damned thing in it after the change. It cost me two hundred for the set and six hundred for the shipping! Fuck it, I got my encyclopedia!

I learned how to bake excellent raised cinnamon rolls with orange-flavored frosting, cheese danish and cherry danish. My diet was in peril. Next I learned how to make an apple pie to die for. Quite a while before I bought into the America's Test Kitchen cookbooks. Their recipe for pumpkin cheesecake should have been declared illegal. I tested the recipe a few times until I had it down pat. The holidays were upon us and I invited another single teacher to the house for a thanksgiving bash. After several failed attempts I finally convinced Mary Kate Easterling to accept my invitation. I cooked a small turkey spread out over a bread cube, mushroom and celery dressing. I served deviled eggs, butter-and-cream mashed potatoes, cranberry compote and candied acorn squash followed by pumpkin cheesecake. We sat on the couch and watched Iron Man one and two, accompanied by the pups. Amy fell asleep with her head on Mary's lap. I set her up in a guest bedroom and served her fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast along with hot coffee.

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