Several days passed until I got up the nerve to do what my conscience said, and that was “get under the house and inspect it.” The year started off quick for me since I was released from prison one week into April 2012, beginning with our new Akita having gotten into it with a Porcupine. One hundred and thirty quills later and six hundred dollars for the poorer, I found myself behind the eight ball of life. Now, six and a half months later, I am climbing down under the house. This was not something I looked forward to doing. I had already avoided going down for the two years we have lived here, especially after discovering this year that we were infested with Black Widow spiders. The first one I found was in the woodpile.
There was a tree on the edge of the driveway that needed some trimming up, dead trunks etc… I cut it up with my chainsaw and had it in a pile with all the other tree messes from a recent storm. It was a good sized pile of wood, about two face cords. Jenny wanted to chop wood while I was entering a recent hand written manuscript into the computer. After about a half hour I began to feel guilty because I had just “sat around” for a year in the joint while Jen was left to fend for herself out in the forest; recently transplanted from Lansing with no prior life outside of the city.
I went out and started throwing the cut wood closer to where it was to be stacked while explaining that I couldn’t let her work so hard by herself. I had her move to stacking, and started chopping. Placing a second piece on the chopping block, I noticed a glossy black spider. On it’s back were two red dots.
“Jen, I said. “You know, I have never seen one before but I am willing to bet that this is a Black widow. My father always told us about them being in the log piles and dead limbs.” She ran into the house and jumped on the internet. She hollers back a few seconds later and say’s, “That’s what it is.” I told her to get Siena’s bug box to put it in.
Days went by as I studied its habits and traits. My computer took me to files about them from many different sources. I learned to recognize their web and where to concentrate my search in the yard. Twenty-two Female Black Widows, and two males later I am even more afraid of going under the house. These spiders were all found within twenty yards of the front door.
Finally one day I just say “fuck it” and slide the couch away from the trapdoor. I open the door see the ladder and climb down. Everything is nice and dry like it’s supposed to be. The concrete block foundation wall and footings look great. The framing looks nice and cleanly put together. It’s a nice addition job to a trailer. One problem is I can’t access the other side because there is no entry made to be able to. There is a spot where the blocks are stepped down in one place, a couple missing blocks, allowing me to be able to see a little bit. The other side is a concrete slab with a about a foot and an half to two feet of space between it and the underside of the trailer. It just depends if you are between the main beams or if there is blanket insulation hanging. The trap door side is more of a full basement depth, earth exposed, and a dirt floor. It is suprising how free it is of cobwebs and insects.
Now I go around the house to the crawl space access under the back door. Removing the steel door panel, the first thing I see is a spider web and a spider. It is a male Black widow. “Dammit,” I yell. Shining the flashlight back toward the shower, I see water puddeling, trailing from the shower drain. There is a piece if grey sheet metal hanging from one side where it is nailed to a joist. There is black woven fiber fastened to the underneath, covering the insulation. It is sagging in the middle as if being weighted down with something heavy. The water main coming into the house is sticking up through the cement floor within reach of the access panel. It has insulation taped around and a blue electric heat-tape to keep it from freezing. I wonder if it works. The water heater is above it, sealed in the walls of the laundry room. This place was just remodeled while I was in prison after a pipe had broke and sprayed water for weeks unnoticed by Jenny, causing the subflooring to lose integrity.
The people who remodeled it were hacks, low-balling the bid and then going back and raising the price as they went along on the job. I went inside the house to look down the drain to see if I could see anything, and there it was… the cement floor. “Unbelievable!” I yell. There is a small piece of the joist that falls in-line with the drainpipe, making for it to need to be carved back to fit. They never hooked the drain up to the shower when they installed it.
Finally I decide to go in. The thought of sliding underneath the house with the spiders and sewage does not settle well in my stomach so I put together a suit consisting of an expensive pair of fishing waders, a hooded rain/windbreaker, and a pair of safety glasses. Checking to see if my flashlight is good, I head for the panel. The spider at the door is nowhere to be seen. Diving in through the opening, I keep making the phone in my pocket come on, so I lay it underneath the deck between the rain lines from the planks above. Walking with my elbows and forearms, I drag myself under the house. There is even more standing gray water than ever before. I grit my teeth in spite. The dangling sheet metal becomes reachable and I turn to look up. The wood joist is about three inches wide and the drain rests a quarter of an inch over onto it, keeping it wet. I roll and maneuver my body to get a different perspective. The black belly liner is all ripped up around the drain area and the insulation is all removed under the shower. My hand does not reach onto any pipe that it could have been hooked to, thinking maybe they just forgot to glue the pvc together but then again there are no parts lying on the floor either. I conclude that it was never hooked up. Looking around I see the best place for me to tie a drain in is about ten feet away. This is going to make for two cuts in the main line, a cut on the pipe to tie it in, one cut on a drain stub, and a trap. Plus a street Y: six inch with a 2 and one quarter fitting. Already sliding in sludge, I inspect the rest of the area while rolling and crawling/crawling and rolling. The heat is leaking out in several places. They never put the material back as it should be when they did the work. So, now I have two bathrooms and three bathing units. The bathtub/shower in the main bathroom has a hole in the bottom. The shower in the master bath is draining under the house, which now is linked to Jenny’s mysterious coughing when she lays down in our room. And then there is a garden style tub in the master but you have to use all the hot water to fill it AND be careful not to let it get up on the tub face because they never finished it off with a backsplash or caulked it in any way. They never caulked the kitchen countertops in either. There is a big gap all around the top of the splash and the seams are delaminating on the surface.
A couple days later my computer kicks out a bunch of information on the contractor. I see a bunch of places where I can rate his business. Having a plan of tricking him into coming out for an estimate on the siding, I call and leave a message at his office. He calls me back a day later but I let it go to voicemail. I let him run with the line a couple more times. Still, have yet to call him back. The plan is to draw him in closer and then lift the sheet off of the project. Then I’ll give him an option of doing the work himself or paying me to do it. Either way I plan to execute a smear campaign to slow him down on the internet.
A plumber called me back and I described in detail, what the job incurred for a price accordingly. Mike said it would be three hundred and fifty dollars just to plumb in the shower drain. That’s about what I figured it would cost. I had already rehabbed the front entrance floor, 125.00, and painted the garage doors- 250. Yesterday I finished applying asphalt roof patch over everything that looked like it leaks- 250. This alone was a day and a half. The subfloor in the main bath has to be removed and replaced due to the decay around the toilet and tub. That is going to require taking the shower/tub enclosure out along with the sink base and toilet, which pretty much guts the room completely. I already have the carpet and pad pulled out but stopped when I realized I would need a saw-zall.
Actually, I needed the saw-zall for the front porch too but when I realized I could use the chainsaw I got it finished. The chainsaw isn’t a good option for the bathroom due to it being so far inside the house. The front entrance was practically outside. Two-stroke oil smell would hang in the house forever if I use that. SO, here I sit at a halt.
In the meantime my gal, Jenny, is driving one hundred and eighty miles a day to work and back, which is roughly four hours, which means we have to find something closer. My stomach aches when I think of what it would cost to have the tranny rebuilt or something. Subaru Outbacks are great cars but I get nervous when it’s being ran so hard. Winter encroaches and we have no back up vehicle but for my motorcycle. Between rent and fuel expenses we have fifteen hundred dollars off of the top of our budget. She is required to take call on the weekends requiring her to be within twenty minutes of McLaren Hospital. It’s aggravating because we have to incur the added expense of driving round on her days off, looking at houses.
Especially aggravating is that I am on parole, so if she gets pulled over for a taillight I go to jail on a parole violation. It makes me uneasy anytime we drive anywhere. The top of the heap is that it takes away from our time alone together. The last house we looked at had a deed holder that would have really cut in on our time. Thankfully we didn’t do business with him. The last absurd requirement is that he wanted us to have the septic tank drained if we moved out. I have heard a lot of shit in my day but that was a first.
It wasn’t so bad that he insisted on plowing the driveway at my expense for fear that anyone else will knock the posts down for the upper deck. I could deal with that. Then he said we could use the barn but only in pictures. There was an animal pen and a fenced in area. When I mentioned how we had been thinking about a couple pigs or a couple calves. He immediately jumped in saying he would go in half with me.
The roof is a really low-pitched thing with many flat spots and transition lines. The snow has to be removed routinely but it’s a trick to use a shovel on the shingles, so he had to do that at our expense as well.
The house has a wood furnace and there is a large stone chimney and hearth area that extends out into the room eight feet, beautiful to look at but there was no woodstove because he had taken it out… okay, we’ll get a stove for it.
He would sell us our wood. There were two big bedrooms that each had a nice closet and great windows. There was no flooring installed yet and it wasn’t quite ready for paint. If I wanted to cut the hole in for the door etc… I could use those too. They were only part of the house.
This guy, Crozier, went on and on rambling like a madman on speed. I could feel he was greasy but I just let him run with his sales pitch while he groped our arms and flirted with my gal. Oh, he was the nicest guy.
I didn’t like him. He was a tyrant. Hundreds of acres of forested land on a hillside overlooking Deer Lake, and he wouldn’t get off an inch of it; just enough to hold the house … and a strip along the driveway twelve feet wide to the road one hundred fifty yards. Lake access came with the house if we decided we wanted to purchase it, access that’s deeded to three people.
Come to find out this guy is in hot water with property taxes. He owns so much land and has so many homes. The one he is showing us needs to be his primary residence. His problem (out of the very many) is that he doesn’t want to rent the other house out to anyone because of the maple floors. So he has to sell it.
He lead us to the bank where we withdrew one thousand dollars. Jen and I were discussing it the entire time. We both felt really weird about it and drove out of there to home immediately.
He was so pissed off, having us so close to putting the cash in his mitts but we backed away. “I just want a little honesty,” he said a few times. Well, honestly, he was out of his mind. He told Jenny that if he saw our dog in the woods he would shoot it.
While at the house with the maple floors he showed us his mounts. Big Whitetail Deer, some Boone and Crockett’s. One had a dropped tine, he pointed out to us. There were ten or twelve of them, all taken from these woods. I couldn’t find a place to shoot that he’d have allowed. Or I could shoot along the driveway or, to a spot up on the deck, down to a low area. Either way it would be a lot of running around.
As for the interior of the house, it was finished of in almost all areas, with a stained wood paneling. It was done board and batten style. He wanted 165,000 for the place. It looked like it was a bear to heat up, quite large with high ceilings in areas. “Seventy a cord,” he told me, “You find some place else to get wood, good luck.” I couldn’t cut any trees up around the area. This was all his, right down to the dead rabbit he threw in the weeds near the house. His “dog had killed it the day before”, he told us as I find it with my foot in the weeds. Sure enough, a rabbit. I picked it up and show it to him, asking “this rabbit?” He took it from me and threw it a little farther into the trees.
“There’s a pen, I think they had goat’s, or, no. It was a pig, they had a pig. They had goats too but the pig stayed there."
Truth was that he was a pig entirely, robbing his "wife", a mail order bride, of her children that he had with her. I knew there was a problem when he explained having a mail order bride from Honduras. The fact that he could not find a wife in his own area was very telling. But then again, I can't find one either, so... yeah.