Monday, June 27, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 178: Calico Salvage

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In late 2005 I remodeled some office space for a therapy practice.  May I show some pride?  I moved walls and doorways and created a well-functioning floor plan out of a hodgepodge.   

Stuff happens.  Now just eighteen months later in June of 2007 I'm tearing out my own short-lived construction.  Of course I won't be tearing out any walls or doors.  I've improved the landlord's property - at no expense to him - so he can rent it to the next business at a higher rate, quite a windfall for a man who frankly doesn't deserve such good fortune.

There's slim sentiment embedded in most offices, but this was a place where children found joy.  They acquired skills they never thought they could learn. 

From the ceiling I remove heavy-duty eye bolts to which the therapists had hung swings, trapezes, special gym equipment.  The bolts and their mounting braces can be re-used.  I patch the holes they leave behind.  What took three days to install, crawling in the attic over ratshit and dust, takes three hours to remove.

From the wall I remove a special wooden ladder built for kids to learn how to climb without fear.  I remove cabinets filled with art projects, shelves stacked with board games, custom-sized tables that I built with such painstaking care.  Parts of them can be recycled somewhere, somehow.  I hope.

I remove a truckload of planter boxes that I'd installed to spruce up the entry.  The landlord offers to buy them - on the cheap - but I haul them home to install outside our home-office window, where they look fantastic.  That's one piece of salvage that creates an actual improvement.

Finally in one hot shirtless afternoon I touch up the walls and pack an overloaded Okie-truckload of boxes and games, a mop and broom, two toilet plungers and a file cabinet - and I bring them home. 

It's taken one week to dismantle two months of work.

The next day, equally hot, equally shirtless, I perform an overdue cleaning of my garage, rousting a cat who has long dwelled there.  Unloading the truck, I pile cabinets and boxes of therapy equipment, little kid-sized tables and chairs painted bright blue and red where games were played, drawings drawn, skills acquired.  Now they are spattered with a few drops of my sweat.

It's a melancholy job dismantling your own work, especially from a place of such happiness.  

The cat returned.  A feral calico, catching rats.  I don't feed her; I didn't ask for her.  She first appeared about ten years ago.  I find paw prints on the truck windshield.  Sometimes when I enter the garage the cat leaps past me in a flash of flying calico.  Sometimes she sits outside the back door to my house and peers through the glass seeking me out, wanting some vague companionship but fleeing my approach, never to be touched.  She's like the ghost of a relationship that never was.

Four years have passed since I dismantled that office.  Junk accumulates.  Sometimes, fetching tools or some old box from the garage, I'm surprised to see spots of bright paint poking out through the debris.  In her search for comfort the cat rearranges the insulation, the old carpet, the coils of corrugated pipe exposing little glimpses of the past, of blue table and red chairs, of careful work and thoughtful play.

(Note: my garage cat is camera-shy.  I've included a generic photo from Wikipedia of an elderly calico.  My feline - if she is indeed mine - has more orange, less black and is gaunt with a raggedy coat.  Life is tough out there but it's a life she chooses, and many times at night I've heard her defend that territory with a screaming passion.)

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