As promised, the contractor appeared on the front porch of Blueberry Lane shortly after dawn on Monday morning. Carl Stewart was tall and rangy, and wore a red plaid shirt and jeans. His face was brown and weather-lined, but his laugh and step were youthful. Susie stepped onto the front porch to meet him. “Can I get you a cup of coffee?” she asked.
“No thanks,” Carl answered. “I’ve had two already.”
“Let me grab my sweater, and I’ll show you around.”
“Is your husband here? Shouldn’t he be doing this?”
Susie stiffened. “No, Mr. Stewart, he’s not. I’m coordinating the renovation.”
Susie led Carl into the backyard and pointed to a small window. “That’s the back corner of the kitchen,” she explained. “We’d like to bump it out so that we can add a pastry station.
“How far are we talking about?” he asked.
“I have some rough sketches inside. I thought I’d show you from the outside first, and then we could go in and look at the plans.” She continued to show him around, and Carl peered closely at windows, doors, and the foundation. Once inside, Susie placed the drawings on the dining room table for him to see.
He whistled softly. “Wow,” he said. “This is a lot of work.”
Susie looked at him. “I know,” she said. “You’re the first contractor we’ve talked to, mainly because three different people recommended you. Do you think it’s too much for you? We have a few other names.”
Carl looked up sharply. “Not too difficult…but it’ll take a while. I’m guessing a couple of months.”
“I’d like you to submit a bid, then. As I said, we’ll be talking to a few others.”
“Okay. I’ll have my wife start working on it. She takes care of all the paperwork in the office.” He pulled a business card from his wallet. “Give her a call so you can discuss finishes.”
“And I’d like to see some of your work. If you could give me the names and phone numbers of a few people I could talk to, I’d appreciate it.”
Carl nodded. “My wife can give you those, too.”
Susie called Carl’s wife that afternoon. After a brief discussion, Susie had the names and phone numbers of three of his clients. She began dialing.
At supper time, Susie debriefed Dave. “I have a few appointments set up for tomorrow and Thursday,” she told him. “One lady is really excited to show me her new kitchen. Another one has a big family room addition. She warned me, though…she has five kids under the age of eight.”
“Five kids?” Dave asked, incredulous. “Who has five kids these days?”
Susie laughed. “I don’t know, but it must be crazy at her house. I told her she didn’t need to clean for me and she just laughed and told me that she wasn’t going to clean, she was just going to shovel a path through the house.”
Dave chuckled. “I remember those days,” he said. “I have no idea how you did it. Especially when I was working all the time.” He looked at Susie and continued. “Sue, I’m sorry. I’m really sorry I wasn’t there more. I know I wasn’t much help with the kids.”
Susie patted his arm. “It’s fine, Dave. You did what you had to do to keep our boat floating.”
“I know. I keep telling myself that. But I feel like I missed so much.” He sighed.
“Well, I don’t think the kids suffered. We were able to pay for everything they needed, including college. How many kids finish college debt-free? You did that for them, and I know they appreciate it.”
Dave stood. “I guess. Well, I’m going to catch up on some e-mails. What are your plans for the evening?”
“I’m checking up on livestock laws and looking for chicken coop plans online. There are some chickens who are better layers than others. I need to know which ones to buy. I guess I thought all chickens lay the same.”
“Not with the chickens again.” He smiled, shrugged, and left the room.