This is not what I signed up for. When the realtor told me that this was a charming cottage, ready to move in but just needed a little TLC, she didn’t disclose the fact that it had busted pipes throughout, holes in the roof where rats, bats, and birds could and would get in, keeping me up all hours of the night. She also did not disclose that the doorknobs didn't all work and half of the light switches came with the added fun of trying to discover what they went to, because they sure and heck didn’t turn on any of the lights they were supposed to turn on.
The kitchen light was in the dining room, the dining room light in the hallway, the living room had no lights but 5 light switches, and the front porch light could only be turned on in the bedroom. The front porch light also got tired. It would flicker off and back on throughout the night, scaring the life out of me with its audible click.
The last few days, I’ve been buying water by the gallon and loading it up here, using it for all my water needs. There was an old spigot outback from the well and I made due, but I’m needing a shower, a real shower, and buckets of water won’t cut it. I was excited when the city showed up this morning to finally turn the water on, and then the whole bathroom flooded out, along with my hopes of washing my hair and using the toilet without having to fill the tank by hand.
TLC my left butt cheek. It was a quick sale, and I paid cash, so there is nothing I can do about it now.
I pulled out my cell phone, scanned through Google, trying to find a contractor or handyman, but came up short. I moved to a secluded little town up in the mountains, and everything I find, my new home isn’t in their area of service. I open the kitchen drawers, grimacing and trying to ignore the flecks of mouse poop on their bottoms until I find an old phone book. If I want running water today, this is my last hope.
This is probably the thinnest phonebook I have ever seen. I looked up ‘plumber’ first and dialed the only number listed. I’m met with a disconnected signal, the droning beeps taunting me in my frustration. I get the same thing for ‘handyman’ and ‘repair-man’. All the numbers are no longer in service. I slam the book closed, exceptionally annoyed, and notice ‘1994’ on the cover. This book is nearly 30 years old. No wonder all the numbers are disconnected. The people are probably all long retired.
Picking up the paperwork from buying the house, I shuffle through it until I come to a single sheet of paper labeled ‘Welcome to Etna: Helpful Resources’. There’s a single number for a repairman on it. Brewer Contracting. No name, just a phone number.
I dial it, praying that it connects, almost doing a happy dance as I hear it ringing through the line. Thank the Lord!
“Hello.” A grumpy voice answers after far too many rings. What kind of company answers their phone so rudely?
“Hi? Um, is this Brewer Contracting?”
“Yep,” the man answers curtly, making my brows furrow.
“Hi. Can I get your name please?” I asked, planning on making a complaint to the owner later.
He sighs heavily, “I don’t need to extend my car’s warranty.” He hangs up suddenly, and I almost threw my phone because I was so upset. What kind of customer service is this? I know there probably aren’t that many options in such a small town, but how could they hire someone so rude and standoffish?
I call the number back, ready to tear into the guy, but after half a ring the call is denied. He didn't answer and hang up really fast. He had to have pressed decline. Straight up denied. It’s clearly a cell phone number, not a landline. I decide to text the jerk instead of calling for a third time, not trusting myself to not explode on the guy for thoroughly ruining my day.
I need a repairman to help fix my plumbing. If you can not help me, could you kindly refer me to your boss or someone else who can?
I set my phone down, expecting not to get a reply. Maybe I can take a trip into town and find a hardware store or something and get someone to show me how to fix my bathroom pipes myself? Before I walk away to get ready to go, my phone starts ringing, and I rush back to answer it.
“You just need a plumber?” The gruff voice asks in a bored tone.
“Yes. Well, to start with. Can you please give me the name or number of your boss and I will reach out to-’
“What’s your address?” he cuts me off, making me huff in annoyance.
“Sir, your boss? Can I-”
“Your address? I don’t got all day?”
“409 Road 32-”
“Got it,” he huffs, then hangs up again.
How obnoxious can one man be? I hope he comes himself. I’d love to tell him exactly what I think about his customer service skills. After I stomp on his foot or poke him in the eye.
30 minutes later, there was a knock on my front door. A very brief knock before a man who looks barely older than me walks right in. He has on a stained white shirt, stretched taut over his chest. His loose jeans are covered in paint stains and he’s got a high school baseball hat that looks about as old as he was covering his rough brown hair. He would be handsome if he owned a shower and washing machine, I’m sure. A decent razor too. The scruff on his face adds to the dirty look he is clearly going for.
“Plumber?” he says like it’s a question.
“No, are you?”
He chuckles lightly at that, and my attitude softens slightly. His face transforms with a smile on it. He looks somewhat nice.
“When I need to be. Can you show me where the problem is?”
I sighed, motioning for him to follow me to the bathroom. “This way. I’m Missy, by the way. Nice to meet you,” I muttered sarcastically.
“Adrian,” he nodded, picking up his tool bag and following me down the narrow hall. “Old Misses Riley sure let this place go, didn’t she? What’s wrong with your pipes?”
I assume he means the plumping. “Every time I turn on the water valve outside like the city told me to, water starts pouring out from under the sink in here.”
“Not surprised. Had a bad frost come through here and doubt the place was winterized before it hit. Place has been empty since the old lady passed.”
“Hmm,” I replied, not sure what to say. I don’t know this ‘Misses Riley’ or who she is to this guy. I’m not sure if I should offer him condolences or congrats for the business the frozen pipes earned him.
He whistles, looking in the cabinet under the sink, “Cracked clear through. Bet the inside is just as bad. You’re looking at some extensive repairs.”
“Great,” I muttered. A little bit of TLC. That realtor is gonna need a little TLC after I finish with her.
“Got somewhere else to stay?” Adrian asked me.
“I was staying at the Inn in town.” The Inn wasn’t much better than this place, but at least the water worked. Spewed brown, rusty water at me every time I took a shower, but it worked.
“Oof,” Adrian winces, “Bad choice. Health inspector tried to close that place down years ago. Got any family? Friends close by?”
“No,” I tell him, rubbing my eyebrows in annoyance, “I just moved here. No family. I’ll figure something out though.”
Adrian looks at me for a little bit, wiping his hands on an old bandana he pulled out of his back pocket.
“Let me check something real fast,” he said, walking off towards the garage. He must know the place well. He needed no directions. He flips the switch for the light, then frowns when it doesn’t go on. I almost want to laugh. He probably just flushed the toilet or turned on the garbage disposal.
He opens the garage door by hand to let in some light, then goes looking around the small space, barely big enough for one car. He finds a weird power outlet, pulls some electrical tool from his belt, and holds it up to the slits, then purses his lips, nodding to himself.
“Tell you what. I got a third-wheeler I’m not using. Nothing fancy, but it’s got a water tank and a working bathroom. I can let you borrow it while I work on the house. I’ll include it in the contract. You got the right hook-up for power already. Beats staying in a roach-infested motel.”
I’m momentarily stunned. Maybe Mr. Adrian isn’t so bad after all. His phone etiquette is crap, but he’s nice enough in person.
“That would be amazing!” I smiled at him, making him chuckle.
“You got it, Misty. I’ll bring it by in a bit. Got to run back to the shop anyway and get more parts.”
“It’s Missy,” I corrected him.
“That’s what I said.”
I roll my eyes but let it go, too happy with his generosity to care much about whose right or wrong, or what he calls me.
When he gets back, hauling the RV trailer behind his diesel truck, I am hopping on my feet, needing to pee so badly.
He backs it into the gravel driveway, and I bound up the steps as soon as it stops moving, quickly finding the little door leading to the toilet. I can hear him chuckling outside the air vent, but I don’t care. I’ve been holding it for hours.
Coming out, I looked around the small space. It’s old, nothing fancy, just like he said, but it’s definitely nicer than the Inn I’ve been stuck in the last 2 weeks.
“Thank you so much for letting me use this,” I smiled sheepishly as I exited the trailer. Adrian is hooking up the power line in the garage.
“No problem. I’ll have to take it into town to empty the black tank every few days. I filled the water, so you should be good for a couple of days at least. Now, let's talk about the damage.”
Adrian examines every room with water or water pipes running through them, even getting into the attic, cursing and tutting his tongue as he shimmies his way out of the space.
“Need a new roof too. Or at least a couple of patches.”
“I figured that. I had a visit from a raccoon last night,” I sighed, rubbing my temples.
“I just met him. Named him Joe. Joe doesn’t like company. I’ll put traps up there tomorrow, since I doubt an eviction notice will do much good. This is California. 3 days of squatting and he’s here for months. He must know the laws,” Adrian chuckles at his own joke.
I’m pretty impressed with how thorough he is being, especially after the crappy job he did answering the phone. Even letting me borrow the trailer surprised me. I have the money, thanks to my late parents, to rent another house or an air-BnB until this house is ready to live in, but the trailer is much more convenient. Adrian seemed like….I don’t know. Not like someone dependable the first time I saw him. He seems much more mature to me now.
“Adrian, how old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Twenty-three,” he mutters, writing something on a yellow notepad. “Why you ask,” he lifts an eyebrow, smirking.
“Just wondering,” I bit my lip, looking away, embarrassed I asked.
“I don’t do those kinds of house calls if that’s what you’re wondering,” he took a step towards me, readjusting his hat so I could see his clear blue eyes, crinkling in the corners, “I may make an exception for you though.”
“Ugh, no thanks,” I gave him a look of disgust, taking a few steps back.
He laughs, “I’m just playin’. Don’t get your panties in a twist.”
“Don’t worry about my panties,” I growled, moving to the other side of the room.
I changed my mind. I’m back to not liking this guy. Freaking pervert. All men are the same, it seems.