Good Fruit

It’s so cold in our house my breath creates a fog as soon as it escapes my chapped lips. My fingers are numb, skin as dry as the parched soil outside, and there isn’t enough layers in my entire wardrobe to extinguish the chill I feel deep down in my bones. I’m not kidding. We are in the middle of a cold front and our heater is out. It seems obvious but I’m feeling chided by the universe.

Let me backup a few weeks so you get the full picture. My husband enacts this silly self-imposed challenge every year, no heat until November, it’s annoying, but what can you do? Obviously I could move to the lake house until he comes to his senses, but I have a job, and grandchildren to think about (of course it’s too cold for the grandchildren to visit), it would be irresponsible. I believe his behavior would be considered childish in polite society, but my husband is Italian, enough said. 

When I was younger I had a list of qualities my future husband would possess. I was going to pick the sweetest, most resplendent fruit on the tree, something high up, hard to reach. He would own a car, be a worthy backgammon opponent, sport a sexy mustache, competent at racket ball, have good hair, but not all over his body, broad shoulders, enjoy eating out while remaining lean, like to go to the movies, and someone slightly taller than me (and I’m borderline neanderthal). I’m sort of partial to blue eyes, a wicked sense of humor, someone who looks rugged in a sports coat, with a strong work ethic, not genius, but smart. I grew up and settled for the guy who thinks the heater wins if it goes on before November?

I sent up a little cheer when the calendar flipped to November, but if you’re a resident of California you’ll remember the weather was still mild in the beginning of the month, so he stretched his yearly challenge to the 15th. Then it got cold, really cold, bone chilling cold, and I sort insisted he turn on the heater, or risk my displeasure. You do not want to awaken my inner bitch, she can be very unpleasant when woke, but I digress. 

So he turned on the heater, reluctantly I might add, and let me just say the sound of that blessed machine humming in the background was music to my frozen ears. As if a bear coming out of a long hibernation, our heater roared all night, but we woke early to an interior frost. The temperature in the house was in the fifties, and dropping, but the heater was still running. What the hell? 

Larry starts mumbling under his breath, which is never good, something about plumbers, and taking responsibility for your work. We had the house repiped a few weeks ago, we’re still waiting for the work to be signed off by the inspector, before we can go ahead with a much needed kitchen remodel. 

So he does what any responsible home owner would do, dons a headband flashlight, puts on work clothes, and crawls under the house. Slithering on his belly through the narrow crawl space he meticulously inspects the recent plumbing work. I could hear him laughing below the floor boards in the kitchen. I thought to myself it can’t be that bad? He’s laughing? Or do I detect some borderline hysteria? Hard to tell. It’s muffled.

I decide the only thing that will warm me up is a hot shower and I prepare for these edulcorations. In the meantime, Larry emerges from the bowels of the house, slightly disoriented, frantically brushing the dust from his clothes. He’s not a fan of spiders so I can only imagine the kind of courage it took to go down there in the first place. He grabs his phone off the patio table and crawls back under the house. He’s a strange one.

A few minutes later while I’m waiting for the water to heat up in the shower I notice Larry stripping down to his undies on the patio, leaving the spiders, and dusty clothing in a heap on the brick. Stalking into the bathroom as if he owns the place, he slips into my warm shower without explanation, so I perch myself on the edge of the tub, and wait. After what seemed an eternity (remember it’s extremely cold and I’m in my underwear), he steps boldly out of the shower, and demands a towel. I toss one at him, “well, what’s the verdict?”

He looks at me as if I’m rather dense, using his hands for emphasis, he says succinctly, “four of the main lines are completely destroyed, heat has been pouring out under the house all night, and the ducts are so damaged I don’t think they can be repaired. I should sue the son of a bitch.” 

“The plumbers destroyed our heating system?” It feels like something significant might be embedded in that scenario but I can’t find it?

He whips out his phone and shows me a series of pictures depicting broken, smashed, and gaping heating ducts. I’m floored. How could an established company with a good reputation in the bay area get away with this? Well let me share a little something with you. There is so much demand in this area for contractors they can’t keep up with all the work. They’re forced to hire subs from out of town to complete projects, people they don’t really know, and from my point of view, can trust. 

That’s just awesome, there were unreliable, untrustworthy, skanky people crawling under my house for three days. I had no clue. Lovely. 

To make a long story short. Larry contacted the company that did the work, invited the manager over, and showed him the pictures. They agreed to fix the heating system they destroyed in the next few days. I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I have the gas fires going around the clock. It’s cold but manageable. 

One that would have the fruit must climb the tree. Thomas Fuller

I still believe I picked the sweetest, most resplendent fruit, from the top of the tree, but between you and me, he snores on occasion, drives like a maniac, and interrupts me mid-sentence (without remorse mind you) to comment on the Sharks game? When you fall in love none of that seems to matter. In fact I think it’s our differences that not only attract but drive us crazy. A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds says Saint Basil. After thirty-five years of marriage I have something to add to my original list. I want a man who is brave enough to slither on his belly in the dirt, someone willing to crawl through nests of spiders in the dark, because I was cold. That kind of fruit is hard to find. 

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, bring a blanket.

No anecdotes this week, it’s too cold, but if you have some leave a note in the comments. 


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