People who’ve paid a fair amount of money to rent a house on a tropical island don’t particularly like being woken up every morning by the sound of a construction crew drilling and sawing downstairs.
I know what you’re thinking and I agree: self-indulgent jerks.
Nonetheless, this meant that Steve and his crew, who were raring to go at this point, couldn’t get started on the downstairs renovation until the house was unoccupied.
For the first time, our guests seemed like inconveniences. Okay, inconveniences who gave us money and were invariably grateful for our hospitality. But still.
Finally, in mid-March we had a free week. Jane called us the first morning the crew started work and held up the phone as Steve swung the sledgehammer. We heard a dull thud and the sound of plaster hitting the floor.
It felt oddly exhilarating to hear our house being torn down.
Jane took pictures of the rapidly-transforming space and emailed them to us at the end of the week.
We weren’t sure if these shots made up feel better or worse about the renovation. Although we were thrilled to see such dramatic progress, there was something unsettling about seeing our house being pummelled, pounded and jack-hammered to pieces from 1,500 miles away.
“What if the new beams aren’t strong enough and the upstairs ends up downstairs?” I wailed.
“Steve knows what he’s doing” Michael advised me. “Have a cocktail.”
Jane kept us posted as work progressed, and everything seemed to go according to plan. Finally one day in early May she called to say that everything was cleared out and they were ready to start rebuilding.
So we called Steve to thank him. He sounded pleased but preoccupied.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
A pause. “I hope so. I’m headed to Fajardo tomorrow for some tests.”
“What kind of tests?” I blurted out.
“A chest x-ray.”
“Oh,” I said, relieved. “Bronchitis?”
Short silence. “I don’t think so.”
I forced myself to shift into a more upbeat mode: “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
“Fingers crossed,” he said, his voice flatter than usual.
“Is Sue going with you?” Sue was his wife.
He sounded alarmingly un-high.
We called Jane. “I’m worried,” she said in her no-nonsense way. “That boy hasn’t looked right for a while.”
“How do you mean?”
“His color’s off. He’s kind of gray.”
“You mean his hair?”
“No, I mean his skin.”
She sighed. “But let’s not jump to conclusions. I’ll call you if I hear something.”
“You’re a brick.”
“I’ve been called worse.”