Anticipating Winter without Insulation

I live in a rickety 100 year old plywood cottage tilting 30 degrees on peg legs. Around 20 years ago, my sister 'winterized' it, meaning someone blew something, perhaps halvah or lint, between the plywood walls and attic. She also invested in a propane gas heater that fills one side of the living room wall. For four years she lived there with two toddlers before she moved to an even colder place in Vermont.

"I'll never come back," she stated.

"Why? It's the country!"

"It's filthy and too close to New York City."

"Too close? It's over a hundred miles away."

"Way too close for comfort."

She extolled the virtues of Vermont. Blue snow. Fresh air. No urban sprawl.


The truth of the matter was that she wanted to get as far away as possible from me. To reciprocate, I accepted a job in California.

Now I live in the abandoned cottage underneath one of the tallest trees in the community. I'm waiting for it to fall right on top of the bedroom while I sleep. That would be a poetic way to go. Did I happen to mention that I'm a penniless author? I'm going the whole hog to get the full effect.

In preparation for my first winter, I bought out all the caulk tubes from the local paint store - they even gave me a discount! With one arm, I climbed the broken ladder and balanced myself so I wouldn't fall. Falling in relative isolation is a deadly feat. No one would find me for months although I might provide food for the bears. The circle of life, right? With the free arm, I wielded the caulk gun and aimed at each crack, flailing like a lunatic. Just in case, I had the cellphone in my pocket. It took two perilous months caulking every corner, each crack, separation and around every window both inside and out. I did the entire house that way. Twice.

Then I had agonizing chest pain and threw my back out. Hobbling, I made my way to the doctor.

"Am I having a heart attack?" I asked.

"Where's the pain?" he said, rolling his eyes. A few months prior to this incident, I took a stress test. The two medical assistants were hysterical in that I was running for 15 minutes in nearly a 90 degree vertical position and my heart rate still didn't increase. I failed to mention I'm an avid mountain biker.

"Here," I said and pointed to the spot in the center of my chest.

"You tore a cartilage," he stated with authority after I described my two-month caulking adventure, clinging onto a rung of a broken metal ladder with one hand for dear life. I should've bragged about my calf muscles, but that's a side benefit.

As another winter precaution, I put up heavy curtains around the living room and bedroom windows. Also made sure to put plastic inside each window. I piled rugs, one on top of the other, in those two rooms. My big acquisition was an Edenpure heater as the principal source of heat. After weighing the expense, electric won hands down as it cost 3/4 less than propane. It really was a toss-up between possible asphyxiation from a 25 year old propane heater with rusted gizzards as opposed to a possible electrical fire from 100 year old wiring.

To make sure my pipes didn't freeze, I used the 20 year old electrical heating wire my sister had installed as well as stacking hay on that side of the house for insulation. Then, I paid some guys to put wood around the base of the house to block the wind. When my sister lived in the cottage, I visited once in the dead of winter. It was brutal inside, especially feeling the wind whipping underneath. I had no intention of living like that.

We had a mild winter. Even so, I froze my ass off. And the wood barrier didn't help. In the middle of one windy night when the gusts exceeded 80 mph, I thought, "This is the end. The tree will fall and I'll be crushed to death." Instead, just like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz, the house lifted a foot and dropped down. That's when I realized that nothing outside of the weight of the cottage kept it planted. Great realization. At least I didn't find the toilet dangling a foot up in the air like a few years ago.

Recently, the local mortician said to me, "You better do something about that cottage of yours! I buried a guy two years ago who relied solely on an Edenpure heater."

"What happened? Electrical fire?"

"No!" he cried with emphasis, "insufficient heat. He froze to death."

Now forewarned, this year, I'm putting hay around the entire perimeter of the house. Also, getting my hands on cast-off foam insulation; I don't have the money to spend $40 a sheet when at least a score's required to do the job. I'll need a few thousand dollars to do what I need to do so improvise I must.

But that isn't what I want to write about. There's a line of demarcation separating summer from fall, when the tourists, second-home owners, bungalow colonists, campers and Hasidim vacate the countryside. In a snap, usually after Labor Day, they flee, freeing us local inhabitants to come out and enjoy the weather. We're a quieter bunch, given to softer humor and mellower times. Unlike the summer residents, this is not our version of dysfunctional Club Med. We love the country and treat it with respect.

Hand in hand with the shrinkage in population, the available pool of fuckable men decreases to the point where being alone is the only option. Facing a long, hard winter alone's a penance, a suffering. Last winter, I was 'entertained' by a long distance relationship which felt more onerous than if he were here with the constant, 24/7 texts, emails and phone conversations. During his visits I then wished he stayed far far away. When my interest flagged, I dated one of the transients during the depths of winter. I call them 'transient' because they're just passing through for a year or five before they land elsewhere. Both men I found tedious beyond belief and ended one right after the other.

The Summer of 2012 will go down as the summer of dallying with the FedEx guy which I discussed in an earlier post. The sex was a one shot deal - a terrific way to celebrate the summer. Needless to say, I never saw him again. Except once afterwards while we passed each other in opposite directions on a local highway. I knew it was him: the FedEx truck swerved towards me because he recognized my car: it's a 15 year old jalopy with band-aid duct tape adhering the fender to the body. Zooming in for a frontal crash, he honked and waved like a long-lost friend before he regained control of the wheel. There's nothing like having your entire life flash in front of your face and the last thing you see is this maniacal dedicated FedEx guy with whom you swam naked twice and shtupped once. In retrospect, that could've been a suitable ending.

The other day I hung out at the local bakery/cafe chatting it up with the proprietess, Jane and a few other patrons. I looked out the window and saw a FedEx truck making a sharp U-Turn. At that moment, I received a phone call and was distracted when he entered. My phone call conversations lately consist of, "What?" and "I'm mostly deaf so you have to speak loud and slowly." I've had a recent downturn in hearing in my good ear whereas the tinnitus became louder and sharper.

He stood by me until I concluded that conversation. With a proud grin on his face, he said, "I saw your car so I thought I'd stop by."

For some reason, in this little village, there're at least seven 15 year old jalopies that resemble mine. Right then I considered changing the color of the duct tape band-aids holding my fender together.

With an avid audience seated at the nearby tables, I knew tongues were gonna wag when everyone saw us standing side by side. We had absolutely nothing to say to each other. In the absence of conversation I gave him a recap since our last time together. My back was out and my gastrointestinal guy believed I had gall stones. After a sonogram, it came to light I had something weird going on in my left kidney. I hobbled to a specialist with the results of the test believing it was either Stage 4 kidney cancer or an ectopic pregnancy. What they found didn't merit my worries. However, it turns out that my left kidney's a weird birth defect in that it's two kidneys in one with separate ducts. In a way, I've three kidneys. Another anomaly, right up there with my strange neurological defect.

"Why would I believe it would be normal?" said my dedicated FedEx driver with a moue of cleverness.

Changing topics, I informed him, "I'm done with receiving Macbook Air FedEx boxes. So I doubt I'll ever see you again."

He gave me a wink and said before leaving, "Don't count on that. You may just receive a special package."

I hope so. It's gonna be a loooong winter in my freezing, untethered cottage. After he left, I apologized to my good-natured audience for not making introductions.

"We kinda guessed what was going on," said one local resident. "He didn't leave your side while you rambled on about your kidney for twenty minutes. Hearing that story for the second time almost killed me."

Considering that no one local reads my blog, the cat's now outta the bag. Still and all, there's nothing like having a young, hot dedicated FedEx guy at my disposal. I'm looking forward to Winter 2012/3.

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This blog and its posts are a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Stacey Roberts said...

Winterizing with halvah or lint - what an image - how we Jews do home improvement. This post made me laugh the whole time. Your writing - not just here, but your great books too - are effortless reads - like shooting down a waterslide - a fun rush that you're sad to see end, but you're more than willing to climb that high ladder for another go. What a gift!

maura stone said...

How kind!! So, do you want the $20 for that review through paypal this time?