101 Creative Curses for Bookshop Handymen

Regular followers of this blog may remember that I discovered a hidden staircase in our basement. Three rooms of unused space, accessible from inside the house? It was inevitable: Wendy “requested” that the stair be re-opened, and (my) work commenced. I said at the time that I should have kept my mouth firmly shut, but – hey, ho – I never was any good at that!basement stair

Other part-time DIYers will nod knowingly when I say that any project is a voyage of discovery, because things rarely go as expected. My first step down the path of the absurd was to decide that the basement’s four hopper windows needed replacing. Original to this 1903 house, they were rotten and falling apart.

“It won’t take long, and it will keep the basement watertight,” I told Wendy as I unloaded window frames from our pick-up, “Unnecessary” (That’s the truck’s name. Don’t ask.)

Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men…. The closest size of ready-made window almost fit the first opening; none of the openings were quite the same dimension. Adjustments were required, usually involving a hammer, lumber, and curse words strung inventively together.

The next “not to plan” moment: water pipes in the underfloor staircase space had to be removed and the washing machine relocated to the garage and plumbed in again. Luckily our good friends Leroy and Witold were on hand when sealing off the old pipes proved difficult and frustrating. I hate water leaks!

But I was yet to meet the bigger leak (and further plan diversion): four days of continuous rain led to the discovery that rainwater simply ran off into the yard, and that our bone-dry basement wasn’t always so clear as I’d thought. There will be digging to do, if this bloody rain ever stops. I have been concerned by the parade of spider species exiting the basement in pairs; rumor has it that Noah picked them up.

IMG_3513Finally, windowsills, torrential rains, pipes and all, I got to the grand re-opening of the staircase (which we promptly christened Tutankhamen’s tomb). No steps were the same size; the old washing machine pipes proved near impossible to cut out; all the electrical cables running through the space had to be maneuvered to the side where they can be boxed in.

With all that done, at last I could re-build the steps using the old ones as supports. This will not be public bookshop space, as we originally envisioned. Wendy is making noises about moving our bedroom down there.

Renovations reveal all kinds of hints at the history of the house, and conducting friends around the work (where we found yet another hidden staircase; no, Wendy, no) has proved fascinating—although speaking of conducting, we found yet another problem: old electric cables down there are live, despite going nowhere, which will mean yet more scary stuff further along.

Did I mention spiders?


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Uncategorized

14 responses to “101 Creative Curses for Bookshop Handymen

  1. Donna Chapman

    Oh Wow! Is about all I can say. Is Wendy sure about a bedroom in the spider mansion? Maybe Noah missed a few…..just sayin’. Keep us posted…another hidden staircase…..Wow Wow!

  2. SharonCville

    At least, I see, your work is being properly supervised! 🙂

  3. jeannstewart

    You are both such good writers! Love Jack’s latest! Keep up the good work! Jean Stewart from Nashville – but was born in Stonega.( Was just back from having been to Scotland when I met you at Parnassus when you were here in October. Forgot to tell you my parents met in Big Stone Gap. Small world!)

  4. How old is the house? Any chance this was a stop on the underground railroad? Or the hurt locker for a rapist/killer? Or just old canning rooms where foodstuffs were stored. There has to be a story there. And TWO hidden basement rooms. Hmmmmmm.


  5. Kathy

    sounds like you have a big project to complete with other doors that open when you think you have reached your destination, This reminds me of life and its detours and adventures.

  6. Hi Wendy, I just started reading your book and love it so much. I haven’t looked around this site yet, it will be my sweet treat later in the day. I do not often want to communicate with an author I am reading but this book has captured me and I have a feeling it will be one of those that makes you unhappy to close at the end.

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