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Mister Carpenter Moves In
By Gail Livesay


Wayne and I finally realized our dream after forty years of marriage and working in the city. We were retiring and moving to the country, hoping for nights and days filled with sunshine. We found a quaint old house with a wraparound porch, seated on five acres of land. After living for years so close to other people that we could hear their conversations at night and fighting crowds during the day, we felt we had arrived in heaven. Our property was surrounded by smoky blue mountains and backed up to the forest. I'm not a painter, but I thought I might one day give this scene a try.

We got the house for a bargain but there was some fixing up to do, mostly painting. There were several giant poplar trees in the yard and that's about as far as the landscaping went. We wouldn't need much with the mountains in the background. I wanted to close in a portion of the porch so I could see this wonderful view winter and summer. I am a writer and I thought I could write here.

I planted lavender and primroses in strategic places. My mind raced with plans. I couldn't wait to get started on a vegetable garden. I wanted to feed Wayne vegetables year round, which would help with his cholesterol. I planned to freeze a lot of the vegetables for winter.

After we worked in the dirt and hot sun for a week, Wayne came up with the idea for an outdoor shower close to our kitchen door. He enclosed it but didn't make a door. No one lived within miles of us, so we could strip down and wash off the dirt, weeds and ticks, and I had read you should wash the pollen off because you can carry it into your house. We were both too modest to strip completely, but we did strip down to our underwear.

We both began to feel better than we had in years. We heard about a farmer's market in town where we could sell some of our vegetables. We even sold a few apples from the tree in the backyard. I was a little selfish with them because I love apple pie. My aunt sent me directions on how to dry them and make fried apple pies. DELICIOUS. We also loved fried green tomatoes. If our friends in the city could have seen us they would have been either envious or they'd have laughed because we had become true farmers.

As fall arrived, we were pretty well caught up with our farming. I wrote every morning, sometimes for hours at a time. The country air rekindled my creativity.

One morning we woke up to a noise that literally shook the house. Outside, a huge truck was pulling an old mobile home. We wondered if it would fall apart. Imagine our dismay when the driver placed it right across the road from us. He put it on a bank, and I feared it would roll over.

The man who had been in the passenger side of the truck came ambling over, not walking too steadily. When he got to the edge of the porch I smelled the booze reeking; it must have been coming out of his pores as well as his mouth.

"Hello, there, I'm Tom Carpenter," he said. "My sister died here a while back and left this little spot of land to me. I was mighty glad too. The rent in the trailer park was high. See that pond over there? I hear tell it's good for fishing. You can fish anytime you like. I'll be seein you."

I looked at Wayne and said, "That real-estate woman lied to us; I bet she knew he would be moving in. It wouldn't be so bad if a family were moving in, but he will drive us crazy."

I was right. If Tom saw us having coffee on the porch morning or night, he came over to join us. If we were eating donuts or cookies, he would eat the last crumb. I don't think he had a wife - if he did I never saw her.

Since his place was right across the road from ours, we couldn't help seeing some of the things he did. When he went fishing he first carried a big cooler, fishing pole and a bucket with worms, I assumed. Next he went back to his house to get a big round washing tub. He put his worms in a bowl and filled the tub with water from the pond. He proceeded to remove all his clothes, except for some old cut off blue jeans. He got in the tub and fished for hours. I would see him fill his old hat with water and pour it over his head.

One morning we heard the racket of another large truck coming up the road. This truck was hauling a horse and a woman. I later learned she was Tom's wife and had been staying with her mother, who was ill. Her mother died, so she came to join Tom. She brought a horse because she said she was going to make Tom plow the fields and raise vegetables for them and corn for the horse.

I could see Tom wasn't too keen on being a farmer, but his wife Martha made him work. He named the horse "Damit Ray" because he said it wouldn't do a thing he wanted it to do. Tom kept an old hat with holes poked in it for Damit Ray's ears. They were a comical sight to watch. I could see Damit Ray realized he had more sense than Tom. The horse had probably farmed before.

One day Tom had gone somewhere and we could tell he had imbibed a little too much. He walked with a reeling gait. We heard him tell Martha he was going to build them a porch. We watched him work, building the porch on stilts. I heard Martha say she was not going to sit on that porch. It would fall in. Tom slurred, "That's okay, Marthy. I'll enjoy sitting on it without your yammering."

He climbed on his porch and went rolling over the hill. I swear Damit Ray laughed a great big "He Haw, He Haw."

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Gail Livesay writes:

I attend weekly classes led by Pulitzer Prize nominated poet Sidney Saylor Farr and am a participant in The Kentucky Women's Playwright group led by Trish Ayers. I have had poetry published in POETRY AS A PRAYER WOMEN SPEAK, APPALACHIAN WOMEN'S JOURNAL, APPALACHIAN CONNECTION, A play to be published in an anthology by SHAN AYERS, Poems to be read by NEW MUMMERS PRODUCTION GROUP, informative letters to the editor about bipolar disorder and stem cell research, published in THE BEREA CITIZEN, RICMOND REGISTER, MOUNT VERNON SIGNAL and LEXINGTON-HERALD. I am currently revising my autobiography, which explores the impact of growing up with bipolar disorder, which had not been diagnosed and/or recognized.

Read more of Gail's stories and poems at USADEEPSOUTH!
Our New Frein / Worn and Gray (two poems)
The Good Ol' Days
A Southern Tale
Laundry Day

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