Rye, working a beaver hide
Five years after my last story, I was back on the Vineyard, this time in winter. A couple of the same friends I’d lived with that summer had an apartment, and it was cheap, and there was lots of good-paying work. Trevor and I were working for the same builder, restoring a massive old Victorian that overlooked the Atlantic. Place must’ve been worth… damn, I have no idea. Whatever number I throw out would probably be naively low, anyway. A lot of money, for sure.
This was a big step up from working for Ken. I was still the low man on the ladder, so to speak, but the ladder was a whole lot taller, if that makes any sense. I was responsible for most of the grunt work, but because there wasn’t a whole lot of grunt work, I got to partake of the finish work, and leveling the floors, and replacing clapboards and exterior trim, and so on. I no longer had the stupid-fast motorcycle, but I think I had another, or maybe I was between motorcycles. But I know I had a bicycle and I know I rode that a lot. A whole lot. Trevor and I would start work at 6:00 in the morning, work until our paid coffee break at 10:00, stuff our faces, and leave the job at 2:00 with a full eight-hour day behind us. I think I was up to $20/hr, which at that point in my life (and remember, this would’ve been the early 90’s), felt like a whole lot of money. Anyway, after work I’d climb on my bike and pedal all over the island.Yeah, it was winter, but winter on the Vineyard is pretty half-ass. I had me a Sony Walkman, one of those yellow ones that was supposed to be water and shock resistant, and I listened to that a lot. Appetite For Destruction had been out a few years, but I’d only just caught wind of it. That, and lots of Rush. Not sure what else, but probably something pretty awful.
So one morning Trevor and I are on the job, and it’s early – 6:30 or so – and this woman shows up to dig a ditch for the sprinkler system. It’s barely light out. It was February, and pretty chilly, maybe 40-degrees, and raining a bit, and generally just a shitshow. The ocean all gray and foreboding. The woman was riding a bicycle. She had a shovel and a mattock strapped to the frame of the bicycle. I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, I actually don’t think I was even looking or cared much; I was into making money, riding my bicycle, and hanging out with my friends. Sure, I noticed attractive women; no doubt I made occasionally fumbling attempts to make myself seem attractive to them, but at that point in my life, it just wasn’t a focal point for me. Which in hindsight seems a little odd for a 21-year-old guy, but that’s just the way it was.
But this was something different for sure. I mean, this woman had ridden her bike a dozen miles in the rain, in the near-dark of early morning, in February, with a goddamned shovel and mattock, to dig a trench so some fool with more money than sense would be assured a green-enough lawn come the dry days of August. I was mighty intrigued, I was.
I flirted a bit, at least to the best of my ability, which wasn’t much. I remember being up on some scaffolding on the exterior of the house and there was some gloppy snow – maybe accumulated on the porch roof, or maybe on the scaffold planks themselves – and I remember throwing snowballs at her while she dug. Grade-school stuff. Real smooth operator.
I don’t recall much else from the job site; I think she finished the trench, went off to some other job, probably rode her bike to that one, too, lugging whatever tools were required. But I remember running into her in the book store in town – I used to go there quite a bit – and I asked if she wanted to go to my bosses wedding with me, which was coming right up. And she looked at me, and said: “Sure.”
And then she said: “What’s your name again?”
And a half-dozen years later, we got married ourselves.