Pat stood there, sort of dumbfounded, she was not used to yardmen or anyone talking to her like that; who did he think he was. Yes, he did a good job and he waited for her to return, to heck with him, she thought and went back inside.
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The next three or four days saw the little blue Datsun around the neighborhood and Andy smiling and working. As Pat drove by he did not wave or say hi, he just continued what he was doing. On Friday at the Fitness Center she decided to sit in the Sauna because her hip was aching, she found two neighbors already in there and they chatted. Mrs. Bookman looked at Pat, “Why I saw him and that little Blue truck in front of your house, so I hired him when I saw him at Pauline’s.”
Pauline, the area snob looked at both of them, “Well I know Pat is such a stickler about her yard and grounds when I saw him, I just had to try him.” She looked sheepishly as she continued, “I wrote down the license number and had Joe run a check on it, then I called him, Andy is such a doll and a good yardman too boot.”
Pat sat there smug, she was not going to admit to what happened at her house, but she did wonder what the other two had to pay; both yards were similar, one being larger and one being smaller. Finally she just asked them and was surprised at how little one paid and how much the other paid; she just said, “He said he would do it and after he did it next time we could reach an agreement.” She was impressed with this yardman, a man who wrote and knew how to garner business.
It did not rain and Pat did not see Andy or his truck for six days, but on the morning of the seventh at five to eight there was a knock on the back door. Pat opened the door to find Andy standing there, same hat, shirt, trousers and shoes, “Morning Mrs. Skidmore, I think the lawn is ready for another mowing; do you wish me to do it and to trim?” He was very poised and businesslike.
“Yes, I do and Mister Andy Dray, I have a bone to pick with you,” Pat said. She opened the door wider, “Come in, have a cup, we need to talk.” Andy leaned over, untied his clodhoppers, took them off and stepped inside. Pat showed him to the kitchen table, “Coffee?”
“Only if you are,” he replied; as he sat down, laying his small spiral notebook that he carried in his shirt pocket in front of him. Pat got two cups and saucers, choosing cups instead of mugs to see his reaction. She poured and put the pot back, he arose, pulled her chair out and waited for her to sit down, then he too sat.
“You did my lawn so you could get more business, you spoke to me in an unkindly manner last time, I do not like it.” Pat frowned.
Andy stood, pushed his chair back. “Mrs. Skidmore, I told you, you were the first place I stopped and yes, I know you are the hardest to please lady in the area and have a beautiful lawn and gardens. I hid nothing and if you are accusing me, then so be it. Thanks for the coffee, I must be off to work.” He turned and headed for the door, Pat noticing his socks were white cotton, clean and fairly new.
“Mister Dray, sit down, er . . . please.” This man was getting to Patricia Skidmore for she was boss of her realm. “First, what do you feel I should pay you to do my yard work, based on once a week?” She looked at his brown eyes, “No hedging, just honest and straightforward.”
“The kids get $25 to $50 a pop, it takes me less than two hours, so between those two limits I would say, the lower, the less time I spend, the higher the more picky and finicky I get.” He took the cup and sipped, then sat it down. Pat noticed the little pinkie sticking out. Was this a big façade or was it just a normal reaction?
“Thirty seven fifty to be raised or lowered depending on how I like what you do?” Pat blurted it out as she arose, “Excuse me a second,” then went to the cupboard and put four small scones on plate and got two small plates, returning. “She put the plate between them and a small one in front of Andy and one in front of her space. “Scones, I made them, raisins and nuts.”
“That is fine maam, do you have a specific time you wish me to work and do you wish me to inform you each time I come before I work and then when I am ready to depart?” Andy picked up a scone, broke it in half, lifted one half and smelled it, then took a small bite, he arose, went to the cabinet and got two paper napkins. He placed one on her left side then sat down.
He was one cool customer, cool indeed, Pat wondered who he was and how he came about being a yardman. “I go to the Fitness Center at eight, but I would prefer you let me know when you come and go,” she replied as she broke her scone, took a small bite, then wiped her hands.
“Yes maam,” Andy said. “And Mrs. Skidmore, I prefer to be called Andy, please.” He took another bite and a sip of his coffee, that dang pinkie always sticking out.
Pat looked at her watch, “I must go, will you be here when I return?”
“If you wish me to, I will, I have five other yards to tend to today,” he replied as he wiped his mouth, arose and took the cup and plate to the sink and left them. “Did it bother you for a yardman to sit under that big maple while having lunch and writing?”
“No, not at all, would you allow me to read your writings? I too do a little writing now and then, but I do enjoy reading local work.” Pat was quite interested in what he wrote; maybe that would yield an insight into him and his background. Andy thanked her for the coffee and delicious scones, then retired outside and began to work. Pat got into the Camry and left. When she returned Andy was not there but the place looked great. Later she drove around the neighborhood but did not see the little Blue Datsun.
Around four Pat was out planting some flowers when a voice behind her spoke, “Afternoon Mrs. Skidmore, hope you had a good day.” She looked up to see a sweat stained Andy. “Was my work acceptable; is there anything else you would like me to do?”
Pat started to stand and as she did she felt a strong hand on her arm and it lifted her to a standing position, “Thanks,” she said. Then she picked up her little shovel and basket, taking off her gloves, “Come around and let me pay you, I do not like to owe people.” They walked around to the car port where Pat put away her stuff, then she went inside and came back with a check for $75, “This should get us even,” she said as she handed him the check.
Quickly Andy pulled a small receipt book from his back pocket and filled it out, handing her a receipt. “Thank you maam,” he replied.
“Mister Dr . . , er Andy one day could you spare a couple hours to help me do some cleaning in the basement, I cannot handle those large boxes and I need some stuff hauled to the dump or to Good Will.”
“Want to do it now, or I will be available anytime convenient to you,” he replied. “Heck I even have solid side boards for old blue to haul stuff, if required.”
“Tomorrow at ten, when I return from the Fitness Center, then I can get that taken care of and then shower afterwards, for I always get so dirty and sweaty when I work in the basement.” He smiled and nodded yes, writing it down in his little spiral notebook. Pat walked Andy to his truck, hoping to see some sign of something about him. All she saw was a two-gallon thermos, a clip board and two larger spiral notebooks, but no decals or stickers on the truck. She waved goodbye and went back inside.
The next morning Pat wore her new warm ups and was home by ten to ten. At three minutes before the little blue Datsun stopped in front of the house. Andy was dressed as he had been each time she had seen him, “I wonder how many of those outfits he has,” she said aloud. She met him at the door and they went downstairs. Quickly he did the work and took the six boxes filled with stuff to get rid of out to the truck. Then he swept the floor and washed the four basement windows. Pat enjoyed it because she asked all sorts of questions, getting answers to some of them.
“Mrs. Skidmore, all these boxes on the floor, it would be much better if they were not on the concrete but sat on a board off the floor.”
Pat thought a second, “What I really would like is to take this corner and to make shelves so I could use smaller boxes and get to them, off the floor too.” Andy was looking, “Can you do that, can you build me some shelves?”
“Sure, but if it were me, I would build them from one wall to another, with vertical supports each three or four feet and make them so you can easily change the size of each shelf.” He found a piece of paper then sketched them showing her how by placing cross bars she could vary the height.
“How much would it cost, parts and labor,” Pat asked. She quickly thought how much she could spare, “Less than $200,” she asked.
Andy grinned, “Oh yes, depending on what kind of shelving you want and how much weight you want to put on them.” He took out a tape measure and made some measurements, writing each down. “Say two feet deep,” he said as he held the tape showing her how it would be. “I can go to Lowes or Home Depot and price it out for you. Do you want to use particleboard or pine boards? If we use particle board we must use a two by two stiffener.” He paused looked at the woman who was thinking and trying to visualize what he was saying. “You, if you wish and can spare an hour, could go to Home Depot with me,” he said.
Pat grinned, “Best offer I have had in many years, sure if you have the time. Won’t your wife be waiting supper for you?” She could not pass up the bit of nosiness.
“I live by myself and staying busy is how I cope. Shall we go now?”
Pat grinned even larger, “Let me get my purse and lock the doors, I will only be a minute.” She did the trip enjoy as they wandered around, talked, looked and finally decided on particle board with two by two’s as stiffeners, the stiffeners glued for extra strength. With the little blue Datsun loaded they headed home.
“Care for an ice cream cone? A chocolate ice cream cone,” Andy asked, knowing it was suppertime. Pat nodded and he turned into Mickey D’s drive through and got two small chocolate cones. They giggled and ate as they drove back to Pat’s house. Andy unloaded the truck, then asked when would Pat like him to do the work.
“Whenever is convenient to you,” she replied.
“Tomorrow I have a full day, but what about, what time do you usually eat dinner, say after six, it should not take over an hour or two. I will bring the tools.”
“I usually eat about five thirty, so six would be fine, if it is not imposing too much on you.” It was agreed, so Andy went home while Pat made a salad and sat eating and reading a boring book. She wondered why she did not offer him some supper, or at least ask. But her upbringing, her mien made her look down on tradesmen and people of a lower strata; even though her dad had worked in a plant running a stamping machine and her mom had done baking and house cleaning so she their smart darling oldest daughter could go to college and get ahead in life.
“No sir, I cannot take on any more jobs, I am booked solid. . . . Sir I know you offered me a premium to do your yard but I am just one person and I do the work myself. If you wish, I will take your name and then I will place you on the list for next summer. . . . Thank you sir, have a good evening.” Andy hung up the phone then thought a split second, reached over and removed the phone cord from the wall. “There damn you there,” he said as he went into the kitchen and got a Foster’s. People had told him retired life would be great one moment and hell another, so far it had been fun and he had lost fifteen pounds. He for the first time in his life was on his own schedule, relatively speaking, he enjoyed what he was doing and most of all he got to work outside. That was something he did not get to do as a Senior Engineer in the Advanced Engineering section of Systems Engineering a company which he had help found and still owned about 30% of the stock. After Mary had died, then Joe was killed during a Baghdad raid and Little Mary and Petey had been killed in an auto accident on a ski trip, he had just resigned from the company, remaining on the Board of Directors. He returned to this the first house they bought a small two-bedroom house with a large garage and back yard. They had kept it, renting it out as they moved to other locations.