Scarlet Stone

With my column due in another two days, I am up at 5 a.m. sipping coffee, sitting at my old wood desk that has been dragged over to the middle of the dining room. A heavy-gauge orange extension cord runs from the back of the computer through stacks of other haphazardly-placed office stuff to an outlet. My red velvet wing back chair is to my left with the prized gold, Greek-goddess lamp standing behind it on a messy table. Under the parchment-colored bell-shade with red beaded trim… the goddess has downcast eyes with hands up on her head as if thinking, “I left the Mediterranean for this?”  It will fall on deaf ears to tell her she’s been relocated for her own safety because there’s a clogged drainpipe upstairs and one access is through the ceiling of my office. Water is not a lamp’s friend.
Cats are around me too, as always. I hear newspapers rustling and in the kitchen some food crunching and something, somewhere, just fell to the floor.
A few weeks ago, I decided to add a male kitten to the mix here because my two female cats needed a lively playmate. I got him from the shelter in Ely and have named him Grady. He is full of love, has an easy-going personality, and is a brilliant little thing even at 2.8 lbs.  It’s quite busy in general these days at the “House of Stone”. There’s much left to do before winter arrives like fix the current plumbing issue, stain the deck, lay the roll of new office carpet that’s taking up needed space in the hallway and kitchen, and clean the bloody garage. I am enjoying companionship and additional help as former husband, ongoing friend, Bill is back. We have had our ups, downs and yet we have chosen NOT to go our separate ways after a 16-month split. I went on a trip to Missouri in early June, he stayed at the house watching the cats and never left! He then moved out of an apartment in Tower he’d been renting. (House of Stone – West as I called it.) We had a real nice summer with biking, swimming, weekend traveling and are back at doing projects like we always enjoyed… except for plumbing. 
This old house was moved onto the two-lot parcel somewhere back in the 20s or 30s, and a small bathroom was added upstairs with plumbing that required steeper drainage than space would allow. Last fall while living alone here the shower gradually plugged up again. After trying the basic fixes I abandoned using it, opting instead to shower in the basement bathroom. One afternoon last week Bill decided to tackle the situation. He used his hand-held snake and attempted to clear the shower drain as he’d done in the past, but this time with no luck.  He then removed the back shower panel and a couple pieces of hardwood flooring in an adjacent upstairs bedroom to get to the “guts”. The P-trap for the upstairs bathroom sink and shower has to be accessed through a removeable ceiling panel in my main floor office. Clearing the pipes has so far proved unsuccessful because the clog is about eight feet in from the P-trap. Why couldn’t this be easy? We even brought up the big portable electric drain cleaner with no success, just a mess from working overhead. Bill figures he knows where the clog is now, but to reach it he has to tear out the vanity, linoleum and some of the floorboards. The simple afternoon project clearly is moving into overtime. 
We set the tools down last weekend, were joined by son, Keaton and his fiance Ashley and took off to celebrate Bill’s birthday with mini golf and dinner over on Vermilion, followed by a few cocktails under the canopy lights back home on our deck. We were enjoying the ambience when suddenly we heard a lonesome, unsteady wailing coming through the darkness beyond my birch trees. We turned off our music to listen and the noise stopped with us wondering if it was an animal or human source. Just then an ambulance with a row of eyebrow lights and no sirens came slowly up the avenue from the church corner and turned and moved through the darkness headed up Superior Street past my house, easing out of sight. I wondered who was in peril. Curiosity overcame the string of lights and delights that had preceded, and Bill rose to go for a walk in the dark. “Ambulance chaser,” I quipped, chuckled and took a sip of my wine. Bill was gone for a while then resurfaced from the shadows of the birch trees lining my empty lot that I call the vineyard. I remind you, there are no grapes, but I live partially in a fantasy world because too much reality is no fun at all. Bill reported the wailing was coming from within a large garage up the street that is paired with no house. He said the ambulance was parked up in front of an old two-story house in need of paint with disheveled window coverings and dim lighting that I’ve named “the spook house.” At this point the kids decided to take their basket of clean laundry which we quickly folded and they headed home, dropping us off up the street to further investigate. As my Crocs touched pavement and Bill exited his side of the car opening a bottle of beer, the ambulance rolled quietly away with nobody else in sight.
What an odd evening I thought. We hadn’t had as much occurring in Soudan since the night this past July when an out-of-sorts neighbor punched our side door that was simply minding its own business. Glass flew, a small handful of sheriffs arrived to restore the calm to our corner lot. Further lively details of that night have been left to history. 
In truth, on that July evening, we’d actually just arrived home fifteen minutes prior and I was reclining in my muumuu chuckling over details from a fun trip to Houghton and historic Hurley’s Silver Street, where we met a traveling gypsy pole dancer at The Idle Hour Saloon. She was kind, then offered me a thirty-dollar lap dance because she misjudged my motive of friendliness. “Oh no, I just want to visit,” I replied,” after my jaw dropped. She was very interesting, tall and skilled at her craft, remaining “one with the pole” during her performance which she later explained as intentional slow movements to ease oncoming arthritis. Life’s hardships wrote her face to be mid-forties, while her body appeared to be a decade closer to the innocence of a girlish tap dance. Our intention was to visit an old tavern next door called “Dawn’s Never Inn” that is reported to be haunted by the ghost of Lotta Morgan, a popular actress and scarlet woman who fell victim to an ax-wielding killer back in the late 1800’s. To my disappointment that bar was closed, and I should have realized it would be from its title, Dawn’s Never Inn!  I must add, I can see pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport! I noted women’s volleyball outfits to have only a few threads more than a pole dancer’s costume. So many stories, so few words left in a column. 
At any rate, Bill and I solved one of the mysteries on Superior Street in Soudan the other night, concluding that an unhappy dog was locked in the garage. A truck was haphazardly parked outside on the grassy driveway, and I was feeling so sorry for the lonely animal, but decided to mind my own business and see what the morning brought. The first thing I did the next day…pre-coffee… was peer out the kitchen window to see if the truck was gone and it was…so I knew I wouldn’t be marching up the street to leave a reprimanding PETA-toned note on a windshield. The dog was probably okay, and I concluded it takes much work to be a busy-body, even in Soudan and it’s best to remain a crazy cat lady minding her own business. The next mystery to be solved will be the plumbing issue and I hope by my next column everything is functional and in place again.