“My dearest Vivian –
Thank you for the last letter you sent. I can almost picture the snow on the ground when you describe it. The long nights are the worst here at … socks are at a premium as the humidity makes it impossible to keep your feet dry. When I am homesick, I think about the last time I was in Indiana, when the leaves where just starting to change colors, and when you and I strolled down to Anderson’s Drug Store for a single sarsaparilla with two straws. With girls like you at home, we’ll push back the … straight back to their island. I hope…until I can once again walk hand in hand with you. Ever your knight, Bill.”
“Come on baby, relax and let me take it off.” A female voice crooned as Ned Jackson walked into the furniture shop and smiled. His granddaughter was up early and already working on his antique Wooten desk. Although their company employed several individual restoration specialists, the desk with its 110 cubbyholes and family history was one that Christine personally was restoring first by carefully removing the layers of grime that had built up over the 125 years that the desk had been in existence.
Ned grinned when he saw his granddaughter on her knees on the bottom shelves of the center console, patiently wiping an orange-based solvent along the paneling that made up the bottom compartment. Christine had patiently removed and categorized all the hardware from the desk, placing it in carefully labeled plastic bins. His hand strayed to container that held the plaque that proudly displayed the Wooten name and patent date. The desk had been in his family since it was new. His grandfather had seen it in a store and fell in love with its Indiana black walnut construction, drop writing board, and simple design inspired by the Aesthetic Movement.
“Make sure you don’t get stuck in there or I’ll have to call the Fire Department,” Ned spoke to Christine’s back, eliciting an affirmative grunt. Amused, he continued past her to check on the other projects in various stages inside the warehouse. A chorus of voices greeted him as he inspected each piece of furniture.
Both the sounds of the other workers and the voice of her beloved grandfather faded as Christine focused on a stubborn spot of grime on the bottom of the cabinet. Cautiously, she added a tiny spot of solvent with a cotton applicator, waiting several seconds before she blotted and reexamined the area. Excellent, the stain was gone, without any damage to the original finish. She backed out of the cabinet, rocked back on her heels and stretched to ease her aching back.
Once she finished the bottom, the gabled overhang, with its two layers of shelves, she would reach the final stage. The last part that needed to be cleaned prior to replacing the green cardboard drawers that filled the cubbyholes. However, that would have to wait until tomorrow, so that any minute amounts of solvent still on the wood would evaporate. She wiped her hands on a towel, and made her way back to the rambling house that she and her grandfather shared.
Since a vehicle accident killed both her parents when she was sixteen, she had been living with her widowed grandfather. Ten years later, their relationship was very close, both professionally and personally. She loved being involved with restoration, seeing a neglected piece of furniture become a shining thing of beauty, and sharing that joy with her beloved grandfather. She screwed the cap back on the solvent and carefully stored in under the workbench.
As she proceeded up the steps to the wraparound porch, she thought her life was pretty great, here in Richmond, Indiana.
Life was pretty great, Paul thought, as he ran a soapy brush over the door and side mirrors of a bright red fire truck in Baltimore, Maryland. Well, not great, he hedged, but better. This was the three-year anniversary of his wife’s death from cervical cancer. For the first two, he had spent them in the darkened confines of their home with only a bottle of tequila on the coffee table to hold vigil. However, about eight months ago, he made the decision to volunteer in the local fire department. Now he looked forward to his shifts at the station, both as a relief from his somewhat uneventful employment as a bank manager, and as a positive way to help his community.
This was not the way that he had originally planned his life, he thought ruefully. Sometimes, at night, his condo seemed too silent and still. But, Paul thought, giving himself a mental shake, maybe someday they’ll be another person to share the quiet times. He knew that his late wife would have wanted him to move on and find someone else to love, but it was hard to imagine anyone else in his life.
Once the truck was cleaned and prepped for the evening he was going to have a quick visit with his grandmother. She lived a short distance away from the station, and was always delighted when her favorite grandson stopped by. If only she would stop matchmaking…
A young man stepped out from behind the fire station and trotted over to the truck. Paul smiled as Mehdi Koch walked to the soap bucket, pulled out the brush, and began to scrub the hubcaps. Too young to become a firefighter, he nevertheless hung out at the station, helping with odd jobs and chores, and becoming a sort of mascot to the crew members than manned the building. Paul rinsed the side of the engine, the water a rainbow-hued arc in the bright sunlight.
“Hey Mehdi, how are you doing today? Are you happy school is out for the summer?”
Mehdi shrugged. “I guess so. There’s nothing to do, though. I mean, I have my part time job, but I get bored just hanging out with the guys. It’s still another six months until I turn eighteen.” That was the minimum age to become a volunteer firefighter by OSHA regulations, and Paul knew that, given his enthusiasm and knowledge he had already gleaned, Mehdi would be a valuable asset to the company. He clapped a hand across the young man’s shoulders.
“It’ll be here soon enough, kiddo. In the meantime, let’s go ahead and get this truck clean.” Laughing, Paul stepped back and sprayed the young man with the hose, eliciting a yelp of surprise before Mehdi gleefully dipped into the soapy bucket and pelted Paul with a foamy sponge.
A Wooten desk, circa 1884