Chapter 10—Work from the Heart
April is a beautiful month in Northern Virginia. The Early bird purple crepe myrtle, the cherry and pear trees, dogwoods, and redbuds all start to bloom. The air is fresh, and the new grass looks even brighter in the sun. It is a joy to be outside and witness nature’s rebirth.
The Broad Oaks Golf Course community is buzzing with activity as if engaged in a contest with a beehive.
The wetlands on the property are already marked. Willie has the large feed container in the front corner of the golf cart barn. Luca and a few good men are emptying the old metal shed for storing the construction materials for the renovation.
Ray and Tom leave in the big construction truck to buy structural lumber, plywood, shingles, insulation, waterproofing, window, and door frames.
It’s Friday, April 7. The eight-week work schedule puts the end of construction at the end of May, just when Jasmin Holley and her two children move in.
Luca and his guys finish clearing the space for the new materials and move on to the brick structure. They do a good brushing to the inside of the walls, getting rid of bird’s nests, spider webs, and dirt.
Ray returns before lunch with his truck loaded. Many men volunteer to help unload, and Ray organizes the materials in the reverse order of use.
By lunchtime, they have already done a lot of work. The club’s kitchen sends over two big bowls of stew for Ray and Tom’s lunch, and after a short rest, the two of them get back to work. Following Lani’s drawings, Tom chops six pockets in the brick walls, and Ray cuts the three structural wood beams for the loft support and six support posts with his circular saw. He wants to blow Lani away when she comes from work to inspect the job. Before long, the three beams are in place, and they are screwing two by fours on edge every sixteen inches across the beams to support the three-quarter-inch plywood floor.
Willie doesn’t know what’s going on because from the outside, you can’t even tell it’s a construction site. The materials are inside the metal shed, and nobody is outside.
Sierra and Pat come home from school today without Isa. Pat can’t resist, and before heading home, he wants to see the construction work. Sierra has to rush home, so he goes alone.
“Wow, guys, you did a lot today,” says Pat.
“Hi, kid. How would you know?” Ray asks Pat.
“I know Lani’s sketch. She wanted the loft built first. My dad and I went with Lani—” Ray stops him by asking,
“Is Lani your mother?”
“No, at least not yet. Lani’s my dad’s girlfriend, and she lives with us.”
“Do you like her? Is she good to you and your dad?
“Good? She cooks, plays golf well, she’s smart, and has a genius of a dog. I love her, and she is my friend, too.”
“I am Pat Queenan.”
“Pat, nice to meet you. Don’t tell Miss Lani or your dad anything. We want to surprise her.”
“Cool, I’m sure she will stop here first and then come home.” Pat starts walking home, and Missy and Ingo come to meet him as always.
Lani gets off the bus at the club’s drop-off and doesn’t see any activity. Disappointed, she walks around the Clubhouse, and, only when she gets closer, she sees the shed half full of new materials. She sighs in relief. She hears a screw gun, walks into the brick structure, and stops amazed,
“Oh, my goodness gracious, Ray. This is fantastic. I can’t believe you’ve done the loft already. My hat’s off to you.”
Ray and Tom stop working, and with a big smile Ray tells her, “Miss Lani, I am glad you are pleasantly surprised. We’d hoped to finish setting this last sheet of plywood before you got here. We wanted to wait for you downstairs drinking beers, just to get a rise out of you.” They both start laughing hard, like only construction guys know how.
“Tell you what,” Lani says. “Let’s see if we can get a rise out of Jim. You guys finish, come down, and I’ll rush home. It’s close. We live on the second hole. I’ll pretend to be unhappy and bring him to see what you guys did. I’ll get the beers.”
“That works,” say the guys. Lani leaves, the screw guns whirring behind her.
She arrives home with her regular golden escort. She kicks her high heel shoes off and gets into slip-on walking sneakers, grabs a piece of cheddar cheese from the refrigerator, and shoves it in her mouth. She stuffs three cans of beer and two ice teas in her backpack and asks Jim to go with her to see the work progress.
“I would like to go also,” says Pat. “Let’s take the dogs for a walk, too.”
Five souls are on the way to the construction site. Pat is amazed that Lani didn’t stop on the way home to see the progress, but the chunk of cheddar in her mouth she just finishing chewing tells him she was starving. As they get closer to the Clubhouse, Pat stays behind with the dogs and throws sticks for them to fetch.
Jim sees from a distance, once they pass the Clubhouse, some new stacks of plywood, steel studs, rolls of insulation, and a pile of shingles.
“Oh, look, they started the mobilization. They bought materials. It’s a beginning.”
They’re getting closer, and Lani stops, takes one of her shoes off, and says, “You two go ahead. I have a pebble in my shoe.”
Jim steps into the old metal shed and sees Ray and Tom changing their work shirts and boots.
“Hello, gentlemen, I am Jim Queenan.” Jim shakes hands with Ray and Tom, who introduce themselves.
Jim starts toward the brick house and stops.
“Wow, Lani, you’ve got to see this.” He turns back to look at Lani, who is giving the beers to the two laughing men.
“Come on, come see,” Jim says again.
“So, what do you think about these guys, Jim? I’ve seen it. I just wanted to surprise you.”
“Awesome, it looks just like you drew it,” says Jim. “This is amazing how a few lines on paper can tell a builder how to build it.”
“Well, that’s why architects go for six years to college.”
Lani gives Jim his beer, and, while the men and Pat are chatting, Ingo and Missy are hard at work sniffing the place. She grabs a hardhat, puts it on her head, and asks for a flashlight.
“I have a tape measure. Do you have a torch, some chalk sticks or wax pencils? I want to mark the two ends of the dormer for you.”
“Here you go,” says Ray, handing her the flashlight and chalk. “Maybe on Monday, I can hang some construction bulbs up there.”
“Am I safe to get up on the new wood slab?”
“Sure, Miss Lani. Do you want Tom to come with you?”
“No, Ray, I’m fine.”
“Lani, I’ll come up with you,” says Pat and runs to hold the ladder while Lani climbs to the loft.
“Some lady, Miss Lani,” says Tom.
“When are you guys getting married?” Ray asks casually and takes all the empty drink cans to the trash container.
“We should, shouldn’t we?” Jim pauses a little and smiles. “One time, watching a movie, Lani said she can’t get married because she doesn’t have anybody to give her away.”
“I can give her away. I sure am old enough for that,” Ray laughs.
“You know what, Ray, we may take you up on that one of these days.”
Pat and Lani return. They leave a light on in the metal shed and call it a day.
On the walk back home, Jim tells Lani that Ray offered to give her away.
“Now, why on the green earth would he say that?” Lani is downright shocked by this.
“Well, when he asked me, ‘When are you guys getting married?’ I told him that you said you have nobody to give you away.”
“Jim, you never asked. That’s why we are not getting married.”
Pat and the dogs are way ahead, frolicking. It’s just the two of them, charming dusk with the sun trying to go down behind the trees. Jim is holding her hand, stops, and puts a knee down on the cart path.
“Lani, would you marry me?” Jim is looking up. Lani’s eyes gleam slightly in the sunset.
“Oh, Lord, it’s so out of the blue, just like that?” Lani asks incredulously.
“I want to marry you, Lani.”
“Yes, of course I’ll marry you, my dear Jim.” They embrace and kiss.
Pat and the dogs are home already. The two are alone in this magnificent setting.
“Look how pretty it is,” says Lani. “Let’s get married on the golf course and have a little party at home.”
“By the practice area, your home away from home.” They both laugh and love the idea.
“You got it. I love it,” says a radiant Lani.
Jim orders by phone, at the nearby Chinese restaurant, everybody’s favorites. Pat remarks at the dinner table how well the renovation work progresses, but the two adults seem to be thinking about something else. He looks to Lani, then to Jim, and puts his chopsticks down.
“Okay, guys, what gives? Something is happening.”
“It sure is, Pat,” says Jim with a big smile. “I asked Lani to marry me, and she said yes.”
“Wow, that’s so great! Congratulations to both of you. You finally came to your senses.” Pat gets up and goes to Lani first, hugs and kisses her, and then to Jim.
“Come to our senses? What do you mean, son?”
“Oh, please. Everybody’s already asked me when you guys are getting married. Today, even Ray asked me. What took you so long?”
“It wasn’t that long,” says Lani.
“Yeah, it’s been a year and a half since you’ve met. And we’ve lived together now for more than a year.”
The schoolgirls of the Broad Oaks development have a lot of work to do this weekend.
Pat had given Sierra some of his ideas, and she organized a group of about twelve girls and met on the lawn next to the practice range to make plans. Sierra showed the girls a sketch of the soon-to-be renovated Angus’ House, and they called Pat from the driving range to explain the drawing to them.
Pat takes the girls to the construction site and shows them what goes where. Now they can figure out what needs to be done. They all cheer when they see the new white window frames and the gray shingles in the shed. The girls’ opinion is that a red brick house with white doors and windows and a gray roof would be pretty.
One of the bigger girls has ideas about the interior.
“I think that we should use light colors for the interior. The loft wood support beams should be left natural color and we should put a clear finish on them. It would look nice with the underside of the plywood floor painted white.”
Sierra is writing down all the ideas to report to Pat and Lani. They also decided on bone-white with gray specks linoleum and the carpets for the bedrooms.
One of the girls wants to donate a glass lamp in the shape of a giant butterfly for the wall at the head of Isa’s bed. Another one, whose mom works in a fine fabrics store, will ask her to make a beautiful privacy curtain for Isa’s bedroom. One of them has a grandmother who makes window curtains and offers her help. The girls’ enthusiasm and resourcefulness cause a similar reaction in their parents.
Sierra works with Jim on creative looking flyers for the silent auction and raffle. On Sunday morning, Pat delivers 200 color printed sheets to Sierra for the girls. After lunch, the girls, nicely dressed and with leaflets in their hands, are ringing doorbells and handing out the flyers.
After Sierra divides the 200 flyers among the girls, she joins the bigger boys who had volunteered for the construction work. They are meeting around noon on the range. Marcus—a nerdy boy with glasses who’s exceptionally good at math—takes charge of figuring out the work schedule for the boys. In eight weeks of work, there are forty working days. If they have three boys a day, that is a total of 120 kids’ workdays. They only have twelve boys and a girl, so that means that everybody will have to help about ten times in eight weeks. All the boys are fine with that. Sierra suggests that, if possible, each person should work two consecutive days to be more productive. They would already know how to do the work.
Marcus figures out soon that he’s going to need his mom’s help. She’s an accountant, and she can help him work out the schedule. Marcus gets the boys’ phone numbers and promises to call them.
“Wow, this is a lot more complicated than I thought. I have to talk to Mom and think about it,” says Marcus as the boys leave. Pat leaves, too. He has a game date with his dad.
“Look, what about if some dads are willing to come on Friday afternoons, get directions from the builder and do some work on Saturdays. This way, we reduce a little the work for the boys.”
“Good thinking, Sierra. That teaches me and my big mouth not to volunteer for stuff I don’t know.” Marcus, with his nose in his papers, walks away, shaking his head.