42. Fairy Godfather
Jimmy stared at the disarray of boxes about the apartment, the small stacks of books on the floor, and a pile of two broken bookshelves in pieces. The movers Paul had arranged would be there any minute, and he was ready to say good-bye to this apartment. It did not feel like the same place they had left last summer. It was not home any longer without Maia, Jonny, and Cat. It was just him and he did not like what he saw. He worked any available minute the last two weeks getting things organized for packing. The new tenants across the hall complained about him working through the night, and that was a new experience, being that Maia and Cat had lived there and never complained about anything.
He recognized the furnishings and the belongings, but the emotions were raw. They weren’t the same. None of it was. Jimmy felt as if he had lost so much, and now the weight of it all was upon him to tidy up and move them to a different location, get Maia back to Chicago and get Jonny well. He just wasn’t the Superman that everyone expected him to be, including himself. He needed another cup of coffee.
Jimmy poured the last cup into his metal Starbuck’s mug and turned off the coffee pot, washing it out and emptying the grounds one last time. It was nice of Paul to pay for the movers for them. He certainly couldn’t have moved five hundred books on his own. How on earth they got five hundred books was beyond him. He watched for the movers as they had to move it all into the new place by five that day so that he could make it to rehearsal on time. He had just gotten an understudy for Macbeth since the current understudy got pneumonia and was out for the rest of the show.
He’d come home and put away what he could then set up the bed and make it more manageable. He had hired cleaners for the old apartment. He didn’t care. Jimmy loaded his suitcase into the trunk of the car with Jonny’s necessities. They had an actual parking lot with an assigned parking carport in front of their accessible apartment. Jonny’s doctor had arranged for a handicapped parking pass for the car, and Jimmy had just got it yesterday. He had only a couple of days until Jonny came home from the rehab center. Still, Jimmy opted to pay for the second parking space so that they had it for a visiting nurse or aide to park in until he got a second vehicle since they sold his before they left for France.
When the movers arrived, they got right to work. They brought an extra guy just to help them pack the books, so while the other two were carrying furniture out, the book guy and Jimmy loaded boxes. By one-thirty, the apartment was empty. Jimmy stopped and looked at it, went through all of the kitchen cupboards and bathroom drawers one more time finding nothing left behind. As they prepared to leave, the cleaning crew showed up and Joey paid them in advance. He knocked on Marty’s door and put the key in his hand and said two words: “Good-bye Marty,” and walked down the staircase.
Jimmy hand just unlocked the new apartment door and put a wedge beneath it to hold it open for the movers when he was approached by a fashionable woman wearing a jean jacket, with a mint blouse and skinny jeans. She had a Chanel bag over her shoulder and she handed him an envelope.
“Jimmy Wilkens?” she asked him.
“Yes?” he asked.
“I’m to give you this,” she said, handing him an envelope. Jimmy eyed her suspiciously, fearing she was a process server.
“What’s this about?” he asked.
In it was a printed email from Paul:
This is Betsy, and she’s going to help you get unpacked and organized for Doc to come home this week. Use her and her team to the fullest. She will help with the decorating and will furnish Maia’s room so she can stay with you when we are in Chicago in two weeks.
There’s a consultant for accessible living, Miguel Andros, who will make recommendations for an accessible design for Doc and ready when he comes home this week. If a piece of furniture isn’t going to work out, Miguel will find a replacement that will.
Doc has to be safe and you need the peace of mind that he is safe when you are at work. You have enough to take care of, let me do this. Don’t be pissed at me for overreaching. Maia needs us all.
“Jesus Christ, Paul,” said Jimmy, as tears dripped down his face.
“Mr. Wilkens,” Betsy said, putting a hand on his forearm.
“Please, call me Jimmy.”
“My team is on standby and are ready to unpack.”
“Where are they?” he asked.
“Here,” she said, motioning to the crew of five, looking at what was on the moving truck.
“Go right ahead. Thank you.”
Betsy went out to give her crew the go-ahead and soon returned to talk with Jimmy. She asked him what his vision was for the place, and that Paul told her that he had many books.
“Many books,” laughed Jimmy, “is an understatement,” he said. “We are professors. While I was packing, I think I counted five hundred.”
“Oh my,” she said with a laugh.
“My partner uses them more than I do, his are more reference and for teaching, so he’s constantly at the bookshelves. I teach more acting methods than theory so I’m not so book bound as he is. Two of the bookshelves were broken, so I need new shelving that is more durable and can be mounted to the wall, so it doesn’t fall on him.”
Betsy walked to the kitchen center aisle and took out the portfolio from her bag.
“My specialty is working with couples and families of different abilities so that accessibility is understated and not accentuated. It’s built into the design rather than pieces of hospital equipment littering the spaces.”
“Fascinating, do you have some examples?”
While Betsy and Jimmy talked, they discussed where the books would go first and foremost.
“This is a two-bedroom apartment. Is the other bedroom for an office?”
“No, it’s for a guest bedroom for our daughter, Maia.”
“Oh, I see,” she said, piecing it together. “So where do you want the books to go?”
“I thought along that wall,” said Jimmy. It would be nice for the library to be in one place rather than scattered about.”
“I think you’re right about that,” she said, handing him the end of a tape measure. She walked down the expanse of the twenty-foot wall that ended at the dining room, kitchen area.
Betsy’s assistant entered with a list on a clipboard. “Here’s the furniture list,” she said, handing it to her. Betsy scanned it. “There’s a desk. Is that for Jonny?”
“Yes,” said Jimmy. “I only use it to pay the bills. He uses it for everything else.”
“What’re the dimensions of it?” she asked the assistant, not Joey.
“It’s a three and a half by five,” she replied.
“Solid oak, it was his grandfather’s desk,” Jimmy replied.
“Great, thank you,” she said, handing the list back to the intern. “Let’s remeasure this. I take it you want the desk and the books kept together?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Only one short one. He keeps the rest of the files at school that he hasn’t transferred over onto digital files.”
“Like a two by two?”
“Right,” he said.
She stopped and looked at the wall again and reached for her tablet. “I think I have one in the warehouse already built. We had a family change their minds last week before the build was even finished. This one is done in a deep maple, but they decided they wanted whitewashed pine.”
“That’s incredible,” said Jimmy, as she zoomed in the photo.
“When it’s installed, it will be mounted into studs so that it will not fall over onto him. If you look at this from straight on, you cannot see that there are supports built into it, here and here,” she said, pointing how they blended into the design, and he can stabilize himself with it.”
“That’s awesome, I never would have thought that such a thing existed.”
“I just need to schedule the installers to bring it in and install it. How’s tomorrow for you?”
Jimmy looked at his calendar, trying to remember what day of the week it was. He had class at eight and ten that morning.
“I can meet you at one tomorrow,” he said.
“Perfect,” she said, answering her buzzing phone. “Miguel, come sta?” They chatted and she asked if he was on his way, and he said he was stuck in traffic.
Jimmy felt as though he was going through a whirlwind. Movers, decorators, organizers, either he wasn’t in Kansas anymore or he had fallen down a rabbit hole. Whatever it was, he needed to come out ahead for a change.
“Miguel will be here soon. He’s stuck in traffic.”
“What colors do you like for furnishings?”
“We like earth tones. No neons, pastels, purples, or pinks. We don’t care for black or white furniture. The more natural in wood and earth tone, the happier we are with it.”
“Excellent,” she said, clicking on her warehouse page on her tablet. She walked into the bedroom with it and a measuring tape and started to measure the space. “So for an accessible bed, these are your options,” she said, pulling up the pictures of the platform beds.
“This one has storage drawers beneath,” she said, showing it to him. “What size is your bed now?”
“We have a queen.”
“How old is the mattress?”
“We just got it before we left for France.”
“Great,” she said, “So this one, is a queen platform. You won’t need the box spring or the frame.” Within minutes there was a flurry of people there, moving boxes and furniture into space. Betsy had the furniture unwrapped so it could be assessed by Miguel as to whether it would be conducive for Jonny. Miguel, a charismatic man, whose laughter entered the room before him, approached Jimmy and Betsy with his Canadian crutches.
“Hola Mija,” he said to her as she kissed his cheek. “Miguel, this is Jimmy Wilkens. This is my partner, Miguel Andros.”
“Great to meet you,” said Jimmy.
“You may not think so in a minute, my friend,” said Miguel. “I was testing some of the furniture, and many of these pieces are not safe for your partner,” said Miguel.
“Oh no,” sighed Jimmy. “Then they have to go. But there are a couple of pieces we can’t lose no matter what.” As Jimmy explained about Jonny’s desk, Miguel led him out to the carport where the furniture was unloaded into their covered parking stall. Jimmy stammered as he recounted how Maia and Jonny would sit in the soft chair and ottoman together, Miguel reassuringly put his hand on Jimmy’s arm.
“The desk is a treasure. They don’t make them like that anymore. The chair, is not bad, if it is supported against a wall, and not in an open space, it would be all right, but I would replace it. It’s best to be safe, you know?”
“But, could we, save this chair, like put it in Maia’s room and decide what is best for it later?”
“Sure,” said Betsy, having a mover take it in there immediately.
For each piece, Miguel moved from one to the other and tried them out for the crew. With Jimmy, it was decided which pieces would be replaced and which would stay. Seated at a kitchen chair at the table, Miguel sat and gave his approval. “This is good, safe and strong,” he said, standing and stabilizing himself on it as he did so. The movers then lifted them and carried the chairs and the table into the kitchen nook.
The movers began to move in the boxes of books.
“For right now, put them in the guest bedroom,” said Betsy. “The build-out needs to go there, and I don’t want them to obstruct the workers.”
Jimmy watched the team in motion.
Where’s the bathroom?” asked Miguel.
“The powder room is there,” said Jimmy, pointing to the one off the kitchen area. “The full bath is by the master bedroom.”
Miguel walked through the boxes with ease. He went into the bathroom and shut the door then within a minute was in the living room again.
“Betsy,” he said.
“Coming,” she replied.
“Bathroom,” he said, shaking his head.
“What do we got?”
“Does he have the raised commode?”
“Not yet, nor a shower chair.”
“This is a deep tub. Get the long chair that extends out to the toilet so he can slide across.”
“Okay, she said clicking on her tablet.
“He needs the stabilizer for the toilet so he can grasp onto it. Do we have the motion detector light on there as well?”
“Going to need one of those. Crazy design set up those switches.”
“Okay, what else?”
“Tub rail is good.”
“Part of their design.”
“Good, let’s go to the kitchen.”
Jimmy followed them from room to room, scared to find out what the bill was going to be and if it would drain the rest of their savings.
“The microwave,” said Miguel. “Is a total no go. You will need a countertop one for Jonny.”
“I have a new one in the trunk,” said Jimmy. “A friend gave it to me.”
“Have one of the guys bring it in,” said Miguel.
Jimmy went to find one of the team members to bring in the microwave to Miguel.
“Where do you want these boxes full of papers to go?”
“Those go with Doc’s desk,” he said, pointing to the corner of the living room.
Jimmy followed the microwave into the kitchen and Miguel nodded in approval of it. “Perfect handle and size,” he said. “Is Jonny left or right-handed?”
Miguel looked about the kitchen. “Here,” he said, pointing to it and for Jimmy to lift it. Jimmy followed him towards the opposite side of the stove where a small counter sat with a pan cupboard beneath. “He can reach it from here.”
“Yes, thanks,” said Jimmy. Miguel took a post-it and marker out of his pocket and wrote his initials on them.
“What’s that’s for?”
“So, they don’t move it,” said Miguel.
When Jimmy saw that it was already three-thirty, he knew he had to get going or he wouldn’t make it to practice on time. He went to talk to the rest to see what he needed to do, and they said for him to bring in the rest of his stuff from his car. Two of the team members went out with him and brought the rest inside. The kitchen was already unpacked and put away, the furniture to be tossed was already gone and the movers had left a long time ago, only to be replaced with Betsy’s team, and the accessible furniture inside of it.
“Betsy, I haven’t talked to you about financial arrangements,” he said.
She looked shocked. “You are not paying for this. I’m not allowed to take a penny from you. This was all paid for by Paul Lenci. You read the note.”
“Wow, I didn’t realize, he meant to pay for it all.”
“He did, one hundred percent.”
Driving home from rehearsal, Jimmy forgot which home he was driving to and drove to the brownstone, their home for the last fifteen years. He didn’t realize until he got there and pulled into his parking spot, that it wasn’t his spot anymore. He had to remember how to get to the new place in the dark, after the long day and hardly eating. Jimmy drove off, figuring that he would eat whatever was in the boxes if he even had the energy to do that. It might be tuna on toast, it just did not matter.
When he pulled into the parking spot there in front of the new apartment, Jimmy grabbed his briefcase and locked the car. He wondered how much was done before they left for the day, and he expected to see boxes in the front room. When he turned on the light and saw a brand-new apartment. Joey checked the apartment door to make sure he was in the right one. B-102,” he said, shutting the door after him and locking it. That’s Jonny’s desk, there against the wall near the deck door. On Jonny’s desk was a new large monitor with a keyboard and roller ball mouse set still in the box with a headset and dictation software. The desk chair was an ergonomic one that wheels that locked from the chair handle.
“Oh my, Doc Reardon,” said Jimmy.
The living room was devoid of their original furniture. Nothing. None of it passed Miguel’s test. He walked to Maia’s room to see a wall full of book boxes and sighed when he saw the rest of the bedroom there to be put together, including Jonny’s chair, there in the corner where he told them to put it. Fresh mattresses still wrapped in cellophane, bags of linens, and hangers for clothing, curtains, and rods, the whole works.
He leaned on Maia’s doorway and looked at the living room. The couch. It looked comfortable enough, but not overly soft and taupe. He walked to it and sat down on it, then leaned back and drummed his fingers on the arm of it. The couch was nice. Just a couch.
Tears dripped down his cheeks as he looked around at the new surroundings. Maybe it would feel better once Jonny was here with him. It had just been a long day, he told himself, wiping the tears with the back of his hand. He mustered the energy to go to the kitchen. He turned on the light, and there, on the kitchen bar was a wineglass and a bottle of merlot. On a card was “Welcome home, Love, Paul, Joey, and Maia.” The kitchen was lovely. His coffeepot, with a decanter of fresh coffee, a new hot water pot next to it with a new toaster oven. Theirs had been on its last legs for a long time now, and so that was a good call. Their breadbox was on another counter under a cabinet. He opened it and found a fresh loaf of his favorite seedy bread that Maia called birdseed bread. Jimmy opened the fridge, just to see what was in there, not remembering if he had anything in there worth keeping today. The fridge was filled with fresh vegetables, soy milk, coconut creamer for his coffee, his pickles, miracle whip, and salad dressings.
He found a package of tuna in the crisper drawer and took it out with some miracle whip to make tuna and toast. He looked through the cabinets to find the plates and took one down and a glass. Not the wine glass though. He was too tired for wine. He’d save it. In the fridge was a pitcher of filtered water. He poured some into the glass and drank half of it then refilled it. Jimmy toasted two slices of bread while finding a bowl and a spoon to mix up his tuna. He found Jonny’s spices, and they looked as if they were new bottles. He shook a little curry in the bowl and opened the package of tuna and poured it into the curry and broke it up with the spoon. He squeezed some Miracle Whip inside it and mixed it until it was all blended then added a little more curry. When Jimmy’s toast was ready, he put it on a plate and covered the toast with the tuna concoction, wishing he had a pickle.
“Do I got a pickle for you?” he asked himself aloud, wishing it were Jonny saying it. As he put the Miracle Whip away, there in the door of the refrigerator was a fresh jar of kosher dills. Jimmy popped it open and ate a pickle before putting a second on the plate and putting the pickles back on the door of the fridge.
“Oh my,” said Jimmy, carrying his food over to the kitchen table. He saw the note there and picked it up.
“Jimmy, we will be there at one tomorrow to install the bookshelf unit and to complete the guest bedroom. We will bring the rest of the furniture with us at that time. See you then, Betsy.”
Jimmy took his phone from his pocket, remembering that it had died during the last act of rehearsal and he forgot to charge it. No wonder it had been so quiet all evening. He wondered where his charger was, then remembered that he put it in the briefcase. Jimmy left his food for the charger and cord, bringing them back with him to plug into the bar near where he was sitting.
“Excellent,” he said, seeing all the messages on his phone.
“Call me, when you get in,” was from Maia a few times. She knew about this surprise.
He called, looking at the time. It was ten-thirty. He texted her.
“I just got in from rehearsal. My phone died. Are you in bed yet?”
“No, doing Bible homework.”
Maia called Jimmy.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi, how’s the new place?”
“It’s phenomenal. We have our fairy godfather?”
Maia giggled, “Yes, you do.”
“I want to thank him.”
“Tell me about it.”
“It’s unbelievable. New furniture, because ours was too unstable for Jonny, I haven’t even looked at our bedroom yet, but of the rest, only Doc’s chair, his, desk, and the dining set cut.”
“I’m blown away. I get to the new place and this woman, Betsy, walks up to me and hands me this letter from Paul.”
“No way, what did it say?”
“That they were going to move and organize us for Doc to come home. I’m like, okay, that’s great, I need help, and I put away my pride and tell myself that I’m not going to turn away help.”
“Insane. I won’t work with this director again. She’s a maniac and the tech director almost quit tonight. She’s new on the Chicago scene from New York and we let her know tonight that her methods were not going to fly here in our community.”
“Good for you that you guys stood up to her. Tell me about today. You said some Betsy came in?”
“Right, before I know it, there’s this guy named Miguel, in the parking lot, directing the movers to take the furniture off the truck into my covered carport and he's trying out every piece of furniture. He is disabled and uses the two crutches to get with. Jonny wants a set of them instead of a walker.”
“Oh, I know what you mean.”
“I was feeling overwhelmed, you know? Here’s this guy, he’s telling me what Jonny needs. I’m like, I don’t know how we are going to afford all of this. They are throwing our furniture away, which some pieces were part of our home and lives for years, you know? Pieces we bought or refinished together. But at the same time, this is for Jonny’s sake, most of the furniture was old and we just kept it rather than replace it. You know how Jonny was. He’d give money to the Boys and Girls Club any day than buy a new couch. Anyway, two of the bookshelves broke before we even got here and I’m already thinking, where am I putting the books? He will freak out if his library is still in boxes when he gets here. Maia, can you believe that they are installing him customized shelves that are mounted into the studs, so if he stabilizes himself on them, he’s fine?”
“Paul and Joey are amazing. I came home, and I’m thinking, there’s so much I have left to do. I’m pulling an all-nighter just to get it ready for Jonny to come home. I walk into the apartment like almost everything is put away. The kitchen is organized, the living room is put together, Doc’s desk, I’ve yet to see the rest. Your room is still a work in progress and the only room that still has boxes in it. They are bringing furniture for it tomorrow and the books are being stored there until the cabinetry is put in tomorrow.”
“Wow, that’s so cool,” said Maia. She walked down the staircase to find Joey in his chair and Paul at the Steinway again. “Do you want to talk to Paul?”
“Yes, please,” said Jimmy. Maia handed him her phone and wrapped her round about his neck.
“Hey Jimmy,” said Paul.
“Hi Paul, thank you. I didn’t expect this at all.”
“You’re welcome. It’s what families do. We take care of each other.”
Jimmy began to sob right then and there and couldn’t speak for a moment. “It’s okay, Jimmy. You needed help.” Joey got up and went to the piano and asked for the phone from Paul so he could continue playing.
“Hi Jimmy, I’m dying to hear all about it,” said Joey. “What are Betsy and Miguel like?”
“Hi Joey, thank you so much, I know you had a lot to do with this.”
“Well, we all did, Maia included. She told them what to get for the fridge and cupboards. Did you have tuna and toast tonight?”
“I did,” he said with a laugh. “Tell her I even had it with birdseed bread.”
Joey did and Maia giggled. Joey sat in the chair and Jimmy walked about the apartment with his barely charged phone telling him all about it. When Jimmy saw their bedroom, he almost dropped to his knees. A new platform queen bed with a new set of sheets and comforter set. The platform had storage drawers beneath, and the frame was a beautiful walnut. There were two matching walnut dressers and bedtables on each side with sconce lights above and charging stations for their electronics. Their clothes were neatly folded and put away were was their linens in the storage drawers. The walk-in closet, already arranged, had been customized with a sturdy handrail for Jonny and the light came on with movement, shocking Jimmy, making Joey laugh.
The bathroom is supposed to do that as well,” said Joey.
“I haven’t even looked at the master bathroom yet.” Expecting to see the shower chair and the rest of the accessibility equipment, Jimmy looked at how lovely the bathroom was. There was a post-in the on the mirror saying bathroom equipment will be delivered on Thursday, the same day that Jonny was to come home. He hoped that it would have been there by then.
He took the post-it and put it on the note on the dining room table so that he didn’t forget it.
They chatted about Maia, and finally, Jimmy yawned and looked at the time. “I need to get going, Joey. I have an eight o’clock to teach, and I’ve yet to crack a book.”
“You best get going then. Take care, Jimmy.”
“Thank you again, for everything.”
“You’re welcome. Talk soon.”