Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hidden Treasures

It started with a crash. Maybe a year ago. I think Grace was in the living room when the framed picture fell from the wall above the fireplace. The glass shattered and I stood, accusatory, with my hands on my hips. Who knocked it down? Was it the cat? Was it the kids? Turned out, the wall was slightly soft and the picture hanger had just come loose, taking with it the heavy picture.
We had lived in the house less than a year, so Earl called the man who had renovated it. He hadn't touched the wall over the fireplace, he said, but he offered to come help tear it down, see what was back there. Instead, we opted to merely set a painting on the mantle and lean it against the wall. But, as the year passed, we saw signs of water damage around the molding. Water was coming in the chimney.
We had the "brick doctor" grind out the mortar and shore up the chimney.
Earl wanted to tear out the wall but I urged him to wait until my parents' visit ended. They left yesterday and today he dug into the wall.
I vacated to the front porch, expecting lots of drywall dust. I still had three classes of papers to grade and then I needed to record grades by today's deadline. The occasional curse word drifted out the window.
He pulled two layers of drywall off. Wallpaper remained on one of the drywall sections. Then he started in on the plaster that had been applied directly to the brick chimney. The drywall and plaster weren't crumbly and dusty, instead, they were wet and came off in big chunks. He threw them into plastic trash bins and pulled off the next section.
"Look at this huge hole," he called at one point. A hole in the brick. He reached his hand in. "I think this is the chimney."
Did a hole in the chimney mean that the smoke wasn't going up? But there had been drywall there. I wasn't sure. I went back to grading papers; he kept ripping down wall.
He concentrated on one side of the wall, believing the other side to not be as bad.
"I was wrong," he called, as he began pulling out clumps of wet wall.
Then "Shit. Ants!" He jumped from the ladder and went out the back door, for bug spray I assumed. I stood in front of the gray mantle and heard a sound like pop foaming, just little bubbles bursting. It was the ants falling from the wall to the debris on the mantle.The cats stood, heads poised, watching the wall, unsure what to think.
I grabbed a plastic trash bag while I waited for Earl. He came back with a red can of ant spray and drenched the wall. The ants froze in place. The smell of bug spray mixed with the scent of mold and old people's house, filling the living room.
Earl kept at it for awhile, using a chisel to pry off sections of concrete or plaster to the brick chimney. The hole in the bricks started at the place where a metal encased electric wire began.
"I can't figure out," he started. Then, like a light going on, he said, "Sconces. They gouged holes in the brick and inserted an electric wire to put sconces over the fireplace."
I saw the neighbor climb from his car and I hailed him. I knew that Earl needed a man to show this mess.
"What'd you find?" the neighbor asked. "Better not be treasure."
"Oh, don't you worry," I assured him.
When Earl was finished, we had two huge, heavy trash cans of debris that previously formed a soft wall. We had a brick wall over the fireplace with a hole an electrical wire, no molding and concrete patches.
Still, somehow, the pink of the brick chimney shows promise. If the brick doctor can fix the holes and somehow match the mortar to the bricks,make it look a little neater and less jumbled, it might turn out to be a hidden treasure after all.
Picture by


Sheila said...

That sounds like it will look really cool eventually! So are there more ants? I'm sure your living room os back to it's previous cleanliness already! We're in the midst of tearing down the back porch. No hidden treasures just some angry wasps that are swarming Dan since he destroyed their homes.

Paulita said...

No, the ants left with the mold. Things are cleaned up, but I can still smell a slight residue of ant spray. The cat was investigating the new hole in the wall and he was sneezing so there must still be dust up there.
Sorry about the wasps. Hope Dan didn't get stung.

Stephanie said...

Ahh...The joys and adventures of living in an older home.

Not being homeowners of the adventurous sort, we opted for the newly-built. What it lacked in charm, it made up for in lack of fixing-up. Unfortunately, we meant to move before we arrived at the fixing-up era, which seems to have arrived WAY before we anticipated that it would! We now dwell in an uncharming fixer-upper.

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