Thundermist #2: Five Yards for Encroachment
“Normally, I’d say, ‘Rain, rain, go away…’ But, after the brutal winter we’d been through, at least I know we don’t have to shovel it.”
Peter Laval wasn’t going to let bad weather dampen his good day. He tried to think of something positive, as his car approached the new house. “Oh, well. At least the driveway is paved. Half the time we worked on this place, driving here felt more like off-roading. No more bumpy rides, Naomi!”
A crackle of static came over Peter’s phone, and his wife’s call was dropped. “Naomi…?” He wanted to try again, but the screen warned, “NO SERVICE.” No doubt her phone said the same thing. Her nature was to get nervous whenever she was cut off from her husband in any way, for any length of time; but he taught her that she had to suppress her emotions, at least temporarily. She had to outwardly show strength and determination, for the sake of the kids. She learned this lesson well, and the three of them were better for it. Still, Naomi couldn’t keep her emotions in check for too long, and yearned for a moment when she could release them, being alone together.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, Peter thought. The longer we’re apart, the more she makes up for lost time. Thy desire shall be to thy husband. That’s what I love most about her. He was tempted to drag out this errand a little longer, just to get a wee bit more of that fondness; but, no, that would border on cruelty. He’d been driving around in the pounding rain all day, running errands, making arrangements, getting ready for the big event, and he was tired. He needed to get back to the family at the motel.
The smell of ozone permeated the air, and even worse static came over the car radio, when he tried to turn it on. Even the FM stations didn’t work right. The lack of entertainment further compelled him to finish this odyssey.
Peter’s timing was perfect, as his station wagon passed a mail truck going in the opposite direction. Snail-Mail service was the first thing he was able to get started for the new house. Unfortunately, while the house was brand-new, the mail was the same ol’ same ol’. Hmph. As usual, I’ve got a box full of coupons for products I don’t buy. Ah, how tragic life would be, if I didn’t get a pile of useless, glossy paper every other day. Oh, well. At least there are no bills.
He went to the garage door in the rear of the house, and pushed the opener, to no avail. Crud! No bills, no utilities! Way to go, doofus. He knew he had to get back to the motel, but he couldn’t resist taking one more peek at the inside of the new place. Pulling up to the back door, he got as close as he could to the awning, shut down the car engine, and jumped out through the rain. He was only partially soaked; best of all, his shoes were clean.
Let’s not track any mud in here!
Passing through the laundry area (which lacked the washer and dryer, having yet to be delivered), Peter passed by the spare room. It was quite a spare, being much larger than the so-called “master” bedroom in their tiny, old house. Good riddance! That room was so small, Naomi and I had to go outside to change our minds!
The spare room in this place would have made an excellent living room, if need be; but it would be reserved as a temporary place for Naomi’s sister, Caroline Pedersen. She had resigned from her tenure at North Star College in Minnesota, and was moving back to Rhode Island. Getting Caroline here would be the easy part; the hard part would be sneaking her and her luggage past Rhoda, whom they wanted to surprise. Their youngest child had a few things in common with Caroline: most notably Retinitis Pigmentosa; which, as with Caroline, had consumed her eyesight by age seven. However, Caroline’s patient counseling and Rhoda’s personal experiences taught her to regard this not as a disability, but an inconvenience. It certainly didn’t stop her from winning the Science Fair three times. And, on the bright side, it would make it a little easier to set up the surprise that was due for Rhoda with Caroline’s arrival.
She is going to be so thrilled.
An otherwise-open floor space would soon be taken up with Zoe’s sewing equipment and drawing board. She was Rhoda’s fraternal twin sister, but every inch an individual. She was nothing like Rhoda at all: smaller, feistier, and with different interests. Untouched by the genetic quirk that darkened Rhoda’s eyes, Zoe actually had above-average vision and dexterity, which contributed to a natural artistic talent. That, plus a propensity for math and business, led her to seek a career in fashion-design. Zoe was far ahead of the curve for a High School freshman, and wasted no time establishing herself as a fashion designer. At the tender age of fourteen, she had already designed and sold enough prom dresses to get her own business started, calling it “Knit-Picker’s Custom Clothing for Women.”
The very first outfit Zoe designed was actually not for women: rather, it was a new baseball uniform for the High School team, the Thundermist Millers. It was an anachronistic name for the team, considering that the city’s textile industry had been long gone; but, Zoe reasoned, baseball has always been slow to change anyway, so why not keep a traditional name? After all, Los Angeles baseball fans knew nothing about dodging trolleys. The design was all hers, but the tailoring itself she wisely left to men.
Her brother Joshua, the Laval’s firstborn, would have to wait several months to wear it. He had taken up baseball just like his Dad…though he had aspirations to go further than Double-A. But he knew that there was no guarantee of success, and had plans to follow Rhoda and their parents’ occupation as research scientists, in case playing baseball didn’t work out. Still, he would give that his best shot. Joshua’s middle name was Corey, so everyone informally addressed him as “J.C.”
Guided by a flashlight, Peter went up the stairs to the kitchen and dining area. It stood empty, waiting for the furniture and appliances to be delivered, not to mention the much-needed groceries. The old house had sold much sooner than anticipated. The family was forced to live in a motel for over a week, getting by on take-out food, sandwiches, and anything else that didn’t require a stove. It got tiresome very quickly, but did have one advantage: it drove home the point that the children had to learn how to cook. Restaurants of wildly-varying quality, canned goods and sandwiches could only go so far. Proper nutrition was far more important than convenience, and Peter’s house-rules required everyone to learn and practice cooking, at regular intervals.
He passed through the living room. Like everything else in this house, it was much more spacious than the one in the old place. (That particular living room was so ridiculously small, Peter referred to it as “more of a get-a-life room.”) It was due to have the standard arrangement: new furniture (the first matching set he ever bought), a stereo and a TV. Those things would come in handy, if everyone was too exhausted to do any science research; which, of course, led him to think of the best feature of the entire project.
Peter went to the upstairs hallway, passing the bedrooms: the “his and hers” (as he called it), J.C.’s, and one each for Zoe and Rhoda. All of them were on the outer edge of the house. The best part was right in the middle.
Peter and Naomi had a hard time convincing the housing inspector of their design, which was unusual to say the least. It was the only house in Thundermist (perhaps even the entire state of Rhode Island) that was perfectly round, and resembled a small-scale replica of the Houston Astrodome. (Granted, the old Astrodome had been abandoned for years, and everyone in the family was a Red Sox fan; but designing a house that looked like Fenway Park would have been a bit too much.) Peter had always been fascinated with the concept of a round house with a geodesic roof: several industrial buildings in town had the same basic design, so why not a house? Naomi did an excellent job of getting that point across to City Hall.
But the main purpose of this building was to be more than merely a domed domicile: it would also have its own built-in science research laboratory. From there, another stairway led to an observation deck, in which they would have a telescope. No one had ever approved a house with its own science lab: that was a sticking point that took a lot of convincing! Yet any and all doubts as to the safety of such an arrangement were quickly dispelled by another distinction of this house: it would be the only one in the city with steel and aluminum framing, reinforced concrete floors, and an elaborate fire-control system. (Not that Peter had been all that concerned about the possibility of a fire, but one can’t be too cautious about these matters.) As a result, the architectural plans were not only approved by the city, but also got major write-ups in several science magazines…along with the patents Peter and Naomi had obtained in the course of their science research.
At long last, living space was combined with work space, and they would no longer need a rented loft in some old, funky factory building.
It was almost time for dinner (such as it was), so Peter decided to end the informal tour right then.
Naomi, the kids are going to love this place!
Although Peter wasn’t aware of it at the moment, three more pairs of eyes were admiring the property, but for very different reasons. Across the backyard, right at the end of the Thundermist city limits, stood the Imwit Country Club. In a lounge on the second floor of the clubhouse, two female members of the club gasped in awe at the sight of this strange-but-interesting house.
“Oh, that place should make a lovely key-club!” said one.
“I still say we should convert it into an office building,” said her companion.
Another member, the actual owner of the Imwit Country Club, had his own ideas. Robert Barron was not only the richest man in Rhode Island, but also the most ambitious. Like Peter, he also had put up his own building and residence, financed by his work (which was mostly insider-trading). And, like Peter, he also had an interest in science, but had a different motive. Dismissing what he thought was useless banter by two middle-level club members, he returned to his office, sat at his desk, and stared at the odd, domed house across the way.
“Fools,” he muttered. “You are too short-sighted. You are thinking too much of the here-and-now, whereas I am planning for the future.” He poured a glass of champagne, and toasted his own cleverness.
“And, if I get what I want, it shall be a grand future, indeed.”