Rodney and the Boys
The following is a short excerpt from my memoir Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen: An Innkeeper's Tale, which is still a work in progress. I'm on my third and hopefully final rewrite. Since the memoir is nearly finished I thought I'd throw out a piece or two and see what kind of feedback I get.
Rodney and the boys
That first year, when I was turning my newly purchased historic home into a bed and breakfast, I realized that I would need a privacy fence in the back yard and some landscaping. My next door neighbor said he could put up the fence for me but would need some money up front to buy materials. Never having hired anyone to do this kind of work before, and being a trusting soul, I handed over $300.00 to him. Next thing I knew he had taken off to Mexico and I never saw him again.
This was the beginning of a very long and careful learning process which finally culminated in my developing a hiring procedure that started with getting recommendations and ended with hiring someone who was competent, trustworthy, and solvent enough to be able to purchase materials without getting cash up front.
But before I got to that point, I met Rodney. I can't remember who gave me his name but I think it was someone in the neighborhood, 'cause he lived just around the corner from me. One day he sauntered down to my bed and breakfast and knocked on the door. It didn't take long for us to strike up a friendly conversation; albeit somewhat guarded on my side. If Rodney was anything, he certainly was a colorful character. He looked like a cross between one of Hell's Angels and a Hard Rock musician about to smash his guitar across someone's head. He assured me he knew all about putting up privacy fences. Despite outwards appearances, Rodney was intriguing, especially to the writer in me.
After my last experience though, I refused to give him any money up front and said we'd have to discuss the project thoroughly. I would also need a written estimate of the total cost. That was fine with Rodney. He put together a small crew of seemly looking characters, rednecks I think they were called, and proceeded to put up my fence.
One morning, I walked outside into the sunshine where Rodney was planted on my deck in one of my lawn chairs. He was barking orders to his crew who were scattered all over the back yard, his tattooed arms waving back and forth. He had a blue and white bandanna tied around his head to keep his long hair in place and the sweat from running down his suntanned forehead. Aviator sun glasses shielded his eyes from the strong morning sunlight.
“Hi Babe” He turned his head in my direction and gave me a wave.
As I approached him, the strong smell of marijuana nearly overwhelmed me so I found a chair on the other side of the deck and joined him from afar.
“Hi, Rodney. How’s everything going?”
“Fine. The boys are doing great”
I glanced around the yard, noticing that all that had been accomplished so far was the digging of ten holes for the fence posts. There were five on either side of the yard.
“Rodney, what about along the back? I don’t see any holes there.”
Guzzeling down a whole can of cola, he informed me that I had said nothing about the back of the fence.
“We don’t have enough slats for that part” he said.
“Well, we’ll just have to get some more, wont we? Rodney, why would I want a fence that only went three fourths around my yard? First of all, the dog could get out...”
“Lady, that was all you asked for.”
Now I was lady, instead of babe. A warning signal went off in my head.
“ Okay...Okay. But, Rodney, I’m going to need the fence to go all the way around the whole yard. Can you do that?”
“I suppose so, but we’ll have to wait until I can get some more money, to buy more slats,” he said.
Uh oh, here it comes.
“Don’t worry about that, I’ll just put it on my credit card. You and I can go to the lumber yard this afternoon.” That part he didn’t like but he went along with it.
Since he only had a motor cycle, I told him I would pick him up at his home around the corner in a couple of hours. He was not out in front when I arrived, so I walked around back to where he said his apartment was and knocked. I recognized his door by the black skull carefully painted in the center of it. Suddenly it opened. There stood Rodney with a can of beer in his hand beckoning me to come inside, his hulking frame completely filling the doorway. I stepped inside. The place reeked of pot and alcohol.
There were dishes piled in the sink and I could see that his bed, which was pushed against the far wall, hadn't been made in quite a while, if ever. Several guitars were lying around and a double-barreled shotgun hung from the wall. Books, magazines and newspapers were strewn all over the floor and a black leather jacket with nail heads was thrown across the worn out sofa. A large pair of blue jeans lay in a circle on the floor where someone had stepped out of them earlier. A TV was playing General Hospital in the corner and loud rock music blasted from a small plastic radio.
“Sorry, Rodney, but I have someone checking in in a couple of hours, so we have to get this thing done fast. I’ll just wait in the car”
My heart was pounding as I turned, headed straight for my car, and jumped into the front seat. Taking a deep breath, I leaned my head back against the car seat and tried to relax. Just then, his back door slammed shut and he stumbled out from in between the bushes at the side of his house. He staggered slightly as he made his way down the path and around to the passenger side of the car.
We made it to the lumber yard and bought some extra slats. It was only after we got back home that I noticed the difference. The slats Rodney bought were rougher and had lots more knot holes than the ones I picked out . But by that time I didn’t care. I just wanted to get the damn thing done.
That evening, the crew left after sticking the posts in the holes, thick gravelly cement oozing out from all sides. I knew it wasn’t going to be the best fence in the world, but I couldn't afford better and I would soon be getting rid of Rodney and the boys. In the end, it turned out okay. Rodney’s price was reasonable and the fence is still standing.