“Glad you could make it,” the homeowner said. “A busy man like yourself, on three weeks’ notice.”

“Sure thing. Contract’s a promise, right? There’ll be new drawings? Where’s that architect, anyhow? First meeting he’s missed.”

“He’s done here. I’d just like this to be between you and me.”

“No college boy–hourly, eh? Ching-ching.”

“He came cheap. The upstairs addition—nothing left but the trim work.”

“Oh, we’ll get there. Shed dormer, plumbing, electrical. Not the sort of thing a homeowner can knock out on his lonesome. Never did think you needed that guy, though. A gee cee like me comes in, takes notes, calls the engineer for the math, and ready set go. No need for a sticky nose, day in, day out. That’s how a three-month job winds up taking nine—that dead weight. I got two hands and a brain somewhere between them.”

“Somewhere. Let’s look at what I’m thinking of. It’s in the basement.”

This was an unlit space. On the yank of a pullstring a bare bulb cut shadows. Webs stood thick up in the joists and beams. Spider molt and egg sacs were hung up in the silk. The general contractor missed the last tread. From ten a.m. until two he had taken the usual round of noon drinks.

“The stairs might use a fix. Kind of slippy.”

“This back corner. I want a room maybe fifteen by twenty.”

“What, a darkroom? Photos?”

“No. It’s for my playing.”

“Music? Now we’re talking. You ever hear that Earl Scruggs?”

“He’s banjo. I’m guitar.”

“Well not just any banjo.”

“It’s easy enough. A framing job—stud walls, gyp board. But I want them double hung, with a dead space between. Say a foot. Nothing but air.”

“What for?”

“Soundproofing. The amp. I’d hate to disturb my neighbors.”

“You play that metal stuff?”

“I don’t know what you’d call what I play. Maybe jazz. No insulation except on top. Spray foam in the rafters, that ought to do it.”

“Easy all right. No call for an architect. Wall like that, you won’t hear a jetway from inside.”

“Or out. But before the framing goes up, I need drainage.”


“A drain. In the floor. See the slope? There’s already a sump down here. So it shouldn’t be tough to get the low point in the jam room and let it drain out from there.”

“What for, though?”

“I’ll have some nice equipment. An amp stack for sure. Wouldn’t want gear like that to get damp.”

“No, ha ha, reckon not, Jimi Hendrix.”

“Another thing. When you frame it, I’ll need reinforcement. A bar will go all the way across aligned to center—here to here. High-tensile stainless steel, about this high.”

“Wrist high?”

“If your wrists are overhead, sure. It’s for hanging guitars. I have a lot of them. It’ll have to take a lot of weight. Three hundred pounds easy.”

“Sakes, that’s what I weigh. That is a lot of guitars.”

“Actually, stronger. Sometimes when I jam I get carried away. Double the load in case of pulls. Drill supports right into the beams.”

“That’s sturdy all right. You thought this out. Shit howdy—you never did need that architect. Maybe you don’t even need a general contractor.”

“Not for much longer. I’ll want outlets. Maybe two-twenty to handle the power load.” The fingers aped a strum and chords. “And a sink with a spigot threaded for a hose. Make the walls waterproof. Sometimes I do my laundry by hand.”

“You want fixtures in there? Ceiling lights?”

The homeowner thought it over. “No. I like candles. They set the mood. When can you start?”

“You want I should draw up an estimate first?”

“No, that’s fine. I trust any sum will be fair in the end. Get to it when you can.”

Most homeowners were pests. The cost overruns, the way a schedule could creep. Some thought it was torture. But here there had never been a complaint. Only patience.

“Tell you what,” the gee cee said. “I got time. I’ll get on it soon—three weeks out, if that’s good.”

“No rush,” said the homeowner.