I had planned to spend much of my summer vacation alternately working on my suspense novel, and lounging on the beach. Instead, I passed most of it Waiting for Mr. Goodroof.
You see, I co-own a hundred-year-old house in the Ontario countryside. It has wood siding and a shingled roof. We got half the roof redone a few years ago (an accomplishment that now seems miraculous) and this was to be the summer that the other half got done. For the context of this sad tale, understand that this part of Ontario (Prince Edward County) has been going the winery and gourmet food way, and wealthy people have been moving here with pots of money and keeping the contractors very busy.
There was just one little problem with my own roofing plan. I started with the contractor who had done the previous half, but he never returned my increasingly piteous calls. I emailed a company that actually had a website which promised to respond with estimates in a timely fashion. It took the proprietor more than two months to reply, because he had laid off the only person who knew how to access their email. Several other roofers never returned my calls.
It got so we`d go cruising for roofing jobs on the go, and strike up conversations with the guys doing them ("Hey big boy. So, you actually do roofing? Does anyone in your company, like, return calls?") I was beginning to think that, given the local people's reliance on personal networks to get anything done, I was going to have to marry into a clan of roofers. Finally, our neighbour, an unfailing source of semi-accurate gossip, told us about a guy who worked for a local construction company and did roofing himself on the weekends. She even knew his phone number.
This was more startling than hearing that a 70-year-old had just eclipsed Usain Bolt's 100-metre dash record; I called, talked to his wife, and she promised he'd call back. And he did!
Great, I thought. The days of chasing down ongoing roofing jobs and making burnt offerings seemed to be over. Even more promisingly, he came and gave us a written estimate, and covered the leaky patch with a tarpaulin. A couple of weeks later, piles of shingles and tarpaper appeared.
Then nothing. I called him every few weeks. He didn't call back. We spotted him doing a metal roofing job down the street and I gently inquired when he might get to our roof. "Prob'ly next weekend," he said, waving a hammer for emphasis.
In a week, a huge and ugly metal dumpster materiaized in our driveway. "This is it! We're finally going to get the job done!" I crowed. That was three weeks ago.
What, you may be asking, does any of this have to do with writing? That's my point. Imagine if I'd used all this time wasted calling, visiting and bribing roofers to actually finish my novel... I'd have the first draft done by now.
However, all is not lost.
I'm already seeing the bones of my next fiction project. It's a comedy-suspense-fantasy-romance-do-it-yourselfer--called Waiting for Mr . Goodroof (as you guessed), and the heroine, while moving through the stages of his/her gender reassignment, awaits the roofer of her/his dreams. But something keeps happening. One promising candidate comes down with the shingles. Another never got over watching Disney's Peter Pan and attempts to fly from a third-story gable. Turns out he was taking roofies himself. The stalwart Joe, who promised to return calls, dies when his answering machine explodes with too many messages ... he never could remember how to play them back. Then there are the McAsphalt twins, Sticky and Smelly, who accidentally nailgun their boots to the roof and have to spend the rest of their lives up there. I'm thinking it can be adapted into a promising 12-hour movie, in which very little happens. Sort of like Fassbinder's Berliner Alexanderplatz but with worse roofs.
Causes John Oughton Supports
PEN International, Amnesty International, League of Canadian Poets, POR AMOR, Greenpeace