6 Picking Up the Threads

“R.M? Shmitt. Calling to fire you.”

“I see.” R.M. had to admit that the guy was direct. “What’s up?”

“The wife’s niece just got a license and wants to have our listing. We’re moving soon, remember, to Arizona? She can stay here, in the house.” R.M. knew that some of the best listings were the ones he didn’t get but it was tough to lose one he already had. No point in protesting. Sellers did what they wanted.

“Did she now? Well, tell her if she has any questions, I’ll be happy to help out.” R.M. tried to take the high ground and besides, he did enjoy mentoring new agents. He rang off, promising to arrange the necessary paperwork.

He fell to thinking about other instances of shifting circumstances. Even when squalls are forecast, the sudden swoop of wind and deluge can catch the watchful by surprise, wrenching change in the blink of an eye. Like when Mr. James died after he’d only just bought at the POPS, his back trouble symptomatic of much larger health problems, undiagnosed until too late for intervention. An entirely unexpected crisis coming at just the wrong time. At least Shmitt hadn’t died, was only off to retire in the sunny south.

chapter-6-revisedR.M. and Dan Cohn, the Prospect’s developer, had met with the James family some weeks later.

“First, let me say how sorry I am. My condolences to you all,” said Cohn. They murmured their reply, worrying what was in store with the developer. “We don’t like to write anything this grim into our contracts, about the death of a partner, so it’s not in yours. Normally, when a party wants out it would be up to them to  re-sell on their own, especially after a unit is finished out to their specifications, as yours is. But Mrs. James, under the circumstances, if you want to re-consider, we could void the contract.”

“Thank you, it is all a bit complicated just now. So many things to think about at once. So much to sign…” she trailed off, then took a deep breath. “I’ve talked it over with the boys.”  The ‘boys’ were her adult sons. “Of course, they’re concerned about where I should go, now that…” she stumbled, then began again. “Let’s face it. The house is sold and we…I’ll have to move out. My husband was really looking forward to our life here. He thought it would be good for us, having new neighbors in a lovely, private place. I think so, too. Best to get on with it.”

And shortly after that decision Mrs. Ivy James, and the cat Mullins, moved into her unit. R.M. took special care to introduce her to Gervase.

*   *   *   *   *

“Silly really, to sit upstairs all alone, with so many people about,” Mrs. James observed to Gervase. For a bit of company she’d taken to spending time down in the lobby. “It’s easier to see the world go by from here than from upstairs, isn’t it, and to chat with residents as they come and go? You do that too, don’t you Gervase?”

“Indeed I do, Mrs. James. Of course, that’s my job. If I ever need a substitute, I’ll sure know who to call first! How are you with letting yourself into other people’s homes and watering plants?”

“Oh, nothing so easy! I have a lot of experience doing just that. Though I’ll never know as many people here as you do, or as many dogs either.”

“You have a cat, is that right?”

“Mullins. Mull, for short. He’s normally good company but he’s still finding out all the ideal spots around his sunny new home and far too busy for me just now, what with organizing his naps. He does very well without a companion until sunset.”

“Well if you ever lack for company, there’s a TV with a cable hookup over there on moveable cart for residents’ use. It’s got a pretty long cord too, so you could bring it over here, easy. It gets moved around a lot, for meetings, and such.”

“Not much of a TV watcher, Gervase, but good to know. Thanks.”

“So, what’s that you’re making, Mrs. James?” She came everyday with a bag full of yarns, needles, and hooks and set to work, only stopping to greet passing neighbors. She was meeting a lot of them.

“Mostly, I’m making hats for my son. He’s in the ski and snowboard business in Aspen, and he also sells my handmade knit and crochet headwear.”

Widow of R.T. James, and wearer of many hats at the POPS, including those she crochets

Widow of R.T. James, Ivy James wears many hats at the POPS, including those she crochets

“That’s a co-incidence. I have friends who live there, too. I’ve often thought of moving there. What’s the name of his company?

“‘The Society’. Do you know it?”

“I do, yes. Small world, eh? I’m a skier myself.  Matter of fact, I know how to knit as well. My mother used to give us kids the even rows to do.”

“It’s the same in crochet. In even rows you work the same number of stitches per row, in the same pattern. The work goes pretty fast and most of the time you don’t even have to look at it.”

“We did our fastest work, clickety-click, listening to hockey games. Saturday night is ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’ Our surname is the same as ‘Rocket’ Richard, a famous Montreal Canadiens player. “”He shoots! He scores!!”” His voice rose as Gervase mimicked the radio announcer. “We were such fans in those days, still are.”

“My mother was English Canadian.”

“We’ll understand each other very well, though people mangle both my names all the time.”

“The older I get, the more I hear myself using her turns of phrase, though I’ve lost most of her pronunciation. There was a Realtor we knew here who included the phonetic pronunciation of his name on everything. Yard signs, advertisements, everything. Of course, I have an easy name, it’s true. But I always was thinking he’d never be paying much attention to anybody, other than to correct how his name was said. It’s a comfort to know when somebody really pays attention, like you do.”

“I’ve seen a lot of Realtors come and go in our building and to some of them, I’m just here to ‘clean the pool’, or not worth talking to. Others are respectful. Guess who I go out of my way to help? Speaking of pools, you’re quite the swimmer, Mrs. James. Still going every day?” He’d seen her heading toward the pool early, many mornings.

“Trying to do some water aerobics every day, yes. It seems safer than walking alone at my age, though on fine days I like that well enough. There really is so much to do in this building. I wonder that more of the residents don’t make better use of the facilities, seeing as they are paying for them.”

“With respect Mrs. James, at the rate you are meeting everyone, I’m sure you’ll have asked all of them that very thing before too long, and be giving reports of your findings at the association meetings.”