End Game

By Jeanne Marie Laskas
Sunday, March 16, 2008

After five long months of banging and buzzing and pounding and ventilating fumes of polyurethane and paint, the home remodeling project is finished. Presto. A shiny new living room and dining room with hickory floors, a stone fireplace and tall windows opening to the pin oaks.

"I almost can't believe it," I'm saying to Dan, the contractor. "You gave us a house!" We talk about this once-rickety old farmhouse, about how none of the skeptics believed. And now look.

Dan is pleased, if distracted. He's marked all the paint cans, organized them in the basement. He picks up his Shop-Vac, asks me to open the door. Back and forth he goes to his van, gathering every last tool. Finally, he comes in for his red lunch pail. "Okay," he says with a sigh, "That's everything."

"That's it?" I say.

"That's everything," he repeats.

"You're just going to leave?" I say.

"I have to go."

"Shouldn't we have, like, a ceremony or something?" I ask.

"You know I have to leave," he says. "I'm two weeks late on my next job."

"You make it sound like it's just a job," I say.

"Oh, stop."

He's standing by the front door, wearing his trademark khaki cargo shorts; even in winter, Dan wears shorts. He has on his gold, long-sleeved T-shirt and his tan plaid jacket. It occurs to me that, over these past five months, I have gotten to know most of his wardrobe.

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