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The Magic Number

          Ka-ching! Everything I do costs $2000 these days. Cabinets? Well, even after I smallened the kitchen by half, and eradicated all the bells and whistles like cookie-sheet cupboards and broom closets and lazy-susans made of un-obtanium, its gonna be two grand. Of course I chose the most expensive cabinets they’ve got. I looked at the website and thought most of their designs were “eh” at best, but then I saw one sleek, modern number and actually liked it. Of course, it only comes in maple. Of course, it suffers the burden of a “good taste tax”. Alisa can not explain why its so expensive, but I expect to get a steep discount, since mine was Alisa’s first kitchen. Granted, mine has taken so long she has since sold quite a few kitchens, but mine is still her first. I remember clearly the look of sketchy anticipation on her face when I plopped my drawing on her desk. ‘This is a design?” she seemed to say, and with a quick glance to Darrel from whom she’s buying the business, I clearly saw her ask: “it gets better than this, surely? Please?” He said “no” with a flick of the eyebrow, and that was the beginning of the steeling of Alisa’s spine. I should probably charge her an education tax.

          To Bobby The Second (excavator operator) I will charge an aggravation tax. He tried to turn the standard $2000 charge into $3875, but I was alert and particularly perspicacious at the time, so I spotted the difference immediately. Its not just that the “rule of twos” had been violated, but Bobby The Second (BT2) had specifically mentioned that iconic figure when he estimated how much it would cost to bring in the forty or fifty yards of dirt and spread it around. When the job was done, and the bill presented, I noted that it was practically double the original estimate, and BT2 kept pointing out that it wasn’t actually double, but he couldn’t do the math, so I did it for him and suggested that if the difference of $125 had been what he over-charged me instead of what he missed in the doubling of his original estimate, I’d have paid it in a heart beat. I must say that he did an excellent job of hauling in fill dirt to bring the driveway up to the level of the garage and lessen the grade of said driveway, and I have no complaints whatsoever with his work. It was splendid. It was conducted on time, with little or no interruptions, and not even one of the thorny tangles that so typify the completion of any job by contractors, subcontractors, jobbers or homey-homeowners trying to get something built. But, you can’t just double the price on a job without getting the okay from the person signing the checks. Tell me why its going to cost more, give me a chance to say yea or nay. He stormed out when I explained this to him, muttering that he’d not be there to do the spreading of dirt onto the roof when the time came, and I muttered – or, rather, spoke directly and clearly, without prejudice – that he could bet his Bronco Nagurski long johns that he wouldn’t, because I’d hire someone who could give a good-faith estimate and conduct business properly. I guess that’s a burned bridge. Oh well.

          My argon-filled, triple-paned, low-e, high solar-gain windows for the green house cost…what? Go ahead and guess. Yeah, just about $2k. They are languishing in the glass shop in Great Falls right now, awaiting a ride to Neihart. I naively thought that I’d just borrow Bob’s trailer and go get them, but then I found out that they have to be transported upright, so that isn’t going to happen in my pickup, much less on an open 20 foot trailer. Scott-the-fixer is on that one, having scrounged an enclosed snowmobile trailer for the hauling, though now we’ll have to wait for a day with wind gusts less than 50 mph if we want the argon to remain between the panes.

        I’m sure I could come up with a lot more $2000 things I’ve had to deal with lately, but its too depressing. It will be nice if I get my house sold, and pay off my construction loan, and move on into a cheaper mortgage, and – cross your fingers – that just might happen. Property in Neihart has simply been flying off the shelves of late, and bringing in prices that make my little old house look exceptionally attractive. A real value. I’m not going to jinx my chances by talking about it too much, but suffice to say there has been interest. Say a prayer, light a green candle, bury a twenty in front of my doorstep (do tell where it is for later digging up), and, above all: send money. My kidneys are positively weeping from the effort of producing such massive quantities of stress hormones, and my nerves are abuzz with them, jangling like a telephone switchboard on Wall Street in 1929.

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