When last we left our happy couple, they were basking in their new "affianced" status in front of a warm fire in a cozy Maine Bed and Breakfast in February. The rest of that vacation was just as nice as it began (if somewhat less splashy). We ate Lobster, played pool in a Microbrew pub (Federal Jack's in Portland), and ate what we would later refer to as "the best meal we'd ever had" at The White Barn Inn. It was a great vacation and we swore we'd return again, an old married couple. But we didn't make it back.
We returned to our carriage house and started planning the wedding. We tentatively picked a date 18 months from our engagement because Leslie wanted to have enough time to organize it all, which, at the time seemed a ridiculously long time in which to plan a wedding, but in hindsight was probably just barely enough.
I tried cakes, I looked at invitations, I reviewed flower arrangements and visited tuxedo shops. I requested quotes from reception halls and sampled food and visited photographers. Leslie bragged about how involved I was in the planning. I think she enjoyed that I wanted a say in how the wedding looked and where it was and what ceremonies would be observed, and which would be discarded.
At least...at least she enjoyed it at FIRST. I can't tell you what she told her friends six months in, but I do know that there were..."several" heated exchanges involving cutlery or china patterns or knife sets when it was time for the wedding registry, and perhaps "involved" became her code for "pain in the ass".
Behind the scenes, our landlord was learning that he had ALS. He came to visit us in the cottage house and told us. I feel like I've written about this before but I searched the blog and couldn't find it. He told us he had been taking a can of paint to cover the fence in the front yard and as he walked across the lawn he'd dropped it. He picked it up and continued to the fence and dropped it again. He couldn't make his hand close around the handle and stay there. He talked to his doctor about it. His doctor started running tests. He was diagnosed.
He and his wife had two homes. They both traveled a lot. He told us he intended to sell the house and move to Charleston to their home there. Not certain how it would affect us, Leslie and I started going to open houses and looking at the "For Sale" signs on homes we'd pass. We had long talked about the wisdom of no longer paying someone else for a home, but to pay a mortgage. We just hadn't really needed to look in earnest.
I had very specific ideas about what I wanted in a home. So did Leslie. Much like the wedding we were planning...I was become "involved". We payed lip service to looking for a house but really we were mostly planning a wedding. So in our off time we'd go look at Open Houses. We didn't have a realtor showing us around yet. And my "involvement" in the home buying process rendered a lot of our options uninteresting.
The landlord's house sold, but the new owner was happy to have tenants paying rent in the cottage house and graciously let us stay. We started looking in earnest shortly thereafter.
The new owner was newly wealthy. A plane crash had claimed the life of his first wife, and with the payout that USAirways had provided, he had bought himself a beer distributorship, and a younger wife with much...much larger boobs.
Okay sidebar...that is what Leslie and I talked about between each other. I write about it now with fresh perspective. I remember filing this information away in my memory banks, but it is only now, Leslie gone just seven weeks from my life, that I'm writing this story and that data now seems "important". Holy shit...this guy lost his wife...I lost MY wife...I don't even know what to say about it. The guy was still an immense fuckup, but I'm aware that I'm writing about a guy who got millions from the death of his wife, just after my wife has died...end sidebar.
Within a few weeks of moving in the house was trashed. The pool we shared became kennel to their three boxers. The dogs would run around the perimeter barking at all hours of the night and...well...shitting everywhere. The driveway became a parking lot for the Camaro and new Jeep and new pickup that the new money purchased...each kid (there were three) got his/her own new car plus the his/hers vehicles and free parking for friends (there were typically six cars in the driveway). They hired one of their son's school friends (he'd recently been fired from Pool City, so he had "experience") to clean the pool, but he didn't know what he was doing and ended up turning it black when he upended the pool cover and dumped about 1,000 pounds of dead decaying leaves into the pool.
On the evening of his daughter's 14th birthday party (they cleaned the dogshit out of the pool area and completely emptied and cleaned out the pool) Leslie and I stopped over to talk to the happy couple. We had a beer as we watched underage kids carrying solo cups meandering through the house. We left within about a half hour to go back home and talk shit about them. Because...OH MY GOD!!
We fell asleep very late. Sound carried very easily across the pool over to our carriage house windows (no AC meant summertime the window was always open). And the party lasted well into the night. The following morning I carried the garbage up the driveway past the row of cars. The brand new Jeep's windshield was caved in. Three huge dents ran across the top of the hood and roof.
We must have slept VERY soundly, because:
Mr. Landlord (who had a drinking problem...I know...perfect business model for an alcoholic: beer distributorship) decided to go get another keg from his business at 2 in the morning. So he went to get the keys from the hook only to find Mrs. Landlord had hidden them because he was drunk. He chased her around the house WITH. AN. AX. Until she parted with them and he drove to the business, stopping only to crash into the brick column that flanked the driveway where it met the street. Upon returning, he had flown into a rage (apparently a second rage) and threatened to kill Mrs. Landlord whereupon she locked herself in her room and called the police as he took the empty keg outside and proceeded to smash the windshield of his good wife's Jeep before doing some body work on the hood and roof.
The police arrived, sirens and all, arrested him (he resisted, because obviously) and was thrown into a cell. MRS. Landlord then went ballistic on the police because Mr. Landlord didn't have his medication, and he could DIE!!! without it.
All of this while we slept.
That day we contacted a realtor and began looking in earnest.