Our Year of Bliss.

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 12 Jan 2022


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Building a future, hand in hand.


The Loft restored. Bainbridge7.jpg

Once again we made the pilgrimage to New York when the book was to be published. This time we made it last a month. It was mid-winter and there was nothing to do on the farm. New York was in a bustle of life and reconstruction. The theaters, some of them, were alive again. People filled the streets and everyone recognized us. We were invited to dinners by the rich and feted everywhere. So we stayed to enjoy the fame. I knew my series was done and in a year I'd be forgotten. How right I was on that one.

I spent my days scouring old bookshops, ending up with some forty boxes fine old volumes, to fill the shelves that Bill had made. I wanted a complete collection of Classics and was pretty near close, including authors now who were not my favorites but who did deserve a place in that set, Jane Austin, Walt Whitman, Kant, Freud, anyone in the catalogue of 'Everyman's library' and several other famous lists.

I'm not sure why I went to this trouble. It was one of those gut hunches again. I wanted my own complete library, all in fine, leather bound editions, to grace the house. I knew I could download huge libraries of books on hard drives. I bought several dozen of those too. But I liked the old books, the feel of them as they fit so comfortably in my hand while I read, the soft covers, the fine typography, the weight even, not like some light, plastic kindle.

Nancy was equally busy buying more items for the farm and house. We had them all shipped for Rick to pick up in numerous phone calls and truckloads.

We returned to find our place much as we left it, with a few unexpected improvements.

Bill and Rick watched over the place and the few farm animals we bought before the trip. But they had time on their hands and used it well. There was one dilapidated structure, larger than the rest, a few hundred yards from the house. It looked like it had once been a large four-bay garage with a loft, three rooms, perhaps the living quarters for some chauffer. It had a fireplace, a table and what must have been a small bedroom and bath. I wondered why it was so far from the house. No visitor would park that far away. But then the thought struck me that it must have housed a collection of rare cars, probably a hobby of the recluse millionaire who lived there long ago. Maybe his wife had no interest in such a male passion and wanted them out of sight, hidden in the trees.

But there it was, empty now. The roof had leaked over the years, several windows were broken and some walls inside were water damaged, and the bottom cement floor partly rubble, making it smelly and unpleasant to visit. So we left it out of our minds, with so many other things to organize.

But even before we left our men asked us if they could fix it up into living quarters, much better then their tents as winter had begun and their propane heaters fouled the air they had to breath all night long.

We not only agreed, we left them plenty of money for the project.

When we returned it was nearly done. They'd run a power line, water, retiled the roof, repaired the walls and restored the loft into what it once was, a small one bedroom unit with a sitting room and a working kitchen, stove and fridge, and a bathroom. They'd bought new furniture, painted it and put in wallboard heaters, and with the rugs and windows fixed and curtained it was quite a comfortable dwelling. Rick took the bedroom and Bill the long couch by the fireplace and new T.V.

They were just starting to improve the downstairs when we came back, ripping out the rotted walls, fixing the broken windows and turning the front garage doors into one solid wall.

The first thing they asked us as we toured the structure and admired their work was whether they could hire the heavy equipment needed to repave the bottom floor. Age had turned the cement into cracked slabs and holes, an unusable mess. They said they would need an excavator too, to level the ground before it could be smoothly repaired.

But with that done they said they could tile the floor, build some partition walls and make a larger and nicer living space than the cramped one upstairs.

We told then to give us a day to think about it. We'd never considered the idea of them staying here on a permanent basis. In fact Rick had been driving home back to the small town each weekend to be with his wife and two children. And Bill sometimes went with him just for a break, sitting in bars each evening with his old buddies, drinking and watching the news, discussing world events.

That night Nancy and I discussed the idea for several hours. We both liked these two men immensely, practically needed them for the farm, and living a few hundred yards off they were invisible most of the day and always at night, hardly disturbing our privacy. They could help with the few animals and man our constantly expanding our farm, at least in Nancy's head .

The next morning we told them to go ahead, to fix it up into the finest living quarters they could, a two bedroom unit, living room and kitchen too, a full large bathroom and closets and pantry. They had it all mapped out on paper before they even asked us.

We knew Bill had no family and told us before that this was the best job he'd ever had. We wanted him to stay. But even if they left we could use it as a guest house. Then one day Rick mentioned that if the COVID returned, maybe his family could move in.


Construction on the ground floor begins. building-a-garage.jpg

This was out of the equation for now, I told them. "Finish the house first". That would take months. But if things changed, I told Rick I'd reconsider. Life in town was the same as ever, except for a few empty houses and I paid him plenty to support his family, where he was spending his weekends now with the the wife and kids.

When the heavy machinery drove in a few days later, along with five of our former workers, the floor was finished off, the walls were built doors and windows installed in no time.

Nancy came up with a few small projects for them. One was clearing fifty more acres and fencing them in with barbed wire. But Bill came up with the big one.

"Somethings been bothering me" he said. "You have all those guns and ammo in your basement. You're sitting on a powder keg if something goes wrong. Why don't you have the excavator dig you a bunker while it's here, a ways out in the woods. We can build it out of cinder blocks ten feet down, buy a steel door and lock it up, and even hide it under the brush. You might even want to store some food in it, in case of some emergency".

Even as he said this I imagined our mansion blowing up. We loved it so much by now we didn't even allow them to use it while we were gone. We apologized, them living in two tents but we kept the keys during our trip. It was our nest and we didn't want someone else sleeping in our bed. We locked it up and left, and for that guilty feeling we handed them an extra large wad of cash, of which we had plenty.

But I instantly agreed to this. Another month was spent on it because I kept expanding the thing as I saw it grow. It was now thirty feet long and twenty wide, with a staircase and large pantry and something like a living space with a table and couch and heaters, the steel door and another whole bunker for our arsenal, thirty feet away. There were snorkels and fans for ventilation, a water supply and it was three feet below ground level and perfectly hidden, a panic room of sorts.

I didn't realize it yet but deep in my subconsciousness there was a panic beginning to grow or at least a preparation for one.

Once again all our plans seemed to change radically and adapt to the delicate world situation.

So far, Nancy had only planted a small plot of vegetables which she could easily handle. But Spring was here and she wanted one four times larger. She had Rick and Bill help, till the ground and fence it in. This took up their mornings.

After the crew left Rick asked again. "When we finish this home, could my wife and two children come here to stay? I truly believe what you told us might happen, and I'm worried about their safety".

Once again I put it off.

"Look", I said, "everything is going fine. The pandemic seems to be over. Finish the house first".

That would take a while, to paint and furnish. But if things changed for the worse, I told him I'd reconsider. We were glad to see him and Bill drive off every Friday night. Nancy and I relished perfect privacy.

The Summer went smoothly, the crops grew, the building nearly finished. It was a beautiful Summer. Even the news on T.V. was a joy to watch as everything prospered and improved. We only turned it on for a few minutes each evening, just to check up on the world in a way.

The thought occurred to me that we watched it ten times more when the world was in crisis. I suppose, when everything is going well there's nothing to say, no drama to engage one's attention and passions, no story to tell.

And that described our year too, nothing much to tell. It came as peacefully as it went and we fell into daily routines and complacency too dull to recount. I suppose you call that happiness.

I worked with Bill most afternoons finishing the garage house. Rick and Nancy, after the farm chores, were busy driving into town to buy furniture and everything else to make it habitable. What I didn't know was that he stopped by his house on one of these trips, where Nancy met his wife and children, a six year old boy and a beautiful daughter a year younger. She fell in love with them at first sight and from then on that stop became daily. She brought them treats with every visit. The woman, named Jane, delighted her equally, they had similar personalities and tastes. They even looked alike. They became the best of friends and talked for hours over tea, fondling and playing with the delighted children, who now thought they had two mothers.


Two happy women with two children Masterfile 853-05523416 © F1Online.

I wondered at these eight hour long pilgrimages to buy a simple fixture or piece of trim, a four hour journey at most with the road so much improved with use. The next day it would be some other little item. But she'd return with Rick at nightfall, always happy and ready to cook and eat with me and go to bed early, and I followed.

We'd talked about it a great deal. Now that the world seemed back to normal she wanted us to have a baby. I agreed with all my heart and body. It would cement our bond forever and complete us. We tried all that Spring, Summer and Fall, having sex repeatedly, several times a night, in the shower, even on the couch before the fire. But she didn't get pregnant. The old doctor in town told her she was perfectly fit and I began to think it might be me, something from my past New York follies. I put that off as it redoubled our efforts at making a child, which I rather enjoyed.

He finally examined me that Fall, saw nothing wrong but referred us both to a young doctor in the city, a specialist. We went and he took blood and cell samples along with a host of other tests over three days. He was delighted to meet me and more than thorough in his attempt to solve our problem. He called several labs and had a complete gene analysis done on both of us.

We received the results in the mail, using Rick's address. The tests showed nothing wrong, except for one rare gene anomaly we both shared, which he said in a very long letter might be the problem, though science didn't know anything more about it except that the few who had it seemed to be immune to the pandemic. He said not one in a thousand shared it.

That same day, as we read the letter in Jane's kitchen, the children sitting in Jane and Nancy's lap, Rick asked if his family could visit and see the almost finished garage house, which he'd been talking about to his wife, as it progressed. Their own place was a small, old stucco two bedroom, smelling of mildew, all they cold afford to rent after starting a family so young. Rick was saving up all the money he made lately to buy something much better. They apologized as we came in and said they didn't like the place. But Nancy said she'd be delighted to have them visit.

I guessed what that meant, especially after Nancy almost leapt from her chair to kiss me when I agreed. They came the next day and stayed the whole day, getting a tour of our place, the barn and animals, the finished garage with its shinny new furnishings, Nancy doing the honors of the tours, and after a week of sex bribery and the last finishing touches to the place, they were moving in.

The two women were almost in tears hugging each other, while us men unloaded their few belongings. The children were chasing the chickens, screaming with joy. I left the others to unpack and settle in.

As I walked away from all this bustle, as soon as I was past the barn and out of sight and noise, I felt a peace and satisfaction, at the deed. I saw its benefits. Nancy would have a close new friend and the children to play with. The four of them could manage the farm without me. I'd have more time to read now. I went straight to my study that afternoon, sat at the desk, contemplating finishing my half-written novel, of a couple deeply in love, separated by a war and reunited finally after years of searching. A nostalgia set in and now I missed that sedentary life.

Eight months of of barns and manure, milking cows, or the sawdust in my face cutting studs and hammering countless nails had been a healthy change while it lasted and now I was in perfect shape. Nancy had even convinced me to stop smoking, and throw them out. But I still had a large stash of pipe tobacco and my pipes in a secret compartment of my desk. I lit it up now and savored the flavor. I always felt, besides the calming effects, that it helped me think, put me in the mood for the contemplation of deep subjects. The next thing I did was turn on the espresso machine behind me for an afternoon cup. Nancy had regulated my coffee drinking to breakfasts only, saying more than one cup was bad for me, just like a nurse. I still loved her for that deep caring over me, but in my study I was my own boss. 'Health be damned' I thought, I was too healthy.

The more I thought about these last months, the more I disliked farm work. I was a poor horseman, always falling behind Nancy in on our rides around the lot. I didn't mind looking at the horses in the pasture, from a distance but had no desire to bail hay or brush them in their stinking pens. I always felt one might kick me or bite my hand as I offered an apple. Nancy tried to train me to handle them but I was a disinterested, delinquent student. She saw this and gave up. "Not everyone's meant for everything", she told me.

I truly was meant to be a philosopher and 'distance' was the perfect word for that, contemplating from afar, pipe in hand, meditating the beautiful forms of the horses, admiring their graceful motions, one of nature's beauties, but certainly not riding one. I might fall off and break my neck. What lesson was there in that?

Nancy had coerced me to try a farmer's life with sex. I needed the outdoor change after so many rushed books, a relief for an overtaxed brain. But some hobbies that you try to adopt, all gung-ho at first, loose their allure over time, and reveal that they're not really a part of your inner personality. If you continue in them you're warping your own nature, unnaturally.

Nancy was my only allure, her soft, clean body under the sheets, her mind, our conversations, even our differences as male and female, a subject as fascinating as my broad reading, and together enough for a lifetime of contemplation, a full life in every way.

From now on she'd have to accept me for my true self, wandering from the library to the desk or couch in my silk kimono and slippers half the day, pipe in one hand and a book in the other. I was not the outdoors type.

I realized all this as I sat there alone all afternoon, blowing smoke rings as I used to. She would just have to live with it, take it or leave it. She could no more transform my character than I could hers. And I never tried, except reading her some literature at first, which never really took. But I didn't mind.

I'd been the passive one all along, used by my agent and publisher. By her even, that was my character. But with her it was love, always enticing me with kisses and smiles and whispers in my ear. She helped me only for our mutual happiness, not money. That's why she depleted her own bank account on improvements. Mine was still full. And that's why I loved her so much. It was honest love.

I trusted her and trusted she'd accept this change in me, as she had so much happiness with everything right now, the farm and the new company, the kids and the prospects of our own child and a wonderful future, stretching off into infinity. She seemed a little shocked when she finally came in and saw me smoking my pipe at the desk. But I told her everything I'd decided that night and she accepted it, saying she wanted my happiness to match her own and that she'd never ask me to do another chore again. In fact, she loved to see me in my kimono lounging and enjoying a good book. I just didn't have time for that before, with the deadlines.

Now I did and we had all the money we'd need for ten lifetimes. She said she loved me more than ever. She even said she liked the smell of my pipe tobacco much more than cigarettes. It had a fragrance to it. I don't know if that was a lie but she smothered me in kisses right after, which ended all conversation then and there.

Too bad it didn't last.


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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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