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  • The New Room
  • Bruce Ducker (bio)

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Photo of man in profile by Antonio Jiménez Alonso. Photo of tulips by Lavinia Marin.

[End Page 114]

It’s Noonan,” Patsy said and held out the receiver to him like a grenade he might throw.

He took it from her without comment. Noonan was offhanded. Yes, he’d looked over the plans, yes, he thought it was doable. But he had some questions. Mostly about the mechanical.

Ted was an expert in mechanical. That’s what he did every day.

“What about a bid?” Ted asked. If only it had been a grenade.

“Well, I can’t bid it ’til I have my answers, can I?”

This was exactly what Ted had dreaded. What he’d told Patsy would happen. Small-town Connecticut. You chose between the thief next door and the thief down the road. [End Page 115]

“No, I suppose you can’t.” And always a hidden agenda. Ted hated hidden agendas. The locals will nibble you crazy, guppies with teeth. They busied themselves in puny projects for men who went into the City, men whose work was substantial, men whose buildings rose hundreds of feet out of the concrete and became part of a world-famous skyline. It’s how the locals got even.

“Another thing. Just so’s you know. I don’t think this is all that simple. You and your wife keep saying a simple room. I don’t think it’s all that simple. Skylights and all.”

Ted tried to make his voice even. “You’ve dealt with skylights, Mr. Noonan?”

“Sure I have. But they’re always iffy. Architects fall in love with crap like that. No offense. Skylights and bay windows and crap that has to be hand-carved in Bavaria. They draw them in the plans, then they scream when you tell them the price.”

“Well, these don’t have to be hand-carved. You find these in a catalog. I’ll lend you the catalog.”

“I’m just saying,” said Mr. Noonan. “Skylights are iffy.”

“How ’bout I drop over first thing Monday, before I go into town? We’ll go over your questions.”

“Monday’s fine,” Noonan said. But he wouldn’t leave it alone. “Nothing personal, you understand. Just that architects are always telling the owner, this is simple. Then I have to build it and it ain’t. And the owner thinks I’m screwing him over.”

“I understand,” Ted said, longing to be off.

“Nothing personal. Architects seem to want to get the owner pissed at the builder first thing.”

“I am the owner,” Ted said.

“Yeah, but you’re also the architect.” Noonan had the reasoning abilities of a cabbage. Why were they arguing?

“Right,” Ted said. “Monday, eight o’clock,” and hung up.

Patsy eyed him across the room. She had placed herself just far enough away that she couldn’t hear the actual words, close enough to track the tone. She was a great one for tone.

“So? Did he give you a number?”

“He can’t give me a number until I answer some questions. He’ll bid it, though. He seems to want the work.”

“So you answered his questions?” [End Page 116]

“Monday. I’ll have to meet with him Monday.” Ted chose a construction that victimized him. He had to meet. The sacrifices were beginning. “I’ll just have to shuffle some things, maybe stay late.”

Patsy seemed satisfied. Sacrifice and sacrament had the same etymology. To make holy, to devote. To subtract from one’s own person and contribute to another’s, often, in the case of sacrament, a Higher Personage. Marriage, announced the minister who had performed their daughter’s service at the quaint church in the village, is a sacrament. He was a thin, insecure man with thinning William Powell hair and a pencil-stripe mustache. Did he confuse his words?

Patsy wanted this room. She would use it as a sewing room, at least for now. She had planted the garden with red globed peonies, trumpet vine, raspberry bushes and a Russian olive that had flourished, and they were...


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pp. 114-124
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