The Serviceman, Chapter 28

29 — The Surprise

The Serviceman followed The Cop through the gate into the overgrown yard with the narrow path leading to the front porch. He looked around at the antique vehicles rusting and rotting away in the carport and driveway, the rusted tools leaning against the house as if frozen in time for years. Walking up the steps, the men stood back from the front door, The Cop knocked and they stood waiting for The Old Woman to answer. After what seemed several minutes, the frail fingers moved the curtain and a small face appeared through the opening. The Old Woman opened the door to greet the men, as she did, a whoosh of stale hot air from inside the home engulfed the men. The smell of cock roach feces, urine and body odor mixed with the hot air caused both men to grimmest. Ma’am, we are here to replace your water heater and fix your pest problem today; is it all right if we come in? She looked at both men and told them she hadn’t ordered anything and couldn’t afford to pay for such things. No Ma’am, the community is paying for it and we all want to improve your life after some of the tragedy you have been through. She stepped aside and waved them in without saying a word. The house was stifling hot with a floor fan blowing the hot stale air in the living room where The Old Woman had been watching television. As The Serviceman walked back to access the project, The Cop questioned The Old Woman why she didn’t have a window open or an air conditioner. She explained it wasn’t safe to open a window and her air conditioner was stolen out of the window several months back. Ma’am it isn’t safe for you to live like this, let me see what I can do for you tonight; oh, by the way, I have another surprise for you. The Cop walked outside and retrieved an evidence bag from his car while making a call to a local senior center to see if they could bring an air conditioner to The Old Woman. They told him it would be about an hour, he stepped back into the house, he announced to The Old Woman, she would have a new air conditioner that night and it was now time for The Surprise. He handed her the small brown bag and as she opened it up to peer inside, tears started flowing down her face, it was her husband’s medals. She stood up and reached out to The Cop and hugged him then reached over to his chair, wrapped her arms around the folded flag, sat down in her chair and started rocking with tears flowing down her face. The Cop turned away and went to check on The Serviceman’s progress. The Serviceman had everything disconnected and was draining the water from the unit. He looked at The Cop and let him know it would take about another hour or so before he would be finished. Just as The Cop turned to check on the arrival of pest control, the technician knocked on the door. The Cop walked past The Old Woman and she rocked with her flag and husband’s medals, never looking up of acknowledging the knock on the door. As the technician moved through the house, the hissing sound of the dispensing spray and the creaking of the floors echoed from room to room. The technician and The Serviceman glanced at each other without saying a word as they continued on with their tasks. As the Serviceman wheeled the old water heater past The Old Woman, he noticed she had stopped rocking but thought nothing of it. As The Serviceman wheeled the new water heater past The Old Woman he noticed her color had changed and he asked her if everything was OK, there was no response. The Serviceman yelled to The Cop outside; hey, we have a problem in here.