Norm crooks his finger, smiles. “Would you like to see the New Yankee Workshop? It’s in the basement.”
“Maybe,” you say, apprehensive yet curious.
“I’d love to lay out your beautiful built-in china cabinet.” He bites his lip, anxious for your approval.
You follow him down the stairs. He stops by the workbench and invites you to sit down. “I love these shapely sides, the Shaker pegs,” he says quietly.
“Thank you.” He’s jumped to flattery so quickly. You both hope and don’t hope that he keeps going.
“A handcrafted marvel,” he says, caressing the plate rack. “I’d love to hand plane this, give it a really smooth finish.”
“You do such delicate work,” you say. “I’ve heard things.”
“You have?” He lowers his head, bashful. “Well, the details make it special. I mean, your drawers, for example. Look at your box, your sliders, your decorative moldings.”
“Mmm,” you murmur, approving. “I’m not sure yet. I need some time.”
“I can mount it with a French cleat,” he says quickly. “I also have a sash saw, a scroll saw, and a coping saw. I even have a Japanese pole saw.”
“Norm, slow down.”
He picks up a biscuit joiner. “We could join our biscuits,” he says. “Your biscuits to my biscuits.”
This isn’t what you’d had in mind. You’d hoped to run into Tommy. “I better go.”
On your way out, Kevin stops you. “Hey!” he says. “Great to see you! How about this masonry work?! You like the bluestone?!”
“I’m kinda late for something.”
“Did you see this stud finder?” he shouts after you. “I found all the studs hiding in the walls. I can show you where they are!”
“I’m good, thanks!” you call over your shoulder, pushing out the door.
“Okay! Maybe later!”
But halfway down the block, you hear him running after you. Irritated, you raise your chin and peer at him through your glasses.
“Tommy’s in the attic,” he says, out of breath. “He said he wants to talk to you about the brick. Something about a bump out?”
“I’ll be right there,” you say, trying to sound calm.
“Careful with the weep hole!” he yells pitifully, but you are already running, running to the attic.
Tommy’s there, crouching with his tape measure. You thought this moment would never come.
“This brick wall is bowing,” he explains. “I need to tuck-point all these joints.”
“Is that all you called me—”
He stands up, snapping the tape. “But I want to go a step further. These walls are bearing too much weight. We need to find a way to share the load.”
Could it be true? Emboldened, you speak with sudden confidence. “I want you to put the bolt through,” you say. “Right into the brick, just like the old-timers.”
“That solves one of our problems,” he says. “But we need to find a way to stiffen it up.”
“What do you have in mind?” you ask, embarrassed at how excited you are.
“I’d like to slide a beam in,” he says.
“That sounds good.”
“Unless you want me to put the threaded rod through and inject some epoxy.”
“Yes.” You’re surprised to hear that you’re whispering.
“I want us to be structurally sound,” he says. “We need the beam, the threaded rod, and the epoxy. Then this will be nice and tight.”
“That’s what I want, Tommy. That’s exactly what I want.”
“That’s what I’m gonna do.”
For the next half hour, you help him slide the beam deep into the pocket.
“There’s not a lot of room to maneuver,” he says.
“Okay, push it up.”
“Don’t let it come out.”
“Just a little more.”
“That’s one!” you cry.
“Okay, time for another.”
“Tommy,” you say, sweaty and breathless. “I’m going to shoot a continuous bead of high-temperature silicone sealant around the top edge protruding from the chimney.”
“That’s fine, just fine,” he says.
“Hey, Tommy!” Kevin calls from the stairs.
“Kevin,” he shouts. “I gotta get this one on a jack, and I’ll meet you back here in a second!”
“Okay, maybe later!” Thankfully, Kevin doesn’t come further up the stairs.
“You need to go easy with this old brick,” Tommy says. “I don’t want to take out more than I need to, and I don’t want a section of the wall to fall out.”
“All right, slide it out.”
Together, you ease the beam out of the hole.
“That should do it,” he says, satisfied.
Dovetails clenched, you gasp. “That’s quite a load there.”
“All in a good day’s work,” he says. “I’m going to sleep well tonight.”