The Steves had been working on our house for four months. They began by hanging siding crookedly, piddled around with yard work (mostly hacking down decorative trees and digging random holes, because their landscaping skills were as phenomenal as their construction skills), and finally, for reasons unknown to anyone with any sense, my landlady then hired them to tear down the sunroom and create two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a screened porch on the back of the house. As mentioned before, these rooms were not legal; to save money our landlady never bothered to get a permit for anything other than the siding. And because they were illegal, much of the work happened at strange times. One morning, I awoke at 5:30 to Steve nearly falling off the roof of my bedroom. Another time Katya and I thought we were being robbed when we caught the Steves trying to smuggle supplies into the backyard at 11:30 PM.
By this point, the Steves had stolen my potted plants and Elaine’s laundry detergent. As they continued botching jobs and imposing on our lives, we increasingly lost patience with them.
One evening, shortly after we were visited by the fugitive with the bloody arm, I came home from a late evening class. It was about 10:45, and no one was supposed to be home but me: Taylor was with her boyfriend, Elaine had gone to stay with a friend, and Sam had not yet moved in. However, when I reached the driveway, I saw the living room light was on. Figuring someone had changed plans, I unlocked the front door to find three enormous men hauling furniture out of our house.
I’m not usually a bold person, but I guess I was in shock, because instead of running away and calling the police, I asked very loudly, “Excuse me, but what are you doing with my couch?”
The men stared at me, obviously as surprised by me as I was by them. Just then, Steve emerged from a bedroom. When he saw me, he looked startled. “Hey! This is my new crew. They’re here to help with the bathrooms.” He was beaming, probably because he now had more people to verbally abuse and blame for his construction mishaps.
I breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s great,” I said, wondering how much more damage six Steves would do than three. Given a month, the house might not be standing at all. “But you can’t take the couch. There are still three of us living here and we need the furniture. We can rearrange it for you if you want, but it has to stay.”
From the corner of my eye, I caught Steve’s wife trying to slip out with her arms full of something wrapped in plastic, but she disappeared too quickly behind the new men. Everyone seemed uncomfortable.
“People are living here?” one of the additional men asked under his breath. I couldn’t blame him for being surprised. At this point, only half the house had siding, some of the windows and window frames and had been wrenched out, large portions of the yard were either dug up or piled with small trees and branches the Steves had destroyed, and the sunroom had been completely removed, meaning the French doors in the living room that had led into my bedroom now led to a three-foot drop into the crawl space.
“Yes, there’s three of us, and we use the couch all the time. We use all of this furniture all the time.”
“We were just rearranging,” Steve said awkwardly. “We had to bring in our supplies.” He nodded to a large, outdoor ladder (that would remain in our living room for six months) and motioned for the men to put the couch down.
“Are you going to be working right now?” I asked.
I heard a toilet flush, then watched Steve Jr. emerge from the bathroom carrying a roll of toilet paper in his hand.
“We were just packing up,” big Steve said hurriedly. “Don’t want to hold you up–getting late.”
The three new workers turned and left quickly, followed by Steve and little Steve. Everyone clambered into his battered, blue truck and Steve took off through the yard, tearing up the grass and leaving the back doors open.
For a moment, I stood assessing the damage. The white carpet Mrs. G. had sneaked in one afternoon was littered with muck from under the house. The furniture was all askew. Too tired to clean up now, I walked to the French doors to close them. The lock was new; the lock on the door when I had lived in the now-gone bedroom did not work, but this one did. However, the Steves had put the lock on backward and left the key on the outside of the door.When there had been a bedroom behind the doors, this backward lock made sense, but now that the bedroom had been demolished, this meant that our entire house was accessible to everyone outside, including stalker neighbors, fugitives, or the dog fighters who lived next door.
I lost it. I called Mrs. G. and demanded the Steves return and flip the lock now. “I am not paying rent again until this lock is correct,” I said, knowing which buzzword would buy me action.
Twenty minutes later, the new construction workers returned, changed the lock for me, and apologized.
I was out for most of the next morning, but I returned to a small crisis. Upon entering the front door, I found Taylor sitting on the couch, distraught. “Do we have any toilet paper?” she asked.
“Is that Brittany?” a voice called through the bathroom door. “Hey, Brittany! It’s Nick. How’s it goin’? Hey, where do you keep the toilet paper?”
“Nick’s IBS is acting up,” Taylor said quietly, referring to her boyfriend.
“It’s in the bathroom closet, where it always is,” I said.
“I looked there. There’s not any here at all,” Nick called.
“There has to be. I just bought a huge family pack. And I think Elaine did as well. We couldn’t remember who bought it last, so we both bought some. There should be almost fifty rolls in there,” I replied.
“You guys must be crappin’ a ton because there isn’t ANY in here,” Nick yelled back. Taylor covered her face and sighed.
“Maybe Elaine put some in her bedroom. It probably didn’t all fit in the bathroom closet.” I took a quick peek in Elaine’s room, but no luck. Elaine walked into the house just as I left her bedroom. “Hey, where’s all the toilet paper?” I asked.
Elaine looked confused. “It’s in the bathroom closet, where we always put it.”
Then it hit me. “The Steves.” Taylor and Elaine looked at me questioningly. “They were here last night. Our packs of toilet paper–that must have been what Mrs. Steve was carrying outside.”
“Guys! I need something! What’s happening out there?” Nick called.
Elaine found some paper towels for Nick, but this happened during one of the gaps in our graduate assistant pay, so neither Elaine nor I could afford to buy more toilet paper. So until the end of the month, when we would be paid again, we spent a lot of time other places and took home extra napkins from restaurants. Eventually, Elaine’s then-boyfriend took pity on us and bought us a pack to carry us through.