An Inspector Calls, Or, Closing Time

He did not look at all like the bicycling pear from my dream. Or a disquieting character out of a play. He was actually an amiable African American man in late middle age, mostly grey-haired, stocky, chatty and roughly ninety minutes late.

“Sorry I ran behind,” he said. “I got called to a fire scene.” It really is hard to quibble about that.

He was only interested, actually, in the submarine-grade breaker box and the size of my attic, which I guess sounds rude only it is unusual to see an old Arlington house with an attic you can stand up in, much less finish into a master suite. He gave me a neon orange ticket about the size of a filing card which said the electrical work had passed inspection. Good thing because Pan’s Myrmidons were already power-screwdriving drywall into the basement ceiling and building the chase around the heating ducts. In fact they built it all the way over the hot air vent and I had to point it out the next morning; I toyed with the idea of leaving it there and having a hypocaust, something I have always wanted, but the piano room gets too cold in the winter without it.

Speaking of the next morning, I had another inspector calling, to wit, the functionary of my heating and cooling contractor who twice a year examines my outside compressor, coolant pressures, heat exchanger and so on. I routinely and masochistically schedule a “first call” at seven-thirty, only because when you do that you at least know the cheerful bastard is going to show up at seven-thirty and not “between nine and twelve noon,” which is way too Heisenberg for me. Actually he showed up at seven-ten. He checked the system, the system was aces, he gave me a chit to sign and then asked about the cats, you know his mother had seven cats, actually she had seven inside and ten or eleven outdoors and she had shelters in the yard and got them all spayed, and they were all scared of people except for Izzy. I realized belatedly that I had tripped the lever again and this shaven-headed, genial skilled tradesman suffered from Tradesman’s Verbatorrhea, like the God Pan, my gardener David and the guy who once ran out my answering machine twice in the process of repairing some roof shingles and trim.

“Wow, you go to Olio?” he asked as he put his signed chit away, ogling the Lazy Susan on my dining table. “I used to work for a printer and we did the labels for Olio…”

“Funny that!” I answered. “My contractor for all this work you see going on did some photos for Olio. I think he’s trying to get them to market this salad dressing he has called VOGH…

On cue, there was a knock at the door, and the God Pan entered, accompanied by his sidekick Jose, and flourishing a bottle of VOGH. Really. I am not making this up.

“I remember finally!” he said. “Here you are…”

“Your ears must be burning,” I said. “I was just telling this gentleman…”

“Yes!” exulted the God Pan. “This is condiment that I make, very healthy! Good for cholesterol!”

“You have high cholesterol?” said the heating guy. “Me too, only I…”

“No, I had high cholesterol! This healthy condiment, I use it for three months, it goes right down!”

“Me too, only I just realized I was eating garbage and…”

I glanced over at the long-suffering Jose, a sawed-off drywaller in a fisherman’s hat who must be used to this by now. It went on for some time. Finally the heating guy left, and the God Pan hurtled out to his car and came back to press into my flaccid and palsied hand a Saran-wrapped bolus of some dense confection.

“It is dark chocolate, also very healthy, that I make,” he said. “You can eat nuts? There are pecans in it.”

“I can eat anything,” I said weakly.

The drywallers closed up all the hacked gaps in my walls, whatever, and will be back to paint tomorrow or Saturday. For that, I would eat erasers.




2 thoughts on “An Inspector Calls, Or, Closing Time

    • I don’t know why they don’t just double every time estimate they give you. On Star Trek, “Scotty” once told a younger engineer to always say it would take longer to fix the warp engines, then you are a hero and a genius when it takes less time.

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