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The notice of Mike’s medical retirement status caused him to rethink his entire situation. A little math quickly showed it to be exactly one day short of his twenty-year, fully-vested benefit. "The bastards!" He roared. "They did this on purpose!"

"I’m sure they did," I agreed. "It will save them a lot of money."

"And perfectly legal." He glowered.

"We’ll manage somehow," I said, calmly. "Let’s not waste time brooding about the county’s chicanery. We’ve got work to do."

*      *      *

We continued packing and held two garage sales over the next two months. A quick trip to the house in Sedro-Woolley in early February confirmed that it was, at last, vacant. I engaged a moving company to come pick up our things and haul them north.

They came as promised, frustrating me no end with their rushing about, packing items into boxes before I had time to get to them. Why they didn’t start loading the stacks of boxes that were ready to go, I’ll never know. Stressed after long hours of unsuccessfully trying to oversee the loading of their forty-foot moving van, we finally gave up, and stood watching the crew until they locked the rig and drove away.

*      *      *

We met the them at the Sedro-Woolley house early the next day. The crew wasted no time in unloading, keeping Mike and me standing in the cold for over an hour on the hard concrete floor of the open carports. We quickly became exasperated by the crew’s non-stop questions. One young man after another approached us with, "Where does this go?" "Where does that go?" "Where do you want these?" "Can this go into the old garage?"

The decisions were easy when presented with boxes we had packed ourselves, each clearly marked with its destination spot. Others, packed by the moving crew, were a puzzlement and sent to the storage room—an unheated, totally enclosed space within the garage itself, with a door on an outside wall.

It was dinner time when the moving van finally left. We locked the house, grabbed a burger at a Fifties place in town and drove back to Kenmore to check on the dog and stay the night.

*      *      *

Friday, February 19, 1988, would be our first night to stay in Sedro-Woolley—in the run-down, dust-filled farm house of the Thirties, which we would come to call, affectionately, "The Dump." We crammed my little station wagon full of the last of our belongings from Kenmore, including Shotgun, our Cairn Terrier, my house plants, and food from the refrigerator.

We stopped to eat and were on our way north by noon. Mike drove the Jeep. I followed, having insisted that he pull off the road if the Jeep became temperamental or he felt weird. He did so only once, saying he couldn’t tell whether or not the Jeep’s turn-signals were working. I assured him they were, however dull, and we continued on to The Dump.

We unloaded my wagon, putting things wherever we could make room in the house, already stuffed with boxes. Following that, I went to the bedroom to asses how I’d make room for the old army cot where Mike would lay his scrawny, pain-filled body down to sleep.

The room was disgusting! Moving boxes, piled high, took up at least eighty percent of the floor space. Dust and mold—my absolutely worst allergens—permeated the air. The painted layers of paper covering the walls were buckled and smudged with the grime of old age. Sheer panel curtains at the windows were in need of washing and repair, if not replacement. The winter sun streamed in from under a tattered, pull-down window shade, giving luminance to microscopic particles swirling mid-air in its glow before drifting to the faded blue carpet under my feet. Dirt and grit embedded every fiber of the once-sculpted rug, now threadbare in two large areas. I tried to comfort myself by thinking that the carpet, which presented no indication of being new at any time in recent history, might be in better condition in the center, underneath the ceiling-high stack of boxes. No chance to uncover that now.

I turned my focus to the west wall. It held a couple of tiny built-in closets along with a set of drawers, all painted the same once-upon-a-time baby blue as the rest of the room, ceiling tiles included. The drawers could only be opened and closed by much jiggling and cursing. The top one was so high, even Mike couldn’t see into it! Closer inspection showed that all the built-ins had been or still were inhabited by creepy crawly things that spin webs. There was also conspicuous evidence of a rodent population. Everywhere.

I didn’t know where our vacuum cleaner ended up, nor could I find a rag for dusting. I trudged to the carport, drawing in a few deep breaths of fresh air on my way, and lugged the old metal cot and its mattress into the house.

Back into the bedroom we went, the cot and I. Struggling, I moved a few boxes and set up the narrow bed, wiped my forehead on my sleeve, and got the bedding we’d brought that day from Kenmore.

"Mike! Your bed's ready!" I yelled toward the other end of the house.

Now, where would I sleep?


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