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The Iceman Cometh No More
I can now fill a glass with ice and water direct from the door of the refrigerator. It’s the most amazing thing. Take an empty glass. Press a lever. Ice magically falls into the glass. Press another lever and water surrounds the ice. Within mere seconds, I have—wait for it—a glass of ice water.
Some of you are scratching your heads and wondering what planet I’ve been living on. How can I possibly be awed by something so simple?
Because we got a brand new refrigerator. Yes, with ice and water in the door. And it actually works.
In fairness, it replaced a refrigerator with an ice and water dispenser in the door. Unfortunately, it dispensed neither ice nor water. If the water line was charged, water flowed—from underneath the refrigerator. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t scoop it off the floor fast enough to fill the glass. I sure couldn’t figure out a way to freeze it for cubes. The dogs were amused, but we humans weren’t.
A little background might be helpful to explain our situation. The refrigerator came with the house when we bought it this past winter. The ice and water didn’t work which was, by far, the worst defect to the old machine but not the only one. A produce drawer was broken. As in it had a gaping hole in the front of the drawer. If you didn’t stack produce a certain way, it would roll out. A shelf was missing. The whole machine made rattling noises.
A little more background would explain its condition. The previous owners of the house raised their five children here. Four boys. One girl. One of the boys was named Jack. We know that because Jack liked to write his name in weird places. A lot. On the door to the basement. On a closet wall. On a ceiling. And more.
Five kids—who eventually became five teenagers, of course—can create a “few” maintenance issues. Like, say, pushing a produce drawer shut with your foot might just result in a hole the size of your shoe. Just a guess, but that was our conclusion. Or maybe Jack was told to get his name of the drawer.
We knew what we were getting into. After all, our house in Murrells Inlet required a brand new exterior and had to be stripped down to the studs. We’ve been to this rodeo before. We made a list of maintenance needs as we were buying the house, so no surprises. Well, not many, but we identified most everything.
For example, we had the interior painted. Every wall and ceiling. Jack’s name is no longer visible anywhere in the house. At least, we think not. We may find a rafter somewhere in the attic with his autograph.
Obviously, one to do item was to buy a new refrigerator. A simple task. We ordered it—along with a new oven and a new cooktop—shortly after we closed on the house.
Two minor details. The first is we had never replaced a refrigerator—ever—in any house. We’d bought refrigerators before as part of a new house construction, but they were all installed and running by the time we moved in. In the other homes we bought, the previous owner’s refrigerator worked fine. So this was a first. We were living with a somewhat questionable refrigerator—without the ability to make ice—until the new one arrived.
The second—and this might come as a surprise to those of you not keeping up with current events—but some sort of pandemic is going on that is causing supply issues. Certain things—like refrigerators—aren’t being delivered on a timely basis.
Back in March when we bought the house, we naively thought our brand new refrigerator would be delivered in a mere few weeks on its scheduled date. Go ahead, laugh. In our defense, the new oven and the new cooktop were delivered more or less when they were promised. More less than more, but close enough.
We decided we could buy bags of ice and scoop it when needed until our replacement arrived. That decision was made a little over seven months ago. Seven months of buying bags of ice.
We could have bought ice trays and made ice. The freezer worked, after all.
In my experience growing up with my own siblings, however, I knew perfectly well when you go get an ice tray from the freezer, it will have exactly one ice cube in it.
Don’t know what I am talking about? Think of your office coffee maker. The one that always seems to have a half cup of coffee left when you go for a refill. In every office, there is that one guy who manages to get the next to last cup of coffee but leaves just enough coffee to claim he doesn’t need to make the next pot. Think of him and realize he was trained with ice trays and siblings. If you don’t take the last cube, you don’t have to put water in the tray. House rules.
So seven months ago—seven long months ago—we bought our first bags of ice. When we ran out of ice, we bought another bag.
The delivery date arrived. The delivery date passed. The appliance store explained there was a backlog at the factory. We were on the list. Just a minor delay of a few weeks. Thank you for your patience.
We bought more bags of ice. The next delivery date arrived. The next deliver date passed. The appliance store explained about a part shortage which was extending the backlog. Another delay of a few weeks.
To save my poor typing fingers, go read that last paragraph again. And again. And again.
When our October 10th delivery date was missed, the appliance store informed us the new delivery date was November 10th. We asked the salesman how confident he was. He hesitated and then admitted, “I’m not really sure I trust that date.”
We went to Lowe’s. Looked at the refrigerators on the floor. Paged for a salesperson. No one showed despite multiple pages. We went to Home Depot. Looked at the refrigerators on the floor. Paged for a salesperson. No one showed despite multiple pages.
By the way, you can reread that last paragraph a few times to save my typing again. We went to a lot of stores in a couple different counties and found only customers waiting on a salesperson to show. We debated wheeling a refrigerator out the front door just to see if anyone would stop us.
Nearly exhausted after hours of standing in giant warehouse stores listening to them page over and over, we debated what to do. With fingers crossed, we returned to the first Lowe’s—the one nearest our house—and wandered back to appliances to gaze upon refrigerators we apparently weren’t going to be allowed to have.
This part of the story is going to sound made up. I promise—promise—this is exactly what happened. Within minutes of standing in the refrigerator section, a young lady stepped up and asked if we needed help. We hadn’t paged. Not once. Maybe she saw the tears in our eyes. Maybe she was new. Maybe this was one of those hidden camera shows capturing the surprised reaction when something unexpected happened. Maybe she was a customer who had waited so long for help that she felt qualified to work there.
I didn’t care. I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
We explained what we wanted. She went into the back to verify the unit was in stock and not backordered. We held our breath. She came around the corner smiling and said there was exactly one—ONE—ready to go.
A day later, a Lowe’s truck pulled in our driveway. Two men unloaded a brand new refrigerator, hooked it up, and slid it into place. They loaded the sad, old refrigerator in their truck and hauled it away.
We put our groceries on the shelves and in the drawers (the produce drawer doesn’t have that convenient hole in the front so produce actually stays put). We ran the icemaker and dutifully tossed the first few batches of ice. We had waited seven months, so we could wait another twenty-four hours.
I pushed a glass against the lever. Ice dispensed. Next lever. Cold water.
Yes, miracles do happen.
In the summer of 1969 in the small town of Sylva NC, sixteen year-old Eugene and his twenty-one year old brother Bill go fishing on Sunday afternoons, the only break they have from working at their grandfather’s medical practice. They meet a mysterious and free-spirited girl, Ligeia, from Daytona Beach, exiled to their small-town because of her misdeeds.
Forty-six years later, her body is discovered in the banks of that river. Eugene, a barely functioning alcoholic, still lives in the same house willed to him by his grandfather. He struggles to remember the details of that long-ago summer. His first drinks. Stealing drugs from his grandfather at Ligeia’s urging. His growing involvement with her.
He confronts Bill, a successful neurosurgeon in Asheville, with the lie he had believed so long—that Bill had put her on a bus to Daytona on the last day they had seen her. But if she was found at the river, then she had never left. If Bill lied about her leaving, what else had he lied about? What really happened that summer?
The events force Eugene back to those years. An overbearing grandfather who dictated everything they, and everyone else in town, did. Why Eugene’s mother had allowed the grandfather so much sway. What Eugene’s relationship with Ligeia really was. What role Bill played in everything that happened. Most importantly, who murdered and buried Ligeia?
Like most places, the history of the North Carolina mountains is complex, something that is often misunderstood by people not from here. Without knowing the history, though, it can be difficult to understand the present day, something I often touch on in my novels.
For example, most people think of the Civil War in stark North versus South terms, but it’s more complicated. Poor farmers didn’t have slaves and didn’t necessarily support the practice, so they felt little allegiance to the Confederate cause. Some openly supported President Lincoln and fought for the Union Army, some fought for the South to protect their own land, and some did their best to avoid the entire war despite mandatory conscription laws.
One episode during that war, the Shelton Laurel Massacre, paints some of that conflicting picture. Thirteen boys and men, ages 13-60, were executed by Confederate soldiers for supposed crimes, but also because their families were connected to the Union or had avoided the Confederate draft. In the search that led up to that moment, elderly women were hanged, one mother was tied to a tree while her infant was placed in the snow at her feet, and a mentally challenged girl was whipped.
This newspaper article, Blood in the Valley: The Shelton Laurel Massacre’s Haunting Legacy, gives a good high-level description, including the points still unknown, with many references to go further if you wish. The debate and division continue to this day.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
While I’m sitting at my desk musing for this post, the dogs are snoozing all around my office. Landon expresses for all of them his opinion of waiting for me to be done. With a good stretch and yawn, followed by a circling to prepare his napping spot, he settles in for a solid nap.
In country stores, old men gather over breakfast and coffee to swap tall tales. The fish are bigger, danger greater, and adventures wilder in the stories told at a Liars’ Table. No harm in stretching the truth when nothing exciting happens in their small town.
Until someone steals Purvis Webb’s car. Life is hard enough without thieves. A wife in a nursing home. An estranged daughter. A grandson he didn’t know existed.
Unable to accept one more indignity, Purvis takes matters into his own hands. His pursuit of the thief leads him to places he never thought he’d go and to decisions he never wanted to have to make.
In this rich, layered story about life spinning out of control, past and present entwine seamlessly with engaging characters. The reader will be eagerly flipping the pages to see what happens next.
Background title image is courtesy Jon Antonin Kolar
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