Saturday, November 30, 2013

The House Part 7

Foreman’s Log

                June 22 Day 1 Surveyors came and marked off the land for the buildings.
Julia read through weeks of very normal sounding notes like this; short and straight to the point. A week before she came for her first visit the notes started becoming a little strange.
August 22 Day 62 – Visit from the owner today. Workers kept on pace.
There were 3 of them watching.
She was not sure what he was referring to. She knew it wasn’t her because she had been accompanied only by the construction company owner. She doubted it was an employee because every other labor issue up to this point had been noted specifically with the offense and the penalty paid. The first offense was a warning and it was noted with WRN written after the offense. EL meant a note in the employee’s file. F of course meant fired. She had seen it a few times but this was the first time a note like that was written. A half completed thought that seemed to be a continuation of another. It was a non sequitur and it did not belong in the log. She was disconcerted by it. The next entry was back to the regular pattern. Nothing was out of the ordinary, in fact, for the next 6 entries. Then there was no more order.
August 28 Day 68 – They keep watching me. They follow me home.
August 29 Day 69 – I can’t leave the house. They are watching.
             August 30 Day 70 – I’m scared.

That was the last officially dated entry. The rest of the book was filled with scribbles of eyes and birds. The words “watching me” appeared over and over again. Julia found that her heart was beating hard as she flipped through the log book. She, like the foreman, was scared. The logical side of her brain was fighting this feeling as best it could but something in the recesses of her mind had latched onto the feeling of terror and it was not letting go.
She decided to go to one of the resort’s bars and have a drink. She thought that being around people would wash everything away. She was right. The flirting from the cute bartender didn’t hurt one bit. She allowed herself to be wooed as she drank the lovely rum concoctions he put before her.
                She awoke in agony. It felt like somebody was beating on her head with a bat. She sat up slowly and crawled to the bathroom. She got a glimpse of herself in the mirror and she grimaced at the site. It wasn’t pretty. She remembered flirting with the bartender until late but then leaving as the crowd got thinner. Even as intoxicated as she was, and as handsome as he was, she had not wanted to end the night with him. Even worse, then ending the night, would have been waking up next to him and dealing with what to do then. Julia had been a married woman for a while but he had died in a car accident. She had been avoiding relationships a lot since then. People always assumed it was lost love that kept her single, but that was only part of it. She had hated how much change had happened after she said “I Do”. It felt stifling and she had not met a man as worth the whole confining experience since her husband had passed. She was not opposed to falling in love again but last night was not love. She had been scared and desperately needed to feel normal. The only thing that would have happened this morning is that she would no longer be comfortable staying at this hotel. Word could travel fast and she had no desire to be hit on by every would be Romeo that was employed by the resort.
                She swallowed some aspirin and sat in the hot shower trying to will the aspirin to do its job. Then she slipped on a robe and ordered room service. She consumed water and felt the old familiar feeling of not being sure if she would ever get enough liquid back in her system. She briefly wished that rum would be outlawed so she would never drink it again but the truth was she still liked rum; probably not today or perhaps the next 3 days. She found her eyes being drawn to the stack of papers she had not looked through. She had no desire to look through that rather large pile of complaints but she needed a complete picture of the project from the start to now. That meant the complaints needed to be looked at. She moved slowly to the table, careful not to bounce her brain too much, then she sat and set herself to the task. The first was not very interesting, just an accusation of another employee cursing too much. She picked up the second when room service arrived. She welcomed the excuse to continue avoiding the complaints and she immediately sat down to her breakfast. She had spent time in her youth in the US and the idea of a greasy breakfast to cure headaches had stuck. Of course she was in Panama and there were some differences in what she could get. She had scrambled eggs with cheese, onions and ham, 2 slices of bacon, a thick circular corn based product that was fried in butter and called a tortilla (although she knew it wouldn’t be considered that in the US), and two meat filled empanadas.  This was accompanied with a carafe of coffee and a large glass of orange juice. As she looked at it she realized this would probably take more room then she had in her stomach. She managed to get the room service attendant to take the empanadas with him to enjoy, along with a generous tip as well. She ate about a quarter of the meal before thinking about stopping to get sick. She managed to eat a little more instead and with half of the food eaten she covered it back up and got back to work. The food definitely helped bring some balance to her system.
         The complaints were still waiting for her to dive in when she was done eating and she made herself sit down and get to work. An hour later she found herself cramped up from the position she was sitting in staring at the complaints. The employees were pretty easily offended and she was only about half way through but she needed to move and stretch out her limbs. Between the food and the aspiring she was feeling almost human. So she slipped out of the robe and into some real clothes. She took the room service cart out with her when she left and she went for a walk. The sun was shining and she felt like strolling along the beach.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The House Part 6

                The paperwork was a mess and it took a long time to figure out that there was no logical order to the papers piled together. She first sorted the paper work into two piles: receipts and other.  Julia began trying to create a time line of the receipts; except nobody had bothered to put a date on over half of the papers that she came across. So she started with the easy to place papers with dates first and she took the entire floor when she did it. From these receipts she could see that the crew ate regularly, that things were pretty consistently progressing until her visit 2 weeks ago, and that she had purchased the same supplies 7 times in the last 2 weeks. She grabbed her business calendar that she had been notating the progress and all discussions about the property in. The purchases were all documented with a conversation except the first two. She did not worry about that fact though because that was the standing rule: Call before you buy it thrice! She was a little amazed at herself for allowing it to happen 7 times before she actually thought it through. She finally admitted this project had become a bit of an obsession and that she might need help figuring out what to do next. She could involve her family, they had offered, and she planned too, but first she needed to figure out where she was at. She needed to present a clear picture when she asked for help.
                She spent a lot of time and managed to make sense of the receipts. She organized them and placed them in one folder with the hand copied expense report she had created. It was a little ugly but not too bad yet. She looked over to the other pile and noticed it was quite a bit bigger. Her cursory glance told her she would not spend time organizing the data, it was all dated and in order. She would however spend a lot of time reading. The papers included official requests from the government, the daily log of the foreman and a lot of complaints the workers had filed. She was amazed that the complaints were such a large stack of paper. It intimidated her a bit so she put them off. She quickly read through the government related paperwork. It was legalese was abundant but not abnormal. She did not notice anything that looked odd except for the latest request from the local community. It looked like somebody had just enough law school in them to sound like a professional to all the regular folk out there but like an idiot to anyone acquainted with legalese. She blinked at it for a long time before dropping it into the file. Her stomach rumbled and she called for room service before picking up the foreman’s log. She paced around with it and ended up putting it on the table she had left undisturbed. She knew she would eat here tonight and it was a drag to have to clean before you ate. In the very same vein she had made sure there was a clear and wide path from the door to that table. The knock came and her food was delivered. She was very hungry by then because all she had was some fruit in the morning. It was now the evening and she wondered how the time had gone so quickly. She ate her food and then poured a cup of the coffee she had requested into a cup. She cleared the mess from the table and put the tray outside her door. She sat down to read the foreman’s log as she enjoyed her coffee.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The House Part 5

                The work hit a snag 2 weeks later. It started with stolen materials. Pipes and wires were put in the building and the next morning they were all gone. Then tools started going missing from the locked shed on the property. Then the water people were calling saying the person who had approved their water paperwork was not authorized to do so and they would need to halt the work until the paperwork could be refiled and examined, the tests would need to be done again, and another inspector would have to come by and approve it all. Finally the local community leaders decided they needed a taste and they were demanding that their approval for the project be sought, again. The construction progress was dead in the water.

Julia’s easy project she managed in her spare time started to creep more and more into her daily life as the construction company kept getting her involved. They were authorized to work and call the shots but the people in charge of approving everything refused to talk to anyone but the owner. She came to the decision that she would have to take a vacation from her regular job to manage this entire resort fiasco. Her family was not thrilled but were used to doing business and they made it work for her. She left the city behind the next day. She dropped off her bags at her usual spot and headed to a meeting with the construction company.  As she drove she realized she no longer was as charmed by the locale. She began to notice the random discarded trash along the roads, the level of poverty of the surrounding communities, and most of all the damnable amount of vultures she saw along the way.


She eased out of her work clothes and eased into the tub. The water was toasty the way she liked it and the radio was playing soft relaxing music. Unfortunately Julia was not relaxed she was majorly miffed. Her construction company was testing her and she knew it was gender related. She had worked with this company before but her brother had been in town and had been along for every discussion. It seemed they thought he was the one that called the shots and that she wouldn’t know what was what. Over the phone she had not been aware of the real issues but when she got here and talked to them…. the story they told! They had told her ghost stories about the place being cursed, accidents that had occurred, the vultures being the devil’s minions and people and property going missing. She had been so shocked that she had not really reacted right away. She had taken all the paperwork and information with her when she left and promised to look it over and get back to them. Then on the way home she began to get angry. She was fuming mad and aggressively drove through the streets until she reached the freeway and hit the petal hard. Her fury was overwhelming her senses because her speed and aggressive driving garnered the attention of la policia. She had barely avoided going to jail. When she got home she tossed the paperwork from the construction company on the bed and nearly avoided starting to scream in frustration.

She attempted to allow the music, the bubbles, and the rum to improve her mood. The um wasn’t going down well, the bubbles were making her sneeze and the music was grating on her last nerve. She needed to relieve some of her pent up irritation but had found no outlet for it in the tub. That had been her mom’s trick, to let the frustration float down the drain, and it worked for Julia quite often but not always. She switched tactics and she went into the bedroom and began working up a sweat with exercises and boxing moves a younger brother had taught her a few years back. She did not feel completely satisfied when she collapsed in exhaustion but she felt better. She felt like she could think and she showered off the sweat and set up an office inside the room and cracked the paperwork.