After a trying day at work he drove home, parked the car and let himself in the front door. The kids had soccer, or piano, or karate or something, so his wife was on chauffer duty. The smell of the roast in the oven reminded him how hungry he was, but he’d wait until they got home so they could eat together. Families should eat together, he thought. It used to be every family shared meals but these days it was a rarity. He and his wife thought it important, though, so he’d wait. When he asked the kids how their day went, they’d reply simply, “Fine,” but after a few bites of home cooked roast, they’d open up.
He went over to his chair, sat down and extended the leg rest. As the evening sun hit the opposite wall, he noticed something a bit odd. With a frown, he got out of his chair and and walked over, lightly touching the spot that had caught his attention. It was soft under his finger.
“How in the hell did water get back there?” he asked out loud for the benefit of no one. “There’s no reason a pipe should be running anywhere near here. Even if the bathtub upstairs had run over, there’s no way it could have gotten all the way over here!” He went out to the garage to get some tools and some spackling compound. “Might as well fix it right away,” he thought, “if it wasn’t going to be a major repair. Water leaks had a tendency to be like rearview mirrors – plumbing problems were always larger than they appeared.
He opened the tub of spackling plaster and stirred it with the plastic putty knife. The spackling seemed good, he thought. At least if it was a small problem he wouldn’t have to make a run to the hardware store. He laid some newspapers on the floor to catch the damp plaster that would fall when he cleaned it out.
“Probably some of that damned cheap Chinese wall board that everyone’s been complaining about,” he said. “I should have asked about that before we bought this dump.” It really wasn’t a dump, of course, it was a nice, if but a bit plain, small single family house in a nice, if but a bit plain neighborhood. They had bought it at the real estate peak – just before all the home prices tanked, so although making the payments was no problem, it was not going to provide the nest egg for which they had hoped. At least it was in an area with good schools. That was important – more important than housing values.
He picked up a screwdriver with which to pry out the wet plaster. If something was leaking behind the wall, it would have soaked through the drywall from the back and although he’d have to do a more extensive repair, at least he’d know what was leaking. On the other hand, if it was defective drywall, he’d repair the spot and find out if sealing it with a heavy duty primer would take care of any future problems. He pressed the blade of the screwdriver against the plaster, but the plaster did not give; instead it seemed quite solid. He tapped around the area with the screwdriver blade, but each tap was met with the sound of a solid wall.
This was odd.
He pressed the index finger from his other hand against the wall to verify that it felt soft, and he did. He then placed the screwdriver next to his finger and gently pressed both into the wall. His finger pressed into the wall while the screwdriver did not. He reversed the positions of both, and his finger still easily pressed into the plaster.
He put his head against the wall alongside the soft spot so he could see where his fingertip met the wall and pressed again. He could both feel and see the finger press not on the wall, but into it. He pressed hard this time and watched his finger disappear into the wall as far as the first knuckle. With a start he pulled it back and stared at the intact wall. There was no hole, nor even a dimple in the plaster. He put his fingers together and straightened them – like a diver might before entering the water and pressed his hand into the wall as far as his wrist. He thought he felt something touch his hand, and reflexively jerked it back out.
He heard the door to the garage open and his wife and kids came loudly into the kitchen.
“Mary, have the kids go to their room!” he told his wife. She gave him a look of disbelief and started to respond to his ridiculous and out of character demand.”
“Now! Please, just do it.” She recognized that he felt something was seriously wrong.
“You heard your father. Hopefully this won’t take long.” Amid complaints of “I’m starving!” and “I wanted to catch something on TV!” his son and daughter went up the stairs. His wife came over and looked at him with her, “Okay, now tell me what is going on” expression.
“You are not going to believe what I found in our house.”
To be continued……