Restoration of Maggie

Gareth Leman was the First Step Cleaning and Restoration On Call Technician for the weekend and he knew as soon as he looked out the window on Saturday morning and saw that it was raining for the third straight day that he would most likely get a call. Somebody's cellar would be flooding or drain pipe would be clogged and they'd want help.

First Step Cleaning and Restoration usually dealt with issues after the fact but sometimes previous clients would call in a panic fearing a disaster was about to strike again. The company responded to water damage, fire damage, smoke damage, mold cleanup, storm damage, biohazard clean up, sewage clean up, catastrophic response, and even crime and death scene clean up – although Gareth was only involved in one of those – when some guy in South County blew his brains out with his shotgun all over his mother's kitchen.

Gareth had just come out of the bathroom after his morning constitution when the cellphone went off and he knew before he even looked at the screen that it was his boss Dwight Davis requesting his services.

"What's up, Boss?" Gareth asked when he answered the phone.

"Really sorry to bother you, G-Man, but I was hoping you'd go out to Harriett Russell's place and check out her sump pump," Dwight requested. "She's paranoid about flooding after spending five grand to rehab her cellar after her last disaster."

"Sure," Gareth agreed. "I'll swing by the shop, get her history, and take a truck to make it look official."

"Take a look at the pump to make sure it's keeping up and check out the outside line to make sure it's clear."

"Got it," Gareth replied.

"I know it's a nothing call but she'll phone every twenty-minutes for the rest of the weekend if we don't respond," Dwight said.

"Glad to help, Boss," Gareth replied easily.

"Stay dry!" Dwight chuckled before ending the call.

Gareth laughed at the irony of that comment as he put on his poncho and headed out into the rain, driving to First Step's facility where he punched Harriett Russell's name into the computer, got her address and service history, and then walked to the back of the building where he logged out Van #2 and headed for Mrs. Russell's house in Greenville.

Maggie Moulton didn't want to get out of bed. She lay listening to the rain splattering against the porch roof outside her window. Robert had already left – it was his day to spend with his six year old son Brian who lived with Robert's ex-girlfriend, the mother of the child.

Maggie didn't see much of the boy and she didn't see all that much of her husband Robert either. Married for four years now (after a three year relationship), Maggie was beginning to think the marriage had been a mistake and that all the warning signs people cautioned her about were coming true.

Robert drank too much.

"I've always drank this much," he'd growl when Maggie complained about his routine drunkenness.

He seemed to be strangely drawn to his ex, willing to spend just as much time with her as he did with Maggie.

"She's my kid's mother," he'd growl when Maggie complained about his time spent with the ex.

He was on his fourth job in seven years.

"I didn't like the job," he'd growl when Maggie complained about his work ethic (especially since he'd been fired just as often as he quit).

He wasn't very motivated, energized, dependable, or fun.

"You knew what you were getting when you married me," he'd growl when Maggie complained about any of his shortcomings.

Maggie let out a sigh as she stared out the window at the falling rain, setting the appropriate tone for her gloomy mood. She could clean the dumpy apartment and drag the clothes to the laundry mat and maybe do some food shopping but none of that interested her on a day like today.

All she knew is that she wanted to get out of the apartment but there weren't many options for her to pursue. She could head for the office for a few hours and catch up on some of the data entry stuff. She liked the office when it was empty and quiet. It gave her a chance to concentrate and think without the phone constantly ringing and people coming and going.

She put on a pair of gray sweats to look as frumpy as she felt. She threw the laundry in the back of the car to stop at the laundry mat on the way home which was right across the street from Fontaine's Family Grocery Store so she could do some quick shopping while the laundry was in the machines. She'd clean the apartment tomorrow since Robert wasn't going to want to do anything besides watch sports on television anyway.

Mrs. Russell was an elderly balding blue haired lady who was hard of hearing and not much better at seeing. Gareth wondered what in hell she was doing living alone in a ten room house with a remodeled cellar anyway but that was none of his business.

The sump pump was working as ordered and the cellar was as dry as the Sahara Desert. Gareth went outside in the pouring rain and sucked out some debris from the outside hose which increased the water pressure and flow and he made sure the extension was running far from the house so there would be no backflow. The visit wasn't a total waste of time for that reason but it was still an unnecessary overreaction to keep the old lady happy.

Gareth wasn't going to complain. His boss Dwight Davis did a good job at schmoozing customers and keeping them happy after traumatic events ruined their property or caused other heartaches and if standing out in the rain for ten minutes was going to prevent Mrs. Russell from stroking out then Gareth had done a good job.

The old lady was grateful and appreciative and she gave Gareth a couple of homemade cookies for his trouble which he ate driving back to the shop in the rain. Hopefully this would be his only call of the day although there were no guarantees.

Maggie was seated at her desk in the office section of the First Step Cleaning and Restoration building typing away on the keyboard. She was impressed with the amount of work she had accomplished in a reasonably short period of time and she was thinking of perhaps treating herself to lunch as a reward. It struck her as pathetically ironic that she was most happy when she was at work.

Dwight Davis was a good boss and the employees he had working for him were positive and enjoyable people to be associated with. She also thought the company did important work helping out people going through rough and emotional challenges when some disaster struck their property and lives. She recalled Dwight telling her a horrible story of having to clean out a house that had about eighty dogs living in it (some of them found dead) with all sorts of dog turds strewn throughout the house.

Maggie saw a First Step Cleaning and Restoration truck zip by the window toward the back parking lot, not realizing that someone had been out on a call. She glanced at the schedule and saw that Gareth Leman was the on-call guy and she assumed that who was about to enter the building. She went to high school with Gareth' sister and she even went out on a few dates with Gareth who attended the tech school but then she met Robert and that was the end of any possibility with Gareth.

Maggie was amused when she got the job at First Step and discovered Gareth worked there too but her working relationship with him was no different from what it was with the rest of the Staff – professional yet friendly, with good natured banter and humor, support and appreciation. Maggie always had the answer to any question and she knew the customers' quirks that weren't found in the computer profile.

Maggie left her desk and walked down the back hall toward the rear door on the other end of the storage area just as Gareth came through the door wearing a green poncho and a yellow rubber hat. The rain was still coming down in sheets.

"Maggie," Gareth said with surprise when he noticed her standing in the hall. "What are you doing here on a Saturday?"

"Catching up on some paperwork," she shrugged, gigging at his drowned rat appearance.

"You really need to get a life," he advised.

"You're right," she agreed, suddenly realizing how pitiful she must have appeared to him.

"It's raining cats and dogs out there," Gareth said as he began to peel out of his rain gear.

"Who did you go see?" Maggie asked.

"Old Lady Russell," Gareth replied, rolling his eyes. She should be living in an assisted living two room apartment somewhere."

"Talk dogs next time," Maggie advised. "She loves dogs."

"I guess that explains all the dog paintings hanging on the walls," Gareth laughed. Then he gave her a hopeful look. "Are we going to spend some quality time alone together, Mags? This is the first time we've been alone together since our last date."

"That was like seven years ago," Maggie said.

"How's married life?" He wanted to know.

"I'm sure it's great when you're with the right guy," Maggie said before she could stop herself from sounding so catty.

He gave her a funny look. "So that's why you're here on a Saturday?"

"I shouldn't have said that," she sighed.

He nodded his head in understanding. "We can ride out the storm together if you want."

"It's not a hurricane," she said.

"Maybe your life is the storm," Gareth remarked.

"Maybe," she agreed.

"Let's go into the lounge," Gareth suggested.

Maggie didn't argue as she followed him into the employee sitting area that included a couch, a couple of tables with chairs, a refrigerator, a stove and microwave, and a television.