The matter of the concrete pavers in the back yard was starting to look dire. I offered them to the world in the last blog, but the world responded with indifference. A listing on Craigslist produced Joe from Vermont, who definitely wanted them. Then he noticed that Montreal was, well, not even in the same country.
For the past couple of years, one corner of our property had been securely anchored with about 500 kilos (11,000 pounds) of concrete paving stones, enough to begin the construction of a new Great Wall. We pulled them up from the back yard where, like some ancient city square, they had begun to sink into the earth.
They were ugly, but the surfaces that had been pressed into the earth had some interesting patterns etched into them. We’ll seal the etched sides and put them to some creative use, we told ourselves. Of course, I said something similar about the triangular iron nails I used to save when we were demolishing the first floor. Four years later, I hope never to see another iron nail or have one snap off when I strike it and shoot toward my eyes like a speeding bullet.
After a brief discussion, Patricia and I agreed to stop romanticising the potential of the old pavers. Perhaps we could even make a few bucks by selling them. After all, they cost $5 each new. In my imagination, I could hear the clinking of gold coins.
Joe from Vermont was as close as things came to a buying frenzy. Some people tapped out cellphone messages like “U stil got stones?” Those must have been inquiries about my masculinity rather than my pavers, because no one ever got back to me. Then, one evening, came a friendly, country voice on the phone.
“Hi, there. This is Lloyd calling from southern New Brunswick about those pavers.”
New Brunswick, in case you don’t know eastern Canadian geography, isn’t close to Montreal, and no major highways connect them.
“I’m about 500 miles away,” Lloyd helpfully added. “How much were you thinking about for those pavers?”
There was something so trusting and self-confident about Lloyd’s tone that I couldn’t help but take his interest seriously. He was actually going to drive 500 miles to pick up six tons of concrete paving stones, sight unseen. I even tried to discourage him a little. I mean, I started to feel responsible for this likeable guy’s welfare and time. And what if he got here and was disappointed?
Lloyd was imperturbable, though–and talkative. He told me that he lived in a 5-bedroom Victorian farmhouse in Chipman, New Brunswick, that he had a well in the basement that had been walled with stones for the first 35 feet of its depth, and that he wanted to use the pavers as a new basement floor. So we struck a deal. He’d come get the pavers and, in payment, haul away a cubic metre or so of brick and asphalt rubble.
One night, a couple of days after our first conversation, I heard from Lloyd again. He and a friend were at St-Laurent Boulevard and Rachel, in Montreal’s Plateau district, and they wanted directions to my house. I assumed they were at a hotel and would show up the next morning. But about half an hour later, I received another call. “There’s no more streets between us and the water,” Lloyd said. At that point, I understood that they had found their way south to Old Montreal and the St. Lawrence River and wanted to pick up the pavers that very night. Shortly, Lloyd, smiling, white-haired, hand extended in greeting, stood at my front door, a truck, driver, and 15-foot flatbed trailer behind him, fresh from Chipman.
We spent the next couple of hours loading the pavers in the snow and cold. They weren’t very heavy individually (about 20 kilos) but there were hundreds of them. We tried to balance the load on the trailer, whose tires became more and more compressed. After putting the last cold paver in place, I suggested hopefully that we just forget about the pile of rubble. I was tired.
“Nope, that wasn’t the deal,” Lloyd cheerfully said.
“We can use the asphalt to repair the driveway,” Lloyd’s driver friend said.
The asphalt was frozen to the ground and had to be coaxed from it with the help of a heavy iron bar. Some chunks of the tarry stuff weighed about 50 kilos.
When everything was loaded, I gave Lloyd and his friend a tour of the house and we spoke manfully about renovation, pretending that we hadn’t just worn ourselves out shifting an ungodly weight of stuff into a modest trailer that didn’t nearly look up to the task. Then they drove off, no maps, no GPS, with their truck pointed in the general direction of Chipman.
Two days later, I got a call from Lloyd. He and his friend were just fine, he said, though it had taken them two days to get back. “Some of those mountains in Maine, we had to put ‘er in low gear,” he said. “Some people thought we were a little crazy driving to Montreal like that. But [my friend] and I like our adventures.”
I mentioned that my legs and back were a little sore from their adventure. “Not used to that kind of work, eh?” Lloyd chuckled. “Hey, you ever go ice fishing?” Then he extended an open invitation to visit and stay in his farmhouse in Chipman.
I haven’t been ice fishing in a very long while, but I can’t imagine a better companion than Lloyd to share an afternoon on New Brunswick’s Grand Lake. I might even be amenable to helping him lay out those pavers around the well on his basement floor.